No one can rationally explain exactly how it works, but the "mind's eye" is something special. Close your eyes ever so slightly, and you can almost see the great moments (and maybe some not-so-great moments) pass in review.
For football fans, it's the inevitable comparisons, the frames of reference fans bring to the games, and the great moments they've experienced following their respective teams.
Old-timers always fondly remembered Johnny Butler's 56-yard TD run against Alabama in 1939 or Hank Lauricella's 75-yard run against Texas in the 1951 Cotton Bowl.
More recently, fans can replay Condredge Holloway adroitly escaping from opposing defenders, leaving behind pieces of his tear-away jersey.
Then there's Johnnie Jones arriving at the northeast corner of Legion Field in 1983, emerging from the shadows into the bright sunshine of a hero's welcome from Vol fans after his game-clinching run in a 41-34 win.
Who could forget Jeff Powell's 60-yard touchdown run against Miami in the 1986 Sugar Bowl, a 35-7 Tennessee win?
There's also the 79-yard TD pass from Tee Martin to Peerless Price in the Jan. 4, 1999, BCS Championship Game.
As a result, fans often find themselves debating how today's heroes might stack up against the heroes of a bygone era.
Was Bob Johnson better than Bob Suffridge, Peyton Manning a better field general than Lauricella, or were Steve Kiner and Jack Reynolds better than any other linebacker duo that ever wore the orange jersey?
"Greatness must always be measured against the standards of one's own time," Lindsey Nelson wrote. "Their greatness was established against the obstacles and defenses of their time, and it is foolish to compare the performers of one year against performers of another. You can only guess and dream."
That's one reason the highlights shown on the video board before Tennessee games, either at home or on the road, are always entertaining.
One year, the folks who run the big screen at Neyland Stadium showed highlights of the 1967 Alabama game, albeit in black and white. It was more than 40 years old, but still impressive. The Alabama fans in the audience weren't dazzled, but they had to live with it.
The UT videographers also showed Conrad Graham's 76-yard return of a Penn State fumble for a touchdown in the 1971 game. Conrad was on the sidelines with family members as one of the "Tennessee Legends of the Game."
After watching the tape, one of his sons exclaimed, "Dad, is that really you?" That puts things in perspective.
Whenever the Vols are at Sanford Stadium in Athens, the Georgia powers-that-be show Herschel Walker's famous run from the 1980 Tennessee game, the famous Herschel-running-over-Bill-Bates play.
They also show the video of Larry Munson's "hob-nail boot" call of David Greene's last-second pass to Verron Hayes from Georgia's 2001 win at Neyland Stadium. It's widely known across the Peach State as "P-44 Hayes."
It's almost as famous in Bulldog history as Walker's collision with Bates. That piece of tape and Munson's narration are guaranteed to irk Vol fans, wherever they might be.
At Alabama, there is Bear Bryant's voice on the public address system ("I ain't never been nothing but a winner"), just before the crimson shirts arrive on the field. It seems that the Bear, or at least Bear's voice, has never left Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It's all good, clean fun and a part of the ambience of the college game.
That's what separates the college game from the version of football played on Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening, and Monday and Thursday nights.
The fan experience at college games is nothing short of amazing. There are a significant number of visiting team fans spread among the home fans throughout stadiums across the south.
There is a very good likelihood that Vol fans making the trek to Tuscaloosa this coming season might end up sitting next to a fan in crimson and white, a zealot who knows all the words to "Yea, Alabama" or "Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer."
Just for the record, Alabama fans probably have been seated next to faithful Vol fans who know all the words to "Rocky Top." What goes around, comes around.
When push comes to shove, everybody will get along, won't they?
Fans can remember exactly how they felt when great plays and great moments of a great tradition happened. These are moments to be recalled, savored, and relived.
None of us would trade that experience for a cash endowment, would we?
Lindsey said that we all "guess and dream." That's the magic of college football and always will be.
The discussions will go on well into the night. There's never a definitive answer forthcoming and there probably never will be.
It's called "staying power." It's an amazing part of Tennessee football.
Fans can experience it all in the "mind's eye."
Tom Mattingly is a freelance contributor.