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October 2, 2007

The 102,037 Screaming Orange

In 2001, The Sporting News named Neyland Stadium the best venue to watch a college football game. It was difficult to argue against it. The Vols were four years removed from a national championship, they had the largest stadium in the South, and they had lost only four games there in eight years. Neyland was loud, intimidating, and seemingly always victorious. "Rocky Top" pummeled opposing fans ears as the Vols pummeled their teams. No one, other than Spurrier, wanted to play in Knoxville.

Pray that Sanford Stadium is never similarly honored. Since that designation, Neyland has evidently become less intimidating. Since 2001, Tennessee has lost twelve games in Knoxville, a stat that would have been inconceivable at the beginning of 2001. Neyland wasn't even mentioned in Bruce Feldman's latest ranking of the scariest places to play. We hadn't beaten the Vols once in the 90's, but Richt is now vying for his fourth straight win in Knoxville. So what happened?

I think a stadium becomes intimidating not because of what it is, but rather because of who you have to face there. A good team makes their home stadium a lot more frightening. In the 1990's, LSU's Tiger Stadium wasn't intimidating because their teams were terrible. Now, beating LSU in Baton Rouge, especially at night, seems impossible. It isn't because of 92,000 tipsy Cajuns who overindulge and throw debris at the team bus, although that is scary. It's frightening because Glenn Dorsey or Craig Steltz might disassemble your favorite player, requiring a NTSB team to come out and figure our what happened. Neyland isn't as scary now because John Henderson isn't there to make you think UT had captured Bigfoot and somehow got it into school there. Neyland isn't the impenetrable orange fortress of the Tennessee River anymore because the Big Orange hasn't been as good recently. A great team makes the venue, not the other way around.

Neyland does still deserve a couple of accolades. It is still home to the largest concentration of orange track suits on the planet. Why do Vol fans so adore orange track suits? Is it because Phil wears one to, uh, conceal things?

Also, Vol fans have the best reactions to the opposition's big plays. Shock! Horror! OMG!



Crane said...

I love that play. It is the perfect play. When Munson is asking for the boys to hunker down one more time, it is that play I pray for.

Plus I love the look devastation on their face.

JasonC said...

No wonder Fulmer is so tubby, Aunt Jemimah is a fan. I bet he gets sweet deals on pancakes and syrup.

Smitty said...

Since we play our best ball on the road Sanford won't be on that list anytime soon.

Orange track suits haha I love it. You could switch their crowd with a Nascar race crowd and no one would know the difference.

Anonymous said...

Do Nascar fans leave halfway through the race?

Anonymous said...

It's sickening the way we lose focus and, in turn, games at home. Sanford used to be a very difficult place to play and stopped being so when our program declined (shocker). But now, even with a solid program and an incredible road record, we lay too many eggs at home and have lost the intimidation and advantage factor.

Hopefully we can slay one demon with AU coming to Athens this year - and set the tone for a Sanford run.

Anonymous said...

Orange tracksuits! I guess hillbillies have never been known for their fashion sense.

I'm in a blog feud with a Vol fan so I really need a Dawg win! Lets go Dawgs!

Anonymous said...


Your post sounds just like Vol fans the past 5+ years.

Last 5 years or so win in the Swamp, Sanford (twice), SOuth Bend, Death Valley, the Orange Bowl, etc. But we can't win a game at home to save our life.

Smitty said...

The Nascar crowd shares the same appearance, class, fashion, vocabulary and fitness of these people.

Will said...

I take issue with this part:
"largest stadium in the South."

Largest capacity I agree with, but size-wise I'm convinced it is only marginally larger than Tiger Stadium or Sanford. They only get 100K+ in there because the seats are a foot or so wide. Pity those of you making the trip stuck next to "plus-size" fans.

Anonymous said...

Well, technically it wouldn't be 102K screaming orange, 'cause there would be about 8K opponents in there. Unless they were playing another orange team, of course. ;)

Kinda like the shirt that says "92 thousand of my closest friends" about Sanford Stadium. Rival fans aren't my closest fans. :-|

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