By: Paul Kavanaugh
This point was driven home to me last week. Cruising down Volunteer Parkway I saw a sign that said, “Nothing smells worse than swamp gas”. Since the Vols were scheduled to play Florida, it made perfect sense! People love to root for their favorite team, and there is no shortage of t-shirts out and about with almost every college (and pro teams, too) represented if you look long enough.
In our corner of the world, ETSU, UT and VT tend to dominate the fanbase. Let’s start with our home town team, the Bucs of East Tennessee State University. Now in their third year of having football back, the really big news is the opening of the new stadium, a very nice on-campus facility that was done right. Named after a long-time benefactor and university supporter, William B. Greene Jr. Stadium will proudly and comfortably be home to the Bucs, who played the first two years at the stadium at Science Hill High School.
And they have a team to go with it. The Bucs won their home (and stadium) opener to get the fall campaign off to a great start. Being just a third-year team, there will certainly be some struggles as the season progresses, but the fan base is well aware of that and is fully prepared to support their home towners. The team hosts Mercer this Saturday at 2:30. Get yourself some tickets and go see what all the excitement is about.
That brings us to the Volunteers of the University of Tennessee. You really can’t go anywhere in our region without seeing the ubiquitous Tennessee orange on everything from shirts to pants to hats to, well, everything. The team was 2-0 at press time, heading into the aforementioned swamp. This week they host UMass before heading into a three-game stretch of tough SEC teams, Georgia and South Carolina at home before heading on the road to take on top ranked Alabama. If they get through that stretch, you’ll have to redefine giddy to describe the mood around here!
A steady stream of cars head out of the Tri Cities on football Saturdays towards Knoxville. They are not all orange, it just seems that way. These game days in Knoxville are always a lot of fun, whether you tailgate or visit one of the many fine eating and drinking establishments down that way. Many, many others host watch parties at their residences, inviting friends and family over for some football, some camaraderie, some good food and, of course, a few adult beverages. Football Saturdays are the best!
Let’s not forget the other team well-represented in the local fanbase, the Hokies of Virginia Tech. They were also 2-0 heading into last Saturday’s game at East Carolina. This week they have Old Dominion at home before they host the buzz saw that is defending national champs Clemson. Just like the Vols, win that one and we’ll redefine giddy again!
Blacksburg is not far from here either, and you get a nice stream of traffic heading up there on home game Saturdays. The Hokies have already beaten their big regional rival West Virginia and the fans are looking for more. I suspect there are almost as many watch parties for the Hokies in some parts of town. I see plenty of VT wear as I make my rounds in downtown Bristol. And don’t forget, they were part of the thrilling Battle of Bristol football game last year at the Speedway. Like I said, football Saturdays are fun.
Whether you tailgate or host a watch party or attend one or just go to a local watering hole to see your favorite team, you know you’re going to have a good time. Our area is blessed with many places to get your party or tailgate supplies. Start with some great BBQ from Phil’s Dream Pit, Baconland, Bone Fire or JAEs. Or perhaps go the deli route with something delectable from Woodstone or Mona Lisa’s. If pizza is your thing, Rock’s or Machiavelli’s or Boomershine’s have a wide variety of very good pizza to suit any taste.
Now you need the beverage supply. We recommend Porter’s or Tri Liquors among the many fine establishments in the area. George and Sid’s in Bristol has some great beer prices. One final reason to, perhaps, visit Tri Liquors is their new take on the ubiquitous Go Vols shirt. See their ad in this issue and you’ll see what I mean.
Regardless of which team you root for or what you do before or after the game, enjoy your football Saturday. Before you know it, the season will be winding down and you’ll start pining for next year already!