A town with a sickness: Big Orange Fever

As the scorching summer heat sears the East Tennessee pavement, an epidemic looms large. You can almost feel it bubbling, just underneath the surface. It’s coming whether you like it or not. Soon enough, the 90° days will give way to crisp, brilliantly clear skies, gentle breezes and an onslaught of that familiar color:

Tennessee Orange — PMS 151…CMYK 0 50 100 0

That perfect shade of orange. It’s ours. And the sickness is real — Big Orange Fever is coming. In fact, it’s already here.

For myself, and many others, it’s the anticipation of the season that’s more magical than the season itself. At least in recent history. As July turns to August and August to September, this town changes. The sickness sets in. That “Rocky Top”-playing, orange-everything-wearing, hair-raising, hype-video-sharing glowing optimism — THIS IS THE YEAR.

Like the sunrise of a new day, that first flash of Tennessee Orange out of the T-formation on a clear September day in Neyland Stadium holds promise.

And it’s that promise that enables the sickness to blanket this town in a thick, orange fog. Even the most pessimistic Tennessee fans are no match for the anticipation. The possibility. The maybes. Hey, it can happen, right?

We sweat through the summer, keeping up with the news. The drama at other schools (and our own), the changes in staff, player development, predictions— Every new morsel of information is stored up. Lapped up like a Bluetick Coonhound.

The ESPN Football Power Index has UT ranked at 19, predicted to go 8–4 on the season, with losses to both Florida and Alabama. Does it really matter, though? For that window of time leading up to the season, culminating in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band taking the field and ripping into “Down the Field,” it doesn’t matter if the Vols are projected to go 4–8 or 8–4 — Neyland Stadium is fully charged — Electric.

A tidal wave of Big Orange Fever crashes, washing over 100,000 fans as kickoff commences. And then the fever breaks.

I’VE GOT A FEVER

Regardless of how the season plays out, the sickness will be back. The hope, the possibility, the promise — just as soon as the wave comes crashing down, it begins to rise once more.

There is no cure for this unstoppable force.

So be it 8–4, or 4–8 — for now, I don’t really care. I’m just damn excited. Damn excited for Orange to take over this town again. Go Vols.