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According to Wikipedia (and who doesn’t trust Wikipedia), hope is the “belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life.”
“Hope implies a certain amount of perseverance … believing that a positive outcome is possible even when there is some evidence to the contrary.”
My dictionary describes hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had,” or “a feeling that events will turn out for the best.”
The ancient Greeks believed in Elpis, the goddess of hope. While all the evils of the world spread their wings and took up mischievous residence around the globe, Elpis stayed behind to comfort mankind. The Romans renamed her Spes and animated her as a young girl carrying a fresh flower.
Why all this chatter about hope? Nearly every religion teaches and preaches hope … “in the next life, it’ll all be better.” Everyone reading this knows what hope is. What gives? Is this a sports column or what?
I speak of hope because it’s the number one food stuff of sports fans. It’s necessary to our sports survival.
Hope is a basic part of a sports fan’s diet. Consider it our wheat. Without it, we all fall down and go boom. (Of course, for a truly well-balanced meal, hope should be served with a nice side of reality … but hey, this is about hope, not about keeping an even keel.)
Right now, it’s harvest time for hope.
There’s spring training in baseball. NFL draft day in pro football. The Daytona 500 in NASCAR. Midnight Madness in college basketball.
And there’s bowl season in college football.
Going into the Outback Bowl, Tennessee had lost five of its previous seven bowl games. Those losses led to dreary off-seasons. Since those seasons ended on losses, the naysayers were given the floor.
But with a hard-fought win over Wisconsin, the run-up to 2008 will be just as positive as the run-up to 2002 and 2005. And it should be. The Negative Nellies will yield the floor to the Positive Petes.
Do bowl wins and losses really have any impact on the next year’s campaign? Rarely. There are too many changes in rosters and coaching staffs. There is too much time between games.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not cause for hope. Bowl games do that. Your team may have a super regular season, but lose the bowl game and it’s like putting shoe-flavored icing on a delicious cake. You’re left with a pretty bad taste in your mouth.
At the same time, you can take an up-and-down season and turn it into a much better year with a bowl win. It’s like covering bad fast food Mexican grub with those little packets of hot sauce. The bland food would tide you over without the sauce, but the sauce makes it a lot more edible. It masks the flaws.
That’s what bowls do. And Phillip Fulmer just won his. The vibe will be positive for the next four or five months. It should be. Hope has been provided.
“I’m excited about where we are, and I’m even more excited about where we’re headed, even with the staff changes,” Fulmer said after Tuesday’s game. “I think that gives us a chance to even be excited about something new and different. I’m looking forward to it.”
UT’s coaching moves may well prove to be the best hires that Fulmer ever makes.
Tennessee’s offense might employ more elements of America’s new favorite plaything: The Spread.
The receivers may improve. The defensive line might gel. The quarterback may turn out to be the Superman that recruiting gurus and media members have built him up to be.
Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Auburn might all be easier wins than they look on paper.
If you think I’m being sarcastic, I’m not. All of those things CAN happen. And Tuesday’s victory will make Tennessee fans much more likely to believe that they WILL happen.
That’s the spin of a bowl win. That’s how big Tuesday’s game was … for the program, for its coach, and for the athletic director who’d already pulled out his checkbook before kickoff.
Hope is what makes sports fun. It’s why Cubs fans never stop believing. It’s why fans of every team in America always say, “don’t know why, but I’ve just got a feeling that our boys can do it!”
That’s hope. That’s what the Outback Bowl provided. And it sure beats the alternative.
John Pennington hosts the Hall’s Salvage Sports Source on Sunday at 11 a.m. on WATE.