By Owen Driskill
I am on the verge of tears today.
I never met Pat Summitt. I never bought a ticket to a Lady Vols basketball game. Other than bits of Final Four appearances or championship games, I barely watched Tennessee women’s basketball. I doubt I ever watched a game from beginning to end.
Don’t get me wrong, I have some Lady Vols bona fides. I know the big names off the top of my head: Parker, Catchings, Marciniak, Holdsclaw. I am of the opinion that Geno Auriemma can kiss the State of Tennessee’s collective big orange ass. (It’s a sad day, but I think Pat Summitt would have approved of that sentiment.)
But, the bottom line is I have been to a UT football game every year since 1982. I have listened to football call-in shows, bitched about coaches, followed recruiting, second-guessed play calls, and high-fived strangers after big football wins. Not once, in all those years, did I ever sit in the arena and watch the Lady Vols.
When I heard the news about Pat Summitt, though, I knew that she is the only UT coach who ever has, or ever will, put me on the verge of tears. She transcended her sport and became woven into my identity as a Tennessean. I don’t know when that happened or how, but it did.
What does is mean to be a Tennessean? It means the mountains. It means orange. It means sipping Old No. 7 or some of that stronger stuff from up in the hills. It means the river, the lake, Clingmans Dome and Rocky Top. It means Music Row and Beale Street, barbecue and, well, more barbecue.
And for all these years, it mean being from the home of the best damn coach that ever was or will ever be.
eight national titles
100 percent graduation rate
I lost someone today, someone I never met but who meant more to me than I realized because she represented the very best of what it means to be from Tennessee.
I am on the verge of tears today. Time to let them fall.