Do true fans always pull for their team?

I remember when Danny Ford was the coach of Arkansas and we had two 4-7 teams in a row. I could sense that some Hog fans were pulling against the Razorbacks so we would get a new coach. We did in 1998 and had were still on the road to get a national title as late as November when the 8-0 Tennessee Vols (ranked 1 in the polls) knocked off our #8 ranked Razorbacks 28-23 after a miracle finish.

Did it pay to root against the Hogs in 1997? I wonder. Today they are thinking about the same question in Tennessee.

John Adams: So which team are you pulling for Saturday?

  • Posted November 4, 2012 at 7:32 p.m.

Several emails from Tennessee fans reached the same conclusion the last two weeks.

“It’s a tough time to be a Vol fan,” they read.

And it’s about to get tougher.

I’m not referring to a schedule that has lightened considerably after a gruesome October. Inner conflict is the issue now. Fans will have to wrangle with the prospect of pulling for or against their favorite team.

Sounds almost blasphemous, doesn’t it? But that’s the reality of a 4-5 season preceded by back-to-back losing seasons for a fan base that for so many years experienced so much better.

In 2001, when Tennessee played at Notre Dame, my wife couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She said she was surrounded by Notre Dame fans who were pulling for their team to lose in hopes that then-coach Bob Davie would be fired.

The fans got what they wanted. Notre Dame lost to the Vols, fired Davie and replaced him with Ty Willingham. Eleven years and two more coaches later, the Irish are in the running for a national championship. So it all worked out, huh?

It’s too soon to tell how things will work out for the Vols, although their recent track record is hardly encouraging.

UT defeated Troy 55-48 Saturday afternoon as the two offenses combined for more than 100 points and more than 1,400 yards. That’s fine

 

for the Big 12 or the Pac-10. But even in a wildly offensive era, the numbers had to be grating for longtime UT fans sitting in a stadium named after a coach whose 1937 defense held 10 opponents to 47 points.

Tennessee won the game. It’s still in the running for a bowl game and a winning season. And if it wins out — bowl game included — it would have as many as eight victories for the first time in five years. That would signify progress for third-year coach Derek Dooley, who assumed leadership of the program in the worst of times.

But that’s hardly enough for many fans, who no longer can envision better seasons to come. In fact, the defense has become such an eyesore, fans struggle to celebrate the historic passing numbers put up by UT quarterback Tyler Bray or the exploits of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who has become one of the most entertaining players ever to juke a defender on Tennessee’s behalf.

If UT loses another game, athletic director Dave Hart would have no choice but to make a coaching change. But at 7-5, there’s doubt.

And that’s why some UT fans will be inwardly pulling for Missouri on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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