Yesterday, the Tennessee men’s basketball team defeated the Kentucky Wildcats in spectacular fashion. It was one of the best endings to a game I’ve ever seen.
Being raised in East Tennessee basically means you’re raised a UT fan, either for football, basketball, or both. My parents actually like basketball more than football, so I spent many nights in my childhood with the TV on mute so we could watch the game and listen to John Ward on the radio call the game. It’s a well-known fact that national commentators across the board have not really ever been a fan of UT sports teams. And of course, no one could call a ballgame like John Ward.
When I was a kid, I didn’t really wear UT orange, probably because my parents didn’t. Even though we really enjoyed their sports teams, I suppose we felt weird wearing the clothes because we hadn’t gone to school there. As I got older, that became even more apparent as to why I didn’t wear the orange. But, everyone around me always wore orange even if they didn’t watch sports, which again, I thought was odd.
Now, as an adult, I have a few orange pieces that I wear rarely. I still enjoy watching UT sports though. So, why DO people wear all that orange? It’s about pride. It’s about pride in our region and our people. Most people would never choose that obnoxious shade of orange on their own, but to wear “Tennessee orange” is like wearing a badge of honor.
When our sports teams do well, it sends a message to the rest of the country that we matter. It’s a small piece in our wider Appalachian identities.
GO BIG ORANGE!