Every Season Tells A Story

What do we do when we get what we want?

That’s been a moving target these past 15 years. Some seasons it was bowl eligibility, others just a fresh start. Just to play at all in 2020, which weirdly seems so long ago now.

Above all, of course, was hope. Always hope. Always here, when the distance to kickoff can be measured in hours. And quickly gone in many seasons for many teams.

Tennessee cycled through stages of hope in the post-Fulmer era, which at several points crossed over into stages of grief. I will still submit that the entire program itself felt particularly vulnerable during a pair of unique coaching-and-athletic-director changes.

And now here, 60something hours from Nashville, Tennessee carries the kind of hope that comes with a receipt.

In those 60 hours, it will probably feel more distant and less necessary to talk about the past, because at that point “the past” becomes 2022. That past enabled this present. And this present is real good.

I was a history major; sometimes I still can’t help myself. One of my favorite games from childhood was the last time Tennessee and Virginia met, the Sugar Bowl following the 1990 season. I was nine years old, and Tennessee scored touchdowns on its final three possessions, the last in the final minute, to win 23-22. It was great.

It was also 33 years ago, which would be like someone telling nine-year-old me about something from the 1957 campaign. I’m pretty sure my dad, who was five years old then, doesn’t even remember that one. I’m pretty sure my son, who is five years old now, has much to look forward to.

He’s got a Joe Milton t-shirt jersey. That’s part of the good of the world we live in now, where he can wear not just the QB’s number but his name, and his cousin can support Jonas Aidoo in the same fashion. They’ve got Ronald Acuña Jr. in their closets too, an incredible time to be in the Vols/Braves demographic. My biggest sports crisis is whether to buy him a new Grant Williams jersey now that he’s no longer in Boston.

This childlike way is free from the burdens of how we got here, it just enjoys the moment. And a healthy present moment can also establish healthier connections to the past. Because our sons and daughters could also buy a Josh Dobbs Arizona Cardinals jersey right now. If he indeed earns the Week 1 start, he’ll become just the third quarterback who finished his career at Tennessee to start a season opener since Pat Ryan.

Dobbs and his teams lived the highs and lows of those cycles of hope and grief more than most these past 15 years. There are some incredible line items on those seasons. And now it feels like those moments are even more free.

That’s what hope does: not just the present, but the past.

And now, in 60 hours, the future becomes the present.

There’s a beautiful interconnectedness in all of this; always is with sports. It’s always about more than just winning.

And at the same time, as we’ve shared a lot in talking about last season, the real prize in all of this isn’t winning the national championship, but being able to.

Maybe there will always be an idiot optimist in us who will need counseling if we go 14-1. Maybe. Maybe we’ll get good enough for long enough again that we’ll have the luxury of taking things for granted.

But at the start of the season, Tennessee is right where we belong: back in the championship conversation.

Make yourself at home.

What do we do when we get what we want?

Be grateful.

And enjoy every second of it.

Go Vols.

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PaulS
PaulS
5 months ago

Never, never, never give up. Nothing can be done without hope. Two statements I have always tried to live by both in sports and life. Looking forward to another great season of volunteer football. GO VOLS!!!!

Tom Turley
Tom Turley
5 months ago

That’s the spirit! A pox on those faint hearts at Rocky Top Talk with their 8-4 and 9-3 predictions! I’m declaring 11-2 as our worst record until some team proves me wrong. By the way, Will, you mentioned the Idiot Optimist. Will he be showing up this year? (Or maybe he just did.)

run-cross-country
run-cross-country
5 months ago

Thanks, Will! That was helpful and enjoyable. 🙂