Compared to other sports fans in my age bracket I am a staunch traditionalist. I hate the designated hitter in baseball, I have always despised dome stadiums for outdoor sports, and I loathe basketball offenses that don't require an entry pass to the post.
Last Saturday Tennessee's decision to wear black jerseys for the first time since the 1920's had many traditionalists upset. I am one of them. My initial reaction was one of disappointment. However, I quickly made the decision that I was not going to let those jerseys ruin a perfectly good SEC East victory over a top 25 opponent. What we have to remember is that every tradition must start somewhere. At one point every nuance of gameday in Knoxville was new. Many of the traditions that we assume have been taking place forever are relatively new activities. Running through the T didn't start until the 1970's. The Vol Walk began during the Johnny Majors era. Our beloved Rocky Top was not even written until 1967 and wasn't played in Neyland stadium until the early 70's.
It is human nature to assume that because something is different it is bad. That is obviously not always the case. I would say that a huge percentage of the people who disliked the black jerseys in the name of tradition are Fulmer supporters who have refused to fully embrace this new coaching staff. As I have written in previous posts, I have found myself in that place more than once this season. It is healthy and even necessary for the good of Vol fans everywhere to let go of what happened one year ago last weekend and embrace what happened at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. Black jerseys and all that they represent are not what we are accustomed to in Knoxville. However, no one would dare disagree with the fact that our program is light years ahead of where we were one year ago.
I hope we never wear black jerseys again because I thought it looked bad. But if black jerseys are what Eric Berry and Montario Hardesty wanted badly enough to arrange a lunch meeting with Mike Hamilton last week then who am I to stand in the way of progress? If this coaching staff wanted black jerseys badly enough to risk upsetting traditionalist season ticket holders with deep pockets then I trust them enough to keep my mouth shut. They have earned that trust through excellent on-field performance and off-field recruiting. If Doug Dickey approves of black jerseys, as he was quoted as saying this week, I certainly won't claim to have a better grasp of who the Vols should be than Coach Dickey. If black jerseys help get us even one recruit then it was worth it. At some point, what we do on the field has to be more important than the traditions that we all adore. If Lane Kiffin thinks that black jerseys helped in some way then I am on board. If we continue to progress and win big games versus ranked opponents then I don't care if the Vols hit the field in pink uniforms.
The Checkerboard Chatter research department (i.e. Davey Smith) came up with some interesting facts over the weekend.
Going into the game versus South Carolina the Vols had not allowed a defensive touchdown in a span of 133 minutes.
Before the game against the Gamecocks the Volunteer defense had allowed opponents inside the UT 20 yard line only once in the last 2 games.
The victory marked the first time the Vols had beaten a top 25 opponent since the 2008 Outback Bowl when Tennessee defeated 18th ranked Wisconsin.