Jen Jeffrey: It's Football Time

Sunday, September 01, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

When Andy Kelly took the Tennessee Vols to the Cotton Bowl in 1990, I was a young mother of three little boys. My older twins weren’t into football and neither was their father. I was never good at knowing the ‘man terms’ of football, but I enjoyed watching it and cheering on my team. I wanted my youngest son Andrew to enjoy it too.

As my twins were reading in their bedroom, Andrew had climbed in bed with me and I explained the game the best I knew how to get his little two-year-old mind interested. That’s all it took. Andrew was a Vols fan from then on. After Kelly had left, life went on and I didn’t keep up with football again until the Titans came to Tennessee. I was an Eddie George and Steve McNair fan from the start! I slowly accumulated Titans’ paraphernalia all through my house and eventually made a workout room all Titan colors with posters on each wall.

When Frank Wycheck came to Chattanooga to Dick’s Sporting goods, I had to have him to sign my Titans ball cap! I loved watching George ram through a huddle of men and gain yardage with all those guys on his back! Jeff Fisher was a great coach during that time. I loved watching McNair throw a fake and run with the ball to make a touchdown. Those were exciting times for the Titans. After those two left the team, I worked long hours and got away from football again.

As I have been rebuilding my life these past few years, the football bug has been calling me this year. I think what spurred it the most was when Brian and I started dating and knowing that he was an Alabama fan. Once a Vols fan – always a Vols fan. I also love healthy team-to-team banter and I looked forward to joking with Brian about “our teams” who were rivals.

I had been out of the football stuff for so long that I needed a refresher course, so I messaged one of the biggest Vols fan I know – my Andrew, who is my soldier son who served in Iraq and now is a daddy of a two-year-old. He was excited to teach me anything I wanted to know – the same way I did him over 22 years ago.

He told me that Butch Jones was the new head coach and that after Fulmer left, we have had a few in between that didn’t do so well. He also told me about our starting quarterback, Justin Worley. I was ready to get back into football again and this time, getting back into the college ball (as most of Chattanooga does) over pro ball.

Something about this coach and this QB just felt right to Andrew and it got me excited that this may be a pretty good year for the Vols and I looked forward to watching their first game.

Last weekend, Brian and I had gone on a hike with the Lookout Hiking Club. Brian and I both have let ourselves get out of shape this past year and this is something we want to remedy and do it together.

On the way to meet everyone at Ruby Falls for the hike, we saw Hugh Morrow (who I had written a story on after he became the president of Ruby Falls) and he and Brian found they had gone to school at McCallie together, but a year apart. Hugh invited us to tailgate at the upcoming Mocs game on Thursday. That sounded fun but then I realized that was on Brian’s birthday and I knew we were going to dinner with his parents.

As the time drew near, Hugh had sent an invite on Facebook to remind me. I got excited about it and I wanted to go. When I found out that Hugh’s birthday was also that day and he would be at the game, I thought maybe Brian would like to go to the game even if it was his birthday. His parents usually eat dinner early, so I asked Brian if he thought we could go afterward and asked if he wanted to. I could tell Brian wanted to go, so we planned for that.

This would be my first time going to a game at Finley. I felt like a fish out of water though because, just as medical terminology left me when I had stopped working for Memorial, so did any football terminology when I had gotten out of football. I also was used to watching football on a television set and not in person with my now almost-50-year-old eyesight.

Brian came to pick me up and I gave him his birthday present, which was a few shirts, and I had painted him a card. I had looked at one of his photos from Facebook of his son Luke’s high school game when they had won the State Championship. It was a really great photo of Luke holding the ball up after the win. A few players on the other team were on the ground and a few coaches were flinging their hands. I am not an artist and can’t paint in 3-D, so my paintings always comes out looking like a grade-schooler painted it, but it is fun and I like to do it occasionally.

Brian knew what the picture was on the card right away. I was glad he recognized it. I have met only one of his sons so far as they still live in Alabama. They are great guys and he is so proud of them. Two were in the Army and they were all in sports, so Brian not only is a sports fan, but he knows the sports terms and rules. I knew he could help me understand the game more, but at the same time I didn’t want him thinking I was some girly girl who didn’t understand the game at all and would rather be at a make-up party. That is NOT me.

When we got to the stadium Brian and I did what most couples do and had a disagreement about the cost of parking. Coming back home to Chattanooga after years of living in Alabama where it was cheaper, Brian found things here to be ‘outrageous’ in cost; whereas I came back from New York finding how inexpensive everything is here.

Of course, he and I both don’t really argue. We enlighten each other and are good at understanding the other. I love that about us (we will leave the heated discussions for later when the Volunteers and Roll Tide play each other).

We saw Hugh and I wished him Happy Birthday and gave him a hug and he told us to help ourselves to food, drinks or his birthday cookie-cake. We were not hungry after having dinner with Brian’s parents, but we grabbed a drink and mingled a bit with people. I saw my friend Beth Murphy that I knew from my Y days, and I met a couple of other nice folks, one of whom I will interview for a story next week.

Thankfully, people from the Tennessee Forestry Department were giving away Mocs seat pads. It is one thing to sit out in the heat, but sitting on bleachers for hours would be a little much for this television sports watcher. I took a few snapshots of the Mocs as they took the field and a few cheesy ones of me and Brian.

After I had asked Brian a question, about something that I didn’t know, he proceeded to explain every little thing to me. I had just gotten my hair cut in a layered bob and I felt the sassy personality that comes with sassy hair coming on. I told him that I knew football enough to follow it and he didn’t have to keep telling me about the game. Even though I said that, Brian kept commentating. He does this.

He will do it when a television show is on and he even does it on the commercials. That is just his personality. I like to ‘zone in’ and put myself on the field with the players and each time Brian voiced what he thought the team should do, my brain jumped back out of the game and I lost what was going on. I like to cheer or yell out when something happens, but I can’t hear the commentator from the press box, watch the game AND listen to his comments too – I don’t multi-task.

Then Brian said, “I had thought of being a commentator at one time…” to which I leaned over to him, eyes still on the game and said, “You’d be good at it.” Gotta love him - it’s just …he is such a man. That’s okay though because that happens to be one of my favorite species. I know I don’t have that man gene to keep up the way they do with sports, so I know that I will appreciate a lot of his commentating about things I don’t know as we watch future games together.

Just then, Brian pointed up to the live screen on the scoreboard and noted something about a play. When I realized the game was on camera for a split second I thought, “Nooooo… he wouldn’t….” But then I knew better. Not only did he just start earning income again, Brian and I have talked about our preferences and he knows that when it’s time for our relationship to move further – not to do anything in front of a crowd.

It was easy to see some of the plays on the screen that I couldn’t see on the field, but I still had to reach in my purse and pull out my glasses that I never use. I had forgotten what it was like to see clearly until I did that. I could see the game much better with my glasses, I just couldn’t see anyone around me.

Of course, my eyes drew to #22 Keon Williams because that is my special number and I wanted to see what he could do. After a few plays, I saw that kid take off with the ball and he looked pretty open – then he fell and the crowd groaned.

It looked like they were going to try it again with the same play and Keon took off running then all of a sudden he stopped – it was a fake-out and another guy had the ball running! I thought the previous fall was on purpose to psyche them out. That play was cool, but after that, it stayed 0–0 almost up to halftime and was not that great of a game. Brian and I left because he had to get up for work the next day, but I heard that the Skyhawks won 21-14. We really had a great time though.

This weekend, I was ready to watch the Vols and thought about how I would be able to do that! Mama watches the Waltons and if I went to Brian’s, he would want to see Alabama play. The only conclusion I had come up with was to go to Beef O’ Brady’s in Ooltewah where they have several televisions and Brian and I could watch both our teams there.

When Brian got off work that night, he was tired and Andrew also let me know that the Vols were only on pay per view and Beef’s may not have that. I didn’t want to take a chance so we stayed at the house and watched Alabama take Virginia Tech 35-10.

I pulled Facebook up on my phone to see if Andrew had posted anything about the Vols and sure enough – he posted that they had scored 28–0 in the first 15 minutes of the game! Tennessee’s final score was 48-0. I am excited to see what Butch Jones is going to do with the Vols this year.

My friends Steve and Janet Roach are also die-hard Vols fans. Their daughter Katie was a majorette for four years and started under Fulmer, then Kiffin and finally ended under Dooley. They got to see the whole change take place week after week as they followed the team everywhere to watch Katie perform. She is now a news reporter for WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville. If anyone knows the Vols, it’s this family!

Steve posted on Facebook, “It's been a long time since a Tennessee football team looked well coached. Six possessions and six touchdowns - that's execution no matter who you're playing. Not quite ready for the SEC but were definitely going in the right direction.”

It seems as though everyone is getting excited about the Vols and the new coach and the starting quarterback. I am happy to say, “It’s football time in Tennessee!”


jen@jenjeffrey.com


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