All week, I heard and read about how UT was going to upset Alabama. These predictions, it seems, came entirely from UT fans (e.g. Clay Travis, 3rd Sat. in Blogtober, etc., my UT friends, random dudes on talk radio) and contained very little in the way of matchups between the teams, strengths, weaknesses, trends or anything like that. Several did point UT could run the ball with Cody out of the game, but that's about it.
No, the reasons for a UT upset were along these lines: it's a circle the wagons game, it's a chance to ruin Alabama's season, UT's season comes down to this, the team will be incredibly fired up, they're honoring the 1998 national champions before the game (no one said UT would win because of this, of course, but I did see it mentioned).
And this is the UT fan's problem. He's able to delude himself. He gets such a warm, fuzzy feeling thinking about all the great times at Neyland that he (or she, of course) just can't think rationally. He thinks the coaches and players feel the same way he does. We'll win because we're Tennessee!
I know. I used to feel the same way about Alabama. But Nick Saban set me free from all that. And it feels great. You might say I've bought in to the process - relative to committment to sustaining performance in my actions as a fan, aight? I know what matters is the talent and ability we put on the field and whether that talent has been conditioned physically to sustain it's performance and mentally to avoid letdowns, mistakes and missed opportunities (hear anything about those last night?).
It's a stretch to say UT "quit" in the second half, but it didn't matter. I might not "quit" trying to stop a bus from rolling down a steep hill, but the result is the same. Alabama just did what it wanted and UT couldn't stop it.
And the UT fan knows all this, just like we did a few years ago. They're knowledgable fans. They can see the problems. But it's not enough to keep them from thinking the magic will come back, on any given Saturday, if they just believe hard enough. It's much harder on you than the Auburn fans I know dealing with their own disaster of a season. Their ability to slip back into the role of the trodden upon is like their ability to ride a bicyle. Once you learn how (from a great teacher like Coach Bryant in particular) you never forget.* I don't think it kills them like it does you.
I feel your pain Tennessee fan. I mean, I don't really feel it, but I know what it's like. And I'm glad it's you now and not me.
*Oh, and keep that between us. Even though I believe it, I don't want to broadcast that kind of thing until the streak is officially over.