I cried after we beat Bama.
It wasn’t because we beat Bama. It wasn’t because it was a pivotal game in an historic season. It was because I had spent 12 years watching this team struggle. I never missed a game. Saturday after Saturday, year after year, coach after coach — I turned on the TV, sang “Rocky Top,” and cheered for the team in orange that ran in my blood but broke my heart.
Three years ago, I wrote this post for Knoxville Moms. I encourage you to read it first, as this is a bit of a follow-up. Trigger warning: I wrote that post on the evening of September 7, 2019. The Vols had just lost at home to BYU. The week before, they lost at home to Georgia State. Things were bad in Vol-land. Really bad.
There’s no way to put a positive spin on losing for ten years. It stings…As much as I’d love for my kids to grow up in the golden age of Tennessee football, maybe it’s good for them to know this side of it. How much sweeter will that day be for them? How satisfying will it be to know we never gave up on our team? That’s the kind of attitude I want my kids to have, both when watching football games and in life.
Now I sit on the evening of the first College Football Playoff Committee rankings for the 2022 season. I’ll be darned if that isn’t a tiny little number 1 next to Tennessee’s name?!
“How much sweeter will it be?”
Sweet as soda pop.
That same little girl I talked about in my first post attended a game in Neyland a few weeks ago. She sang “Rocky Top.” She did the wave. She ate popcorn. And she enjoyed a win. Like, really enjoyed it. Because she remembers the losses.
Dear girl, we celebrate. So much. We know the sting of defeat. It really does make it sweeter. Smile, cheer, hug, cry. Our team has won. Someday, you will win. You will make the good grade. You will get the job. You will have big wins. Celebrate and enjoy them.
But don’t let the big wins become the bar. There are too many things out of your control. Your effort is the bar. Your dedication is the bar. When you lose, you get back up and try again. When you win, you keep trying. We all know those fans who taste victory, and now they are devastated by a 9-3 season. Maybe it takes experiencing a few crushing seasons to appreciate the 9-3, but dear girl, that will not be us. We celebrate the effort. We celebrate trying our best. If big wins come as a result of our effort, we celebrate big. If only small wins come our way, we still celebrate. Every win is worth something.
Vol Moms, let’s teach our kids to win well. To honor our opponent well. To never expect victory, but to expect effort. To know the difference between achievable expectations and unrealistic expectations. To let our effort do the talking, and not our mouths.