sports (2005-51)

UT football loyalty comes with a price tag

by Tony Basilio

From cyberspace to the airwaves and into the end zones in Neyland Stadium, UT football is apparently all about the Benjamins.

Tennessee’s administration says take a hike to long-time season ticket holders while talk-show callers continue to drone dissatisfaction over the Nose Dive in ’05. Now, one Vol fan has decided that David Cutcliffe is the final straw in his Big Orange Odyssey. College football is a unique business.

People respond to stress and strife in different ways. The old saying goes that the strong give up and move on while the weak give up and stay. For UT’s sports administration, you have to admire the tunnel vision. Tennessee announced a year and a half ago that it would be moving all fans who refuse to give a “donation” to the athletic department’s Volunteer Athletic Scholarship Fund into end-zone seating.

Longtime, lifelong fans, some with tickets in their families for generations, will be evicted from their choice seats in Neylandland. From now on, anyone sitting between the 20s will do so with a major contribution. The few thousand people affected by the policy change have gotten it between the eyes.

Alas, major college football is major business. Mike Hamilton and UT’s brass have said for the record that they were tired of people “doing business” with UT’s tickets. His words are an obvious reference to some ticket holders who use their grandfathered tickets for business purposes. It’s a shame Hamilton and crew can’t figure out a way to turn a buck on the now infamous eBay seller “Steve from Knoxville.”

A long time Vol fan, Steve eschewed the local, regional and national media and took his grievance against UT to the world. Actually, he pleaded his dissatisfaction with UT and its 5-6 season on the Internet. And not in some colloquial chat room. Steve staged one of the most brilliant ploys ever by a disgruntled fan.

Steve’s heading for the auction read, “Buy My Football Fan Loyalty. I’m Tired of the TN Vols.” The subheading underneath exclaimed “Ex-Vol fan seeking new college football team.”

In his item description, Steve offered a picture of himself with his face obscured by an officially licensed piece of the old artificial turf from Neyland Stadium and the bill of a Vol hat showing over the turf. In the other arm was what appeared to be a rather expensive Peyton Manning replica jersey on a hanger from Manning’s playing days. Steve has obviously spent some money on his Vols. Therefore, UT logic would hold that he’s the real deal. Below the picture the following words in bold print proclaimed, “I’ve been a loyal TN Vols fan for more than twenty-five years but after The Hiring made for this University football team. I’m DONE!!!!!!!”

The “hiring” he was referring to is the recent return to UT by offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe. Steve caused a stir with the auction that in six-and-a-half days garnered 67 bids from all around the world. There was even a $1,001.01 bid from the Golden Palace Casino in Vegas. There were also several hundred-dollar bids from a “Nolekiller,” an “ISU Fan” & somebody called “Cockyhoskins.” Yes, this really happened.

I first learned about Steve’s brilliant exercise of his football frustrations by an appearance locally on Knoxville’s WATE-TV when his auction was only a few days into its 7-day run. Jealous of his ingenuity, I couldn’t bring myself to interview him on my radio show. So, I did the next best thing and offered my own immortalization of his great stunt here in print.

Then there’s Small Mike, the “Uni-Caller” of all serial callers. Serial callers, like their murderous counterparts, “have to” have it. Their defect is they want to call any radio show at any time, in any place when they detect an open line. A psychologist friend of mine claims it’s a chemical thing, something about the pH of the blood. A long time UT fan/antagonist, Small Mike announced that, in the spirit of what’s best for the program, he’s cheering against the Vols every time they take the field in ’06. We haven’t even crowned ’05’s champion, and he’s already off the wagon for next season.

Listen up! Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM.

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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