Something unbelievable is going to happen tonight: I’m going to sing “Rocky Top” while watching a football game. "Rocky Top," of course, is the classic bluegrass song written in 1967 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and originally recorded by the Osborne Brothers.
While most people are far too familiar with the tune and the chorus -- thanks to the University of Tennessee's Pride of the Southland Marching Band and thousands upon thousands of obnoxious Vol fans -- the lyrics are underexposed and underappreciated.
The second verse is a real winner: "Once I had a girl on Rocky Top,/Half bear the other half cat;/Wild as a mink and sweet as soda pop,/I still dream about that."
But my favorite is the final verse: "I've had years of cramped up city life;/Trapped like a duck in a pen./All I know is it's a pity life,/Can't be simple again."
Ah, nostalgia, regret and angst! Basically, what it means to be a Tennessee fan lately.
Summary: "Rocky Top" is a great song, when sung in its entirety by people not wearing orange.
On Thanksgiving, one of my uncles, a Georgia Tech graduate, will continue his tradition of singing "Rocky Top" after dinner while another uncle, a graduate of Vanderbilt medical school, plays the banjo. It'll be great.
A couple of months ago, in Sanford Stadium, I was watching the Bulldogs play the Vols when, early in the game, an orange-clad fan began singing "Rocky Top." It wasn't great.
And unfortunately for him, all his fellow Vol fans were sitting clear across the stadium in the corner of the end zone.
A Dawg sitting in front of the Vol looked back at a Dawg sitting behind the Vol and nodded. This Dawg nodded in return and stood up. He was huge. He had a full beard, a chaw of tobacco in his cheek, and his name was probably Bubba.
Bubba Dawg leaned forward about an inch from the Vol's ear and proceeded to bark like a dog for a full minute. To the Vol, I'm sure it seemed like 10 years. Then the Vol sat down and didn't sing or yell or even make a facial expression for the rest of the game.
When I told my wife, Bess, this story, she was appalled. Like me, she's a Vanderbilt graduate and fan. But unlike me, she grew up cheering for the Big Orange and even singing "Rocky Top" as a sports anthem instead of a bluegrass classic.
Last year, this caused some tension in our household. We were in the living room watching the Vandy-UT game, which was being played in Knoxville.
Late in the game, trailing by 3, the Vandy quarterback kept the ball on fourth and inches and clearly plunged ahead for the first down. But the referee, no doubt a native son who'd been sipping from his moonshine jug, spotted the ball a yard short. The more than 100,000 Vol fans exploded in celebration and started singing "Rocky Top," but only the chorus.
At that moment, I may or may not have called everyone associated with the University of Tennessee something unpleasant. My sons may or may not have agreed wholeheartedly.
Bess just shook her head. She was deeply disappointed in all of us, but particularly me, as human beings.
"You know," she said, "I'm not at all upset that Tennessee is going to win this football game."
But then the Vandy coach challenged the spot of the ball. The replay crew deliberated for several minutes. Then the play was overturned. Vandy kept the ball and went on to win the game. The Tennessee fans booed lustily.
At that moment, my three sons and I without a doubt mocked and taunted the entire Vol nation. Bess left the room and didn't return.
Tonight -- because I love my wife and my boys love their mama and also because Tennessee needs to beat Missouri for Georgia to advance to the SEC championship game -- everyone in my family, including our daughter who'll be home from Athens, will be wearing orange hunting clothing and singing "Rocky Top" during a football game.
But we'll be singing all the verses.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.