“Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness.” (photo via ymswwc.wordpress.com)
My post today is short, and truthfully it’s not much of a post at all. It’s a plea. Tonight we play the University of Tennessee Men’s Volunteers at Rupp. The biggest deal surrounding the game so far has been the platinum jerseys. Love them? Hate them? Didn’t know we were wearing them? Irrelevant. Players like them, recruits like them, good. Right now we shouldn’t care.
Tonight we have the chance to maintain the sweep of UT in football and men’s and women’s basketball. This is a big deal.
We take for granted that our men’s basketball team is always better, and it usually is. They may steal a heartbreaker or two from us from time to time, but by and large, that’s the sport we own. The other two? That’s a whole other story. Our women’s team has been stellar the past few years under Matthew Mitchell, but the Lady Vols are a legendary program. One that has already dropped the first of two games to A’dia Mathies and company in Memorial. I don’t even have to remind you of the torment Tennessee has levied on us during football season for the 26 years before this one. When you’re still posting videos of alumni celebrating a meaningless (read: non-bowl earning) win over two months after the actual miracle, that speaks to the level of loathing we have for that program historically.
But this year… this year is different. We snapped the streak. We took the top spot in the SEC from their hoops team. Our basketball boys didn’t care that Jarnell Stokes was a pre-pubescent manchild able to dunk a basketball, but not tie his shoelaces. They took his lunch money anyways. We are on the verge of owning Tennessee in a way we have never seen before in my lifetime. The planets are aligned, the tides are rising, and the basketball gods have given us this opportunity to dismantle a program that absolutely, one-hundred percent deserves it.
I told you all that to tell you this: I want Rupp Arena to be louder tonight than it was for North Carolina. Basketball-wise, this game isn’t as important as that one was. For the fans, though, it may be the biggest non-tournament game we play all year. Don’t let the respective records dissuade you; we ask our players to have that killer instinct on the court, so we need to have it in the stands. Kill them. Take their dignity. Leave them without hope.
Please, make this the year that they are weighed, measured, and found wanting. Cheer loudly and relentlessly. But most importantly…
Show no mercy.