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School pride runs deep even in Iraq

By By Stan Torgerson / guest columnist
Sept. 22, 2003
Next to their wife and children, and the family dog, alumni love their university best. They paint their faces and bodies in school colors, wear crazy hats, and pay outrageous prices to go to football games. Middle age men wear tee-shirts with cartoon characters on them, distorted by the size of the bellies which go with many middle age men. They put bumper stickers on their cars or decals on their windows and get into fruitless arguments with alumni of other schools about football games played 10 years previous.
You will, therefore, be amused but not surprised by this story of creative love and loyalty to the mother school. Credit goes to Ray Chumley, supplied to him and me by Roy Givens. Written by David Massengill and published in "The Zine," Knoxville, Tenn. it is a story about an Army Reserve soldier from that city who was sent to Mosul, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Driving up a dusty hill on his way to the former house of "Chemical Ali," now converted to the headquarters of 101st Division Artillery, he's day dreaming about home, the Smoky Mountain seasonal change, his girlfriend, his family and everything which goes along with University of Tennessee football. Depression describes his mood.
It's 120 degrees in Iraq and the heat-retaining flak vest and helmet only make things worse.
Then he tops the hill and sees it, shining like an Orange beacon, an Iraqi water tower painted UT orange complete with a white "Power T" at the top facing west, toward home. To say he is astonished is an understatement. He takes a moment to see if he is hallucinating, then shakes his head and smiles.
The story, or what is now a legend, goes this way. An officer in the 101st Airborne Division from Clarksville, Tenn. was give the task of painting the water tower.
Buying paint he specifically ordered from the U.S., he sets about getting the Iraqis on his work detail to painting the tower. After all, his superior never told him what color to paint it, just paint it.
The next morning Iraq had its first experience with what is called "Big Orange Fever of Tennessee."
Why did he do it? Homesickness? Love of the state university? An effort to show the Iraqis what is near and dear to him? Whatever. There's an orange water tower over there with the letter "T" painted on it in white, hoping to reach out over 8,000 miles and saying "Go Vols."
Another Crazy Saturday
Northern Illinois beats Alabama, Marshall upsets Kansas State, Toledo defeats Pittsburgh, Michigan State takes Notre Dame, Oregon knocks off the #3 team in the country, Michigan and Mississippi State continues to go in the tank with a pounding from Houston.
Was it only a month ago when Jackie Sherrill said, "You're not going to stop (the decline) until it bottoms out. I feel very comfortable that it has. These freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomore classes will win a lot of football games here."
Perhaps but probably not for him.
And was it just last week I wrote that Alabama running back Shaud Williams might be the best player in the SEC? And last month that new Bama coach Mike Shula said, "The expectation when you're the coach here, when you play here, is to go out and take the field and expect to win."
Whatever happened to the feeling of superiority SEC fans have always felt over conference USA supporters when the two leagues matched up. Or did Louisville over Kentucky, Memphis beating Ole Miss, Tulane and Houston whipping Mississippi State and Texas Christian's landslide victory over Vanderbilt have something to do with a possible attitude change?
Could there be any possibility that Alabama might be taking their game with Southern Mississippi on Oct. 11 in stride? Didn't think so.
Name me a lock for next Saturdays games, Bama vs. Arkansas, Florida vs. Kentucky, LSU vs. Mississippi State, Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech, South Carolina vs. Tennessee, Vanderbilt vs. Georgia Tech or Auburn vs. Western Kentucky. All right, granted Auburn and LSU are in little or no danger but every other game involving the SEC can be won or lost by either team. Of course, I've been wrong before.