Almost two years ago I posted an article stating that there was one aspect of my lifestyle that would not change after I retired. That one aspect was a devotion to attending University of Tennessee football games—something I had done since I was around eight years old. There were plenty of things that would change like waking to an alarm clock or dreading Mondays, but during football season, I would be seated in Neyland Stadium, Section JJ, Row 1, Seat 7 or 8, just as I had every year since 1976. Eventually, that firm position evolved into a different stance and this year we finally gave up our season tickets…I can’t believe I’m writing those words. The reasons for the change were many, and retirement contributed. A few of the reasons are listed below.
Parking was always difficult. I’m too tight to pay a ridiculous sum for parking close to the stadium and didn’t relish the idea of walking long distances back to our car after a night game. A few years back, a new garage was opened within blocks of the stadium and offered parking at a reasonable price. I purchased one spot and kept it for two years before the University realized that this situation was too good for “normal people”. The University leased the garage on football weekends and reserved it for big donors. That was probably the beginning of the end for me.
Another factor leading to this decision was that many of the games are now played at night. A game that starts at 7:30 or 8:00 can lead to a very long day. Added to the late start time are the delays for television time-outs and the ridiculously long delays for someone to review calls by the referees. Many games will last beyond midnight. Also, there is the potential for overtime periods when any true fan would hate to leave yet know that the end of a game could be very late.
The march toward this decision probably began before I wrote the previous article. Helen (adorable wife) long ago gave up attending the games against “lesser” opponents, preferring instead to listen to the radio while puttering in the yard or watching on television while working a puzzle. She would attend some of the bigger games, but eventually, even those games lost their appeal.
None of the above has done anything to quell my passion for Tennessee football. I am a true “homer” and still bleed Orange and White. Our team is struggling somewhat this year, but I am no less a fan because of it. In reading over my post from two years ago (Click here for link), I realized how much I miss seeing all the friends I made in Section JJ. Some of them were real characters and a whole lot of fun. I miss that pageantry of college football and the bands that no longer are shown on television so that some opinionated pundit may have precious TV time.
I miss tailgating before the afternoon games. Some fans are excellent at tail-gate cooking and creating the places to entertain and serve their delicious recipes. I still have some cooking gear I purchased especially for tail-gating that I now use for camping. I miss the steady rise in the enthusiasm of our fans as game-time approaches.
In the end, the contribution retirement made to this change was our new lifestyle and the opportunity we now have for travel. We have learned that our favorite time to be on the road is the fall and over the past two years, we have missed several games as a result. One of my most memorable experiences was watching Tennessee play football on my MacBook on the front porch of a Lodge in Great Pond, Maine. We lost the game, but the view beyond the screen softened the blow considerably.
Betty, our RV has two televisions and a connector for either cable or satellite. Those connections, plus one more for an Apple TV device, almost assure that we can watch a game from just about anywhere without missing a snap. In addition, I have a very comfortable Big Daddy recliner in our great room positioned in front of a large flat screen HDTV. The refrigerator is a few short steps away and the beer is always good and always cold. Ultimately it was the flat screen that won out over parking hassles and nighttime football.
I am certain that I will attend games again in the future. I didn’t become less of a fan–I just got a better seat…with a view. Gotta be Easin’ Along—I want to get the recliner ready…we play Alabama next week.