Posted: 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013
Witnessing a win in Neyland is an experience. A hundred thousand orange-clad fans feed off each other, and the players, fans, and the city itself are all rejoicing in meeting a common goal and defeating a common opponent.
But there's nothing like going on the road and emerging victorious. While there are some trappings of a home game that can put the struggle into sharp relief--a particularly obnoxious away fan or a bitter taste from a previous loss or series of losses--nothing brings the conflict into focus just like having tens of thousands of people around you cheering your every mistake. The opposition is normally more abstract--a group of players far below you who you have probably never met (and probably will never meet), with perhaps a smattering of enemy fans here and there. But on the road, the opposition literally surrounds you. And the more concrete the enemy, the sweeter the victory. There's nothing quite like the silence when the tens of thousands cheering your demise have nothing to say.
I am without a doubt one of the least qualified on our staff to write this article. I've only made the trip to two Tennessee road games, and neither came against a major rival or marquee opponent. I saw the Vols play at South Carolina in 2006 and Kentucky in 2009. In neither instance was I in the visiting section--the first time my Dad and I bought tickets from a Gamecocks season ticket holder, and the second time was a date with a UK grad. So both games involved being isolated from friendly faces, and both games involved walking out with a smile while the sea of unfriendly faces did not.
While both were great experiences, one moment captures all the best parts of being an away fan. As you may recall, the 2009 Kentucky game went into overtime, and after Kentucky missed a field goal, Tennessee had the opportunity to win with one play. That play came on third and five from the Kentucky 20. Jonathan Crompton handed the ball off, and from the stands on the other end of the field, I could see the result before it happened. The offensive line was opening up the kind of hole you could drive a truck through, and our running back only needed one burst of speed to make it past the defense. I jumped out of my seat as he broke past the line of scrimmage and shouted "MONTARIO HARDESTY!" By the time the words had left my mouth, he was in the end zone--untouched--and I had an entire section of blue glaring at me. The Vols were victorious, and the few pockets of orange had by extension defeated an entire stadium full of blue.
That's my best moment on the road (road, mind you, I've some great hoops memories from a neutral site). I know we have some well-traveled readers. So what's yours?