Saturday, September 19, 2009
Sometimes It's Simply About the Effort
Often breaking the routine is the best cure. For years, on the third weekend of the football season, I've either been in front of a TV showing the Florida-Tennessee game or in the stadium in Knoxville watching it. Most often the game ended with disappointment. Today, it ended with a loss, but no disappointment. Maybe that's because I went to Lexington to see Washington & Lee play and get a little perspective on this thing.
Tennessee-Florida, at least for a UT fan, is where football sits when it reaches the top. Lately, our guys have been knocked off the top more often than they've thrust a saber skyward when the final whistle blew.
Today, anticipating No. 1 Florida--which was not only good, but also pissed off at UT's new, brash coach--blowing the Vols' doors off, I headed off to one of the prettiest little towns in Virginia to watch a football game in a marvelous new stadium (great views, as you see above) with my friend Doug Cumming, assistant professor in the journalism department at W&L. We saw a dandy (W&L lost in overtime in a game whose lead changed several times and whose last minute of regulation was a whing-dinger) and I started back to Roanoke* feeling better about everything, reconciled to Tennessee's loss.
Then an odd thing happened. Tennessee wasn't being humiliated. It was hanging close; it was belting Florida's storied quarterback. So I hurried on home to catch the second half. The game ended as a 10-point loss, considerably less than the 30 points the bookies predicted Tennessee would lose by (or the 100 some of our brilliant "analysts" predicted) and I was tickled. I have to admit that I was more satisfied watching these UT kids overachieve and lose than I was watching Philip Fulmer's undisciplined, heralded players play at less than their best and win games.
Ultimately, as I mentioned to Doug, it comes down to competitiveness and effort--which we saw a lot of in Lexington. And today, in Gainsville with my Vols.
(* I was on the road back to Roanoke at 4:20 after watching a full game, an overtime and eating a meal. That's 3 hours, 20 minutes, 10 minutes less than it normally requires to play a regulation Division 1 game--with all those TV timeouts and breaks for commercials. I love Division III football.)