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My Trip to Knoxville

Craig Lawson

First off, that ain't me in the picture. It's a well known fan from Vol twitter and the man spews fire. IYKYK. Next, as a rule, I would normally never miss watching a Georgia game for any reason regardless of who the opponent is (especially not for a dumbass fall wedding that isn't on a bye week), but this past Saturday I was in Knoxville for the Alabama, Tennessee game. This is probably the first time I have missed watching a Georgia game live since I was doing broadcast work for Mercer football back in 2013 (side note: FCS football should have kept their season in the spring). I started planning this trip back in April because I was told attending an Alabama away game is a real spectacle, and ideally it's better to attend a game where you don't care who the winner is (I've seen Alabama beat Georgia twice in Athens).  I have some Knoxville friends with a spare bedroom and another friend who graciously sold me lower bowl tickets for face value. With Vanderbilt scheduled to visit Athens on the same day I figured it was likely that Georgia would be playing at noon or perhaps at night. Little did I know that ESPN would throw me a curveball by stacking Georgia vs Vanderbilt on top of Alabama vs Tennessee with both games kicking off at 3:30, by the time that was announced my tickets were already purchased and their was no turning back. 

Many dawg fans disagree, but I believe Knoxville to be one of the top away destinations in the southeast. There are plenty of good restaurants and bars (some with live music) at Market Square and Gay Street, and they're all within walking distance to the stadium. The backdrop of the Smoky Mountains can be breathtaking if you're into that sort of thing, and breweries have been popping up all over the area. I had the chance to try an award winning IPA at a place called XUL. I don't normally like IPAs, but this one was damn good. The Sunsphere is pretty cool and adds to the aesthetic plus the Vol Navy on a gameday is really something to behold. We tailgated next to the Tennessee River with my ticket plug and his people as we watched Ole Miss and Michigan pull away from Auburn and Penn State respectively. After an hour or two we grabbed some walking beers and headed to the stadium. The recently added brick façade still looks nice, but it is long past time to clean up the highly visible, rusty beams and what appears to be classrooms from the 1960's on the underside of the stadium, but I wasn't there to critique. I've visited Neyland four times including Saturday and for my money it is the loudest stadium environment I have ever experienced. I've been to Baton Rouge, Clemson, Auburn, South Carolina, Jacksonville for the Cocktail Party, and of course Athens just to name a few places, but that Neyland bowl really holds in the sound. I don't think it can be fully appreciated without getting down into the lower section near the field.

The ESPN app sucks as bad as their TV scheduling so I had my wife, who was hanging back at the house, texting me game updates of Georgia as they dismantled Vandy. This allowed me to fully immerse myself in the game experience. Did y'all know that Tennessee's Pride of the Southland Band can spell the letter "T"? $13 for a beer was pretty steep, but at least they have beer in the stadium and they were full pint cans. I think they were the bigger European pints because I can't say I've ever seen a beer that size. Before you ask, hell no I wasn't wearing orange nor did I ever utter the phrase "Go Vols," "VFL," or any other such fuckery. I did however scream "Buck Fama" along with many other Tide pejoratives at the top of my lungs whilst wearing a nice neutral white polo. I was there to make friends not cause problems, plus I really hate Alabama. I don't care for Tennessee either, but at least they have nice views and brunch spots to offer.  I confessed my true nature to a few trustworthy looking people as I assured them that I was there to see a Vol victory and further eased their minds with the top 10 reasons I hate the Florida Gators.  

Anyway, the game was nuts. You all saw it or have at least watched the highlights by now. Alabama's pass rush could not get home and Heupel's offense made their secondary look like swiss cheese. I was a little surprised. I originally had money on Alabama -7, but cashed out when I remembered that no matter which side I'm on, I always lose when I bet a Tennessee game. I didn't storm the field, but I took some video which I will share below. Has everyone else been laughing their asses off at Tide fans bitching about officiating since Saturday? I know I have. The cognitive dissonance of a fanbase that saw their team win the 2017 national championship and the 2018 SEC Championship on the back of favorable officiating is unbelievable to me. I absolutely love it. Some Georgia fans have criticized those of us who wanted to see Alabama lose because the November 5th matchup with Tennessee in Athens could become a de facto playoff elimination game, but I say to hell with that. First of all, what I want has no impact on the outcome of a game. Second of all, I didn't suffer through the first 35 and a half years of my life with zero national championships only to see Georgia finally win it all just so I could shy away from a home game with Tennessee within the calendar year. Bring that shit into the paint! 

Also, please don't jump on social media begging us not to sell our tickets to Tennessee fans. This is America, and people don't like to be told what to do with their own property.  Vols have been screenshotting and reposting these whiney pleas and making us look like bitches on their message boards. Some of you may think Tennessee is the 2022 installment of 2019 LSU, but I'm not there yet. I'm not convinced a Tennessee win over Kentucky is imminent, and tickets in my section are listed for as much as $1200. I've seen early lines where the Vols are favored by as little as -3.5, not that I would bet against them, but hear me out. I make $2400 off of my two tickets this week and if Kentucky pulls the upset I can rebuy in a down market. It's just smart money.  Y'all do what you want, but I'll probably hold what I've got and attend the game. Selling high is basically the same as betting on the Tennessee, Kentucky game, and I already explained how that usually works out for me.      

P.S. That game would have mattered a hell of a lot less if there was a 12 team playoff in 2022. Food for thought. 




Edited by Craig Lawson

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I won't argue that last sentence, but respectfully disagree..  Hella cool that you were there...  

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