Life lessons from the Tennessee-Alabama game – Delco Times

Life lessons from the Tennessee-Alabama game – Delco Times

It was a game for the ages.

The vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide — arguably the gold standard in college football — collide with the resurgent Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.

Back and forth went the juggernaut and the upstart, trading haymakers at a pace rarely seen in the Southeastern Conference, where solid defense is more of a hallmark than points.

After an unforced fumble by Tennessee gave Alabama a 49-42 lead in the fourth quarter, Vol Nation was reeling and wondering if the Big Orange would once again let one get away.

But this Tennessee squad was different. They were nothing like the sad ghosts of teams past who allowed mistakes to affect their mental game – and often the outcome of the game. Instead, they immediately erased the mistake from their memory and marched down the field to tie the game. The Tide had a chance to win, but missed a field goal, leaving Tennessee with only fifteen seconds left.

With supreme confidence, quarterback Hendon Hooker connected on two laser passes, setting up a dramatic made for Hollywood finish. Facing a forty-yard field goal with just two seconds remaining, Chase McGrath (who had missed an extra point) kicked the wobbliest, craziest kick in college football history—a knuckleball that, despite its lack of aerodynamic aesthetics, sailed through the goalposts, setting off a storm-the-field frenzy not seen at 103,000-seat Neyland Stadium since 1998.

Across America, football fans and those who didn’t know the home run touchdown gathered around their televisions to watch the thrill of victory and the pain of defeat. It was a long time coming for Tennessee, which hadn’t beaten its archrival in fifteen years. And doing it in such historic fashion — putting up more points against Alabama than any team since 1907 — was the icing on the cake for a proud program that had fallen on hard times for nearly two decades.

As is often the case, sport not only mirrors life but provides valuable lessons. Consider:

1) Every sport has its own fan base, but there is something uniquely American about college football. It’s so inherently special that even the most die-hard non-sports person would be hard-pressed not to be won over by gameday tailgating, as nothing—nothing—holds a candle to it. Walk through campus on a crisp fall day before kickoff and you’re transported to another world. People are not only friendly, but gracious to a fault, welcoming strangers—yes, even “opponents”—into their tents for libations, laughter, and cheerful slander of the adversary. While passions run high, it’s always a good-natured environment.

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And what wonderful environments they are:

-The Grove at Ole Miss, where tailgates overflowing with gleaming silver and hanging chandeliers fill the landscape of old-fashioned magnolia and oak trees amid cries of “Hotty Toddy”;

-“The most exciting 25 seconds in college football” at Clemson’s “Death Valley” when the team touches the head of Howard’s Rock before sprinting down a hill on the field;

– RVs as far as the eye can see at Penn State, from tiny trailers to tricked-out monstrosities that would make a rock band blush with envy;

-A sea of ​​blue and yellow at Michigan’s “Big House” – with more than 107,000 seats, the largest stadium in America;

-The “Greatest Setting in College Football” at the University of Washington, where the stadium sits on Lake Washington with views of Seattle, Mount Rainier and the Cascades;

Auburn’s “Tiger Walk” where the team interacts with fans on the way to the game and where, just before kickoff, chants of “War Eagle” abound as an American bald eagle sweeps around the stadium before making a perfect landing on the Auburn logo on the midfield;

-And “sail-gating” in Tennessee, where the “Vol Navy” – hundreds of decorated boats docked at the foot of the stadium – gather faithfully every Saturday in the fall.

The depth and breadth of these celebrations vary as much as America itself, and that’s the point: being different need not, and should never, be divisive. Opposite. Americans come together best when different people from different regions and different cultures remember that at our core we are all the same: a land where misfits, disasters and the downtrodden transformed into the world’s greatest melting pot, bound together by the unbreakable bond of being the freest people in the earth. When we keep that perspective, disagreements turn into constructive dialogue – not fights that destroy families, friends and neighbors.

2) The Tennessee stalwart rushing field is the ultimate compliment to Alabama. After all, it doesn’t happen when you beat good teams, and it usually doesn’t happen when you beat great teams. Instead, it’s the rare event when you defeat the best of the best. That’s certainly no consolation for the Tide’s Nick Saban — the greatest coach of all time — or his plucky team that stormed back from a 28-10 deficit. But it goes to show that when you’re perennially successful, opponents always have extra motivation to knock you off.

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It’s akin to being the world’s foremost superpower and a beacon of light for billions—both anathema to America’s jealous rivals. Being the best comes with a price, as nefarious nations know, which is why they (China, Russia, Iran, North Korea) continue to look for holes in America’s armor. To our nation’s credit, every time we’ve been knocked down, from the Civil War to Pearl Harbor to 9/11, we answer the bell and pick ourselves up. That must never change.

3) The win against ‘Bama was much more than Tennessee finally getting over the hump. People sensed that this was a very special story, one that transcended the grid. Second-year coach Josh Heupel is a throwback, a leader who evokes — indeed demands — the spirit of excellence that was common in an earlier America, when people wore their work ethic as a badge of honor. People were proud of their achievements because they earned them the hard way. They pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, instead of living in today’s world of victims, where excuses like “unfairness” and “it was too hard” are commonplace.

Heupel might have caved to those who didn’t say an Alabama win was inevitable and that if Tennessee just had “one good performance,” that would be enough. But he didn’t. Instead, he relished the role of underdog while instilling an unwavering belief that the Vols could, and would, emerge victorious.

And why not? Throughout our history, America was the underdog time and time again, but always answered the call against impossible odds:

-Defeat Britain (the most powerful nation in the world) and make the dream of freedom and liberty come true.

-Won the Civil War, where, even if Lincoln’s army was victorious, it was believed that the South’s resentment would never subside.

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– Saved the world from tyranny during WWII (despite an underequipped citizen army and industrial base not suitable for defense production).

-To put a man on the moon and save the Apollo 13 astronauts.

– Victory over the Soviet Union.

-End segregation and elect a black man to the presidency.

And the list goes on.

4) Sports is the one thing that unites everyone: liberal, conservative, black, white, gay, straight. None of the traditional “lines of demarcation” matter when we come together, be it as teammates, coaches or fans – something perfectly illustrated in the classic movie (and true story) “Remember The Titans.”

Fans don’t care much about skin color, as they are only concerned with championship gold and the colors of their favorite teams: Tennessee orange, Crimson Tide red, Penn State blue and white, Eagles’ green. That camaraderie transcends human pigment, making us colorblind, if only for a moment. It’s not a panacea, but if we take those feelings with us after the game, it’s a start.

From a young age, sports teach us the value of winning graciously and losing honorably. We learn that a team working together trumps the all-about-me individual more concerned with personal glory than achieving success.

And we find that losing doesn’t have to mean failure, and that falling short is the best motivation to dust ourselves off and come out again…smarter, wiser, humbler. We learn that from the ashes of our mistakes comes the possibility of rebirth – the uniquely human ability to change and overcome so that we can better ourselves and those around us. And most importantly, we learn that through grit and determination, no obstacle is insurmountable.

And that, sports fans, is what winning is all about.

Go Vols!

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator whose column appears every week. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @chrisfreind

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