I got burned in her 15 minutes of fame
by Tony Basilio
Living life on the air is a precarious thing. The longer I’ve been at it, the more I trust my instincts. Sometimes my instincts stink. Last week was one of those times. My partner Beano and myself were doing a show the Thursday before the Marshall game when a caller by the name of Victoria phones us. She sounds disheveled as she describes what had just taken place.
It seems Victoria had just received a call from long-time UT athletic department employee Bill Higdon, who was calling to inform her of several “complaint” calls that he had received about her antics during ’06 UT home games. Mr. Higdon told Victoria, a brand new season ticket holder in Neyland Stadium’s Section “S,” that he had gotten six complaints about her “cheering excessively.” He then asked her to “turn it down.”
Victoria, a longtime listener whose veracity I vouched for immediately, said that she and her husband were “thrilled to have season tickets for this season for the first time. We have just been so excited about the chance to see the Vols and cheer them on during all home games.”
Beano, my on-air compadre, quizzed Victoria as to her state of mind at the game. “Were you drunk?” No. “Using profanity?” No. “Using any offensive language?” No. Victoria did admit to standing while Florida had the ball and cheering loudly for the Tennessee defense. She also confessed that every once in a while, when UT had the ball on offense, she let out a “stick it in the end zone guys.”
Beano observed that UT home games have become marked/marred by some fans who “have a territorial nature about their seats to the point of being stuck-up snobs.” Could it be that UT overreacted to the whims of a few donors? One thing is for sure, Victoria felt singled-out and victimized.
“When Mr. Higdon called me, he used my name. He asked for me by name. I couldn’t believe he was actually calling me about what he called ‘excessive’ cheering at a game,” Victoria recounted. During her call to our show (1180-AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Victoria gave out Mr. Higdon’s number ad nauseam.
One listener took the time to call Higdon, who admitted that none of the complaining fans accused Victoria of profanity or inebriation, only that she “cheered excessively.” There had to be more to the story. That was coming.
When I asked her if she would be in her seats for future Vol games, Victoria explained sheepishly that she would probably be sitting out the season since she was “humiliated” and “embarrassed” by the complaints. “I just couldn’t stand thinking that those people are looking at me who complained about me,” she said.
Somewhere between then and 23 hours later, Victoria was singing a different tune as she actually called two other sports shows to air her plight. One blew her off and the other, hosted by News Sentinel hacks, proceeded to place her on a pedestal and allow her to take calls. Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes were ticking. That this show was on opposite mine was a stinging blow to the notion of Victoria’s parting words to us: “I’m just so glad that you guys are there for fans like me. You always have been, Tony, and I really thank you.” Yeah, Victoria. Thanks to us and the rest of the free world.
Maybe it wasn’t such a surprise to see Victoria on the front page of the News Sentinel on gameday Saturday. She was a celebrity. There she was under the headline “Maximum Volume.” Humiliated. Embarrassed. And apparently loving it.
Ironically, I’m the one who ended up humiliated and embarrassed by her situation. First of all, I gave her a forum and jumped the gun on UT before knowing the facts. Secondly, Bill Higdon took a day and a half worth of undue ribbing for, among other things, failing to appear on my show.
There was only one problem, due to a breakdown in communication with an associate producer: Mr. Higdon was never invited. That I was on the air chiding Higdon for ducking a show to discuss an issue that really isn’t one is humiliating and embarrassing indeed. Oh, and by the way Victoria, sit down. Your 15 minutes are up!
UT’s failure to execute proper fan relations caused me to jump the gun and believe they were out of bounds by placing a call of this nature to a paying season ticket holder. This is, after all, the same university that gave longtime coach and former player George Cafego a used Lady Vol van at halftime of a game 20 or so years back. Cafego, shocked by the gesture, parked it outside the stadium and never looked back. So anything is possible.
You can make the case either way about whether a fan who pays her money is entitled to yell and cheer with obnoxious vociferousness. Every situation has its mores and code. Maybe UT made the right call in calling her. One thing’s for sure: I didn’t in jumping the gun. For that I’m sorry and perhaps humiliated and embarrassed as well.
Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit www.tonybasilio.com for more information.