Written by guest columnist Mark Bixler
Greetings Bearcat Faithful!!! It is time once again for yet another edition of Bix’s Picks, Bearcat Lair Nation’s weekly guide to uncanny, unparalleled, unorthodox and unpolished UC Bearcat Football observations and prognostication,
Now, for those of you who are new to the site or for those of you who have tolerated this weekly diatribe in year’s past, I am required be several local, state and federal government agencies to state the following:
THIS WEEKLY DRIVEL IS ALL FOR FUNZIES AND MORE OFTEN THAN NOT AND FOR A LACK OF A BETTER DESCRIPTIVE WORD IS PURE….”BULLSHIT”. DO NOT TAKE THIS REMOTELY SERIOUSLY. THESE ARTICLES WILL CONTAIN SOME RELATIVE INFORMATION BUT ARE MOSTLY COMPRISED OF THE INCOHERENT RAMBLINGS OF AN INDIVIDUAL WHOSE 1ST (AND BY THE GRACE OF GOD!) STILL CURRENT WIFE WANTS INSTITUTIONALIZED. FINALLY, (AND THIS IS THE MEAT AND POTATOS OF THIS P.S.A.) PLEASE DO NOT GO OUT AND WAGER THE FARM AND OR ANY AND ALL ANIMALS AND IMPLEMENTS ON SAID FARM BASED ON THIS OR ANY SUBSEQUENT BIX’S PICKS PREDICTION. IT IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY! HOWEVER, IFYOU CHOSE TO ESCHEW THIS WARNING, MAKE SOME JACK AND FIND YOURSELF FEELING PHILANTHROPIC, THEN BE ALL MEANS FEEL FREE TO FORWARD SOME OF THE PROCEEDS TO THE BEARCAT ATHLETIC DEPT. or UNIVERSITY FUND.
That concludes the annual disclaimer, on to the history behind this week’s ballgame!
A HISTORY OF TENNESSEE VOLUNTEER FOOTBALL
Ah yes, a tradition of excellence. Gridiron greats have been romping around and about Neyland Stadium for what seems like eons. It is truly an honor to the Nth degree for our beloved Bearcats to even be invited to perform in the role of sacrificial lamb on Shields-Watkins field this weekend. So, with that in mind, I feel compelled to give a little history lesson for those of you who are going to Knoxville this weekend or for those of you who will be watching the game on the Ocho. Hopefully this tutorial will help prepare you to fully be capable of soaking up the sights, sounds (And yes, there will be sounds! What “Rocky Top” lacks in Quality it certainly makes up for in Quantity!) and the pageantry that make a UT home game THE place to be on a fall afternoon in Knoxville.
The University of Tennessee is the state’s land grant institution for higher learning and derives its nickname from the actions of Tennesseans who VOLUNTEERed to trek down to Louisiana (yes, this was their first official away game) to do battle with a heavily favored Brit squad. Ol’ Hickory himself, Gen. Andy Jackson, was under center that day as the Volunteers kicked the bejesus out of the Red Coats at the conclusion of the War of 1812.
Governor Aaron Brown once again sent out a call to arms and assembled 2,800 Volunteers, dressed in Dragoon uni’s (you’ll see some of those cats this weekend), and sent them down Texas way to battle Santa Ana and his 30,000 Mexican conscripts. The result? Still another win on the road pushing their 19th century away game win streak to a perfect 2-0! (Historians have argued the fact that Tennessee native Davey Crockett also enlisted some “Volunteers” to head on down to the Alamo Dome. Unfortunately, that military action did not end so well and it led to his and their untimely demise. Tennessee officials have argued vociferously that this was only a scrimmage with a squad made up of de-commits and should not count as an ”L” in the loss column.)
Regardless, all I can gather from this “Volunteer” nickname explanation is that if you are of English or Mexican descent and you are in the state of Tennessee, you better damn well keep your head on a swivel!!!
You’re probably wondering how/why in the name of God did Tennessee decide on ORANGE as their primary and signature color? Well, apparently there is an area on campus called The Hill (that’s right, no formal name or designation, just simply The Hill…don’t forget folks, this is Tennessee we are talking about.) where the American daisy grew and still grows…Bet you can’t guess the color of the daisy? Could have been worse I guess, it would be a damn shame to have your team colors derived from a bunch of pansies! Or was it?
You guys know that I have always had a soft spot for the mascots of UC’s opponents. I don’t know what is about giant stuffed fluffy animals (and no, I am NOT a furry!) but they do have a tendency to grab my attention during a break in the action or during a pivotal game deciding 4th and inches plays at the goal line.
Regardless, I was kind of hoping for something fun from our Volunteer friends like a Coon skin cap wearing Davey Crockett (loser!) or, and even better, a giant bottle of Jack Daniel’s that could break dance and disperse shots simultaneously! Much to my dismay, it is neither of those things. Nope….UT’s mascot is some flea bitten hound by the name of “Smokey”. I mean a REAL life (not inanimate) panting, leg hiking, food mooching, shin humping, slobbering and constantly bellowing hot mess of a Blue Tick Hound Dog who just happens to have free reign of the whole damn place! Damn man, talk about a buzz kill…And this is no recent phenomenon either, the canine you see Saturday being treated like a cow in India is Smokey IX. I did some quick math and I believe that this lucky dog has had something like 8 predecessors. Smokey IX and all the Smokey’s before him have been lazing around Neyland since 1953 when his great, great, great…ah hell, you get the idea, granddaddy (Smokey I) won a contest at halftime in a game vs. Mississippi State pitting native Tennessee breeds against one another (I know, talk about a softball, but I am going to leave that one alone due to time and word constraints!). It was pre-determined that the eventual winner had to be a hound or “Hound Dog” as they say in Knoxville. As the story goes, Smokey I was the last contestant paraded out on the field that afternoon and he immediately started barking…incessantly. He barked, bellowed and howled his way on to victory. From that inauspicious beginning, Smokey has gone on to cement his and his offspring’s legacy into the hearts, minds and ears of Tennessee fans across the land. (As a side bar, upon hearing this story, this was the EXACT campaign strategy employed by native Tennessean Al Gore in his gubernatorial and presidential candidacies. He did however add a wrinkle to it. In addition to barking, bellowing and howling, he also claimed to be an inventor.)
And we are moving…
Next up are two interesting sights that in my mind work in concert with one another. First, Neyland Stadium’s proximity to the Tennessee River lends itself to a unique tailgating opportunity. A flotilla of nearly 200 canoes, kayaks, dinghy, ski, cigar, house, trawler and shrimpin’ boats assemble days in advance of game day to form a GIANT floating tailgate party affectionately referred to as “Neyland’s Navy”! (Détente will be declared by this cubby reporter Friday evening right up until game time as a contingent of fellow Milfordians will be congregating and spending an inordinate amount of time at this locale as guests of my Vol friends Scooby and Heather. We are all hoping and praying for a sun drenched day and that Heather decides to go with Cuervo and the 2 piece….for they are real and they are spectacular!)
Secondly, and you folks at home with HD will get the gist of this, check out the end zones at Shields-Watkins Field! It looks like something Bobby Fischer would experience during a bad acid trip! I just want a chance to get down on the field and move diagonally through the end zone and upon reaching the back line ask someone to “King ME”!!! I am not kidding you friends, those end zones are obscene! My curiosity got the best of me and I had to make a call to an unnamed UT official. He informed me that the end zones are painted that way for safety. When I asked him how in the hell does that protect the players, he calmly replied in a low southern drawl that it wasn’t for the players, but the fans. He then elaborated that it is basically a giant Sobriety Checkpoint. When the time comes that you can only see white or you can only see orange and cannot make out the 2 giant checkerboards before you, it is time to kick the flask to the curb and reach for a G2. (Of course, after giving this some serious thought, I have decided to enter the building wearing blinders. Yes, I will only be able to see the action from one 10 yard line to the other 10 yard line, but damn fellas, you just can’t take any chances!)
Finally, last but certainly NOT least, there is that damn song! And you know full well which one I am talking about! A little ditty written by the husband and wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. A musical masterpiece that took all of 10 minutes (and that is no B.S.) to write in 1967, while the couple were shacked up in the Gatlinburg Inn. Ah yes, and if you ask any self respecting UT diehard they would say that you must add the name Bryant to any list containing that of Bach and Beethoven. The song of course is the incomparable “Rocky Top”. It is a rather complex piece, utilizing all of 5 chords and with the song title being echoed 19, COUNT’EM 19 times!!! Sweet Mother of Mary! “Rocky Top” rivals only “Hang on Droopy” on the sheer unadulterated annoyance scale. I don’t know what it is about these land grant schools, but they do have a penchant for really bad music. Let’s face it, we would probably be more tolerant of the Tennessee state anthem if we didn’t get “Hang on Droopy” rammed down our throats at every sporting event, bar and massage parlor we walk into. At least “Rocky Top” mentions the state of Tennessee and references the country simple life. The only thing I can derive from the OSU’s melodic calling card is that it is a soliloquy about either one’s love of a certain animated Dog (which by the way bears no resemblance to Smokey IX) OR, it is about a couple dealing with the embarrassment of a serious loss of male testosterone. (judging by the Buck fans I know, I would have to side with the latter.) I guess when push comes to shove and given the choice, I would have to go with “Rocky Top” every time. However, let’s face it, it would be far better to have as many choices as the number of times you will hear the words Rocky Top in just one playing of this down home “classic”.
That is about it for now Bearcat fans, as this concludes today’s Vols history lesson. Now that we know what we have got ourselves into on a social, historical and musical setting, we will delve into the actual reason for why we are heading down there….Bix’s Picks will take and in depth view of the UC vs. UT game tomorrow when this novel resumes…..