The religion of sports and the insanity of its congregation

We watched Fever Pitch last night, which I liked for MANY reasons. But my favorite thing about the movie? I think it VERY accurately portrayed the emotions behind having sports teams to root for. “Dog People” always agree with each other that “Non-Dog People” don’t understand how we can get SO upset when a pet dies. It’s an emotional connection that people who have never had dogs can rarely understand.

The EXACT same thing goes for Sports People.

Now, I am not as extreme as Jimmy Fallon was in the movie. MrZ has me beat in all time knowledge of the teams I root for. Stats? Not my thing. Historical trends and betting lines? Bah. But watching a team do something that makes you cry? Been there. Done that.

I grew up in Knoxville, TN – so I didn’t have much of a choice other than being a TN Vols fan. However, it was my Mom and her friends who really turned me to the Orange Nation. We would spend Saturdays watching the games surrounded by people who sang Rocky Top whenever the band played it (an average of about 40+ times a game). Everyone wore orange on EVERYTHING. I remember taking LilZ to his first Grammy Football Experience in October 1995. We drove to Knoxville to watch the TN/AL game with all of her friends. He fell asleep halfway through the game and even stayed asleep while I held him against my chest screaming at the top of my lungs: “ROCKY TOP….YOU’LL ALWAYS BE…” because we had just beat Alabama for the FIRST time in TEN YEARS.

And we all declared LilZ the good luck charm, of course.

I will never forget that night and the power of a victory that I had been waiting for for TEN YEARS. The excitement was brilliant and the energy was intoxicating. And I cried.

I spend most of my Saturdays (at least the last 11 years or so) surrounded by NON-VOL fans. I live in Alabama, it comes with the territory. I’m the one in the orange. See what I mean? Well, the SEC Championship game of 1997 was no different. I was watching it at Stace’s house surrounded by people rooting for Auburn. We were down 20-7 to Auburn in the second quarter and they would NOT let me ignore that fact. I ended up hiding in a bedroom to watch the rest of the game. We ended up winning 30-29, and the feeilng of being able to step OUT of that bedroom and smack talk the entire house? Priceless. I cried.

But nothing has as much emotion tied up in it as the 1998 Season. My mom’s roommate of 8 years, Enza, died unexpectedly early in the season. She and my mom were both VERY extreme Vol fans and the next game after she died was the TN/Florida game. Then entire game I sat there praying for a win, not only because I hated Steve Spurrier with every ounce of my soul (still do), but also because there was some part of all of us who knew Enza that would feel like IF Tennessee won, it would make her death make sense. We won off a botched field goal from Florida. A field goal he SHOULD have made. My mother called me immediately and said, as she’s screaming, “Enza noogied the kicker! She noogied the kicker!” I cried quite a bit that night too.

We ended up having a perfect season that year, and becoming National Champions. If there is a God, he definitely put Enza in charge of NCAA football that year. The emotions behind every game ran so high that I spent the entire season drunk. Seriously.

But non-sports people? Just don’t get it.

I may not be AS into Vol football as I’ve been before, but the emotions are still there. I am embarassed to say how many times I’ve teared up and said to MrZ when he insults someone related to TN football “See? That’s just NOT nice. I don’t insult YOUR players, please don’t insult mine.” Seriously, it has made me CRY before. But we try our best to respect each other’s preferences. But, when MrZ cried a little over Bama beating the Gators two weeks ago? I cried too. Because I know that feeling. That feeling of FINALLY seeing the team you root for with ALL your heart and ALL your soul, see that team FINALLY go above and beyond what you were hoping for. It’s an amazing thing that only sports people understand.

So today, for MrZ? I’ll say, “Roll Tide!”

Next week? A whole other story…


17 thoughts on “The religion of sports and the insanity of its congregation”

  1. Yeah, I say the same thing about kitties. You don’t get it until you love one.

    Glad you loved the movie. The scary part? I grew up with people like that around me! And also? I’ve never had so many people honk and wave until I personalized my license plate to something sox related.

    Happy Saturday!

  2. It was quite the shock when I married D and realized just HOW into Auburn he was… and then 3 years into our marriage he decides to become the Auburn Elvis? Oh my.
    SEC football is definitely an experience that I can relate to now. We live in Chattanooga which is a huge mix of SEC supporters. Sure, the big orange does outrank the Alabama crimson, the Orange and Blue of Auburn, the red of the Georiga fans and all the other colors, but you can see plenty of all kinds of supporters here. But, sorry Mr. Z, I am obligated by marriage to say “War Eagle!”

  3. We haven’t seen Fever Pitch yet. It is on our Netflix list.
    we LOVE baseball.
    My boys play it, we watch it, it is a great sport.

    We have one carolina fan, one Two NC State Fans and two Duke Fans in the house.
    The girls are up for grabs but the 7 year old leans towards NC State because she likes the “Big Red Wolf” that they have for a mascot.

    My son does have a Tennesse Vols hat. He collects sports caps and he liked the color.


    Good luck and best wishes on the new bambino!

  4. That story made me tear up a little bit and make me start singing rocky top. I know we’ve not had the greatest year this year but I still have hope in the Vols. Bama can do whatever they want this week but next week it IS a different story! GO VOLS!!!! Zoot, Great Story!!!!

  5. I lived in the D.C. area back in the 80’s when the Redskins won the Superbowl (twice!) and though I was to young to actually follow football, the emotions swept me away. It was the best feeling, to have everyone giddy and ridiculously happy for weeks. I have since moved far far away from there but my love for the ‘Skins remains true and strong. I don’t even follow my current home town as closely. Through years of crap games and heartache I root for them and always will.

  6. Hi Miss Zoot,
    BTW…Love your work!!
    I had to comment on this post…I grew up in Lexington, KY. I know when it comes to football there is NO contest, but my mom used to tell my bro’s friend (a Vol fan) that he was not welcome in our house if he dared to wear Orange. Loved your story anyway!!! Now I am happily defending my UofM team in Big 10 Country!!!

  7. I am totally there with you as an Oklahoma alumn who is now living in freaking Husker country. Yet, here I am wearing my Sooner shirt proudly as I walk around this town. I nearly got run over today (in a crosswalk) by someone who was a Sooner hater. Rivalries are great, but it’s even sweeter when your team comes out on top. The big UNL vs OU game is two weeks from today. I can only imagine what’s going to happen.

  8. Tell MrZ congrats once again. He had a close one yesterday. Too bad USC didn’t loose like Penn ST and Fla State. There aren’t too many of us undefeated teams left. Go Hokies!

  9. hmmm I never went in for College Football much. We almost watched this movie last night, but instead we caught Fargo on the HDTivo. Fever Pitch was based on a Nick Hornby book, typically his books are far funnier then the movies….

  10. I can SO totally relate. My love isn’t a college team, though — it’s the Buffalo Bills. If those boys ever manage to win a Super Bowl I will be a damned wreck. Last time they lost I called in sick to work the next day so I could stay home and recover.

    We are Oklahoma fans in this house but I only married into OU. Since I didn’t go there I don’t bleed Sooner crimson (err, actually, I guess I do…but it’s strictly a biological function). I know where you are coming from, though. I still get goosebumps and tear up when I watch a highlight reel of the Bills playoff game that was the biggest comeback in NFL history.

  11. Go Big Orange! I did not know you were a Vol fan! How cool. You didn’t grow up in South Knoxville, did you? That would really be cool!
    Beat Bama!

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