I remember the night of the Tennessee Waltz. Now I know just how much I have lost…
Once again we find ourselves staring the end of football season in the face, but this one is different.
Today Tennessee says goodbye to Phillip Fulmer…
Phillip Fulmer has been the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers at all but one of the more than 100 games I have attended since my very first game in the early 1990s. I have such conflicted feelings about today. I essentially said my “goodbye” to Coach Fulmer a few weeks ago in my post “Goodbye, Charlie Brown…”. In that post, I finally explained to the world why it is that I have always called him the Great Punkin—not as an insult, but as a matter of personal respect. I pretty much summed up my feelings for Coach Fulmer as a man and as Head Coach.
Needless to say, I have immense respect for Fulmer…
Today is the final “Tennessee Waltz” for Coach Fulmer. Though I think most will agree that the Volunteers’ performance on the field could have been far better this year, Fulmer’s departure marks a turning point in the history of Tennessee athletics. This season has been terribly difficult for Tennessee fans—not so much as a result of the wins and losses, but because of the divisions between the fans over where it is the program should be headed. I think Joel at RTT is right, this is the Season of Constant Sorrow. There is no joy in seeing a man who has served the University of Tennessee so honorably and steadfastly for over 30 years be forced out.
For me, this is a sad day—I dread the thought of Coach Fulmer running through the T for the final time. I hate the thought of those last seconds ticking off the clock. It pains me to think that the next time we all meet again, there will be a different leader of the Big Orange Nation. I also feel that when that gathering occurs, next Fall, something will be missing. We will no longer be the family that we once were.
All of this is, of course, compounded by the fact that—for reasons which are beyond my control—I am unable to be in Knoxville today. I will be relegated to watching the game on television and saying my goodbye from afar.
Like Will at SESB, I honestly do not know what to say—nothing is appropriate, or fitting.
All I can say to Coach Fulmer, is what I have already said: Thank You, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Thank you for guiding the Vols to an SEC Championship, then another, then to a National Championship. Thank you for always honoring the institution that you represent. Thank you for being a wonderful representative for the alma mater that we both share. Thank you for your integrity, your class, and your example.
Most of all, thank you for your humanity. I have always been so proud to know that you were not just another football CEO. I for one appreciate the fact that you have always let the world know that you are human and, yeah, every single loss hurts.
Thank you for always understanding that Tennessee football is not just about wins and losses, it is so much more than that. It’s about sons and fathers, mothers and daughters. It’s about big dreams and hopeful expectancy. It’s about a connection between generations and a tie to a shared pastime. It’s about devotion, loyalty, respect, family, and friends. It’s about looking back on the days spent on the Hill. It’s about a beautiful East Tennessee afternoon, the Smoky Mountains framing the sky with their majesty. It’s about camaraderie, it’s about a shared experience. It’s laughing, it’s crying, it’s living a memory, it’s hoping for the future, it’s about dreams, and it’s about spending a few minutes in this frenetic existence just savoring the colors and sounds of life. It’s something that keeps all of us coming back for more and it’s something that simply defies description.
It’s not just a game, and it never will be.
It’s about life, it’s about love, and it’s about being part of something bigger than any one person could ever be alone. It’s about history and things to come.
Thank you, Coach Fulmer for always honoring these truths and for making all of us proud.
I have such hope for the future, but for now, I am sad, as Coach Fulmer’s “Tennessee Waltz” comes to a close, and an era ends for the University of Tennessee. Though Tennessee will undoubtedly win many more games in the future, the Tennessee family will never be quite the same as it has been. It is exciting to think of what it will be like next year—what the future holds—but there will be time for that later.
Today is Coach Fulmer’s day.
I so wish I could have made it to Knoxville today for the game—to be part of the masses in giving Coach Fulmer his day. That, unfortunately was simply was not meant to be, and thus I will have to thank him from afar.
Still, despite my distance, as the Phillip Fulmer era comes to a close, I encourage everyone who loves the Orange to take a moment of pause as you enter the stadium, as you take your seat, as you settle in to watch the game on television or listen on the radio—take just a moment and reflect. Take just a moment and thank Coach Fulmer in your own way for always working so hard to make us proud to wear our orange.
Along with wanting to be in Knoxville today, I had also intended on putting together a tribute video for Coach Fulmer, but due to the fact that I have been forced into another trial starting on Monday, I was simply unable to get it put together in time. For that, I am sorry. Thus, all I can offer is this small token of my appreciation, which I was able to get together in the time I had.
(Note: as of the time of this post, the video above was still being processed by YouTube. It should automatically appear once that process is completed.)
I wish I had something more profound, more “weighty,” more poignant to say to express my thanks to Coach Fulmer, but words fail.
Thus, I’ll simply thank Coach Fulmer for giving so much to all of us, for working so hard to make the Vols shine, and for never wavering in his dedication to Tennessee. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
Coach Fulmer, I—and so many others—will never forget your Tennessee Waltz…
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