Battle At Bristol Draws Record Crowd
Saturday, September 11th is a day that will go down in the record books. The largest attendance at a football game ever recorded was held at the one and only Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee as the Tennessee Volunteers took on the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Fans for both schools packed the enormous NASCAR stadium to cheer on their team. The 156,990 people who were in attendance shattered the previous record of 115,109 which took place on September 7, 2013 between Notre Dame and Michigan.
This game was truly a one of a kind event as it seems it would be almost impossible to recreate. It also was one of a kind in the fact that it had the NASCAR feel to it. Fans began to show up on Thursday as they camped out in RV’s and tents just as they would do for a race. There were multiple concerts held on site as Kenny Chesney held a concert the night before the game drawing a large crowd.
The Battle at Bristol was an experience unlike any other for both players and fans as nothing has ever been done like this before. The fans did not have the best seats in the world, but it was more about the atmosphere and being there than the actual game itself. The crowd was just as invovled as ever in the huge spectacle of a stadium that Bristol is.
When asked how he felt about the big game and his experience in the crowd. Knoxville resident Logan Rooker made the comment, “even though we might not have been able to see the game the way we are used to seeing it at Neyland, this game was really special especially since this may never happen again. I could not wait to get to my seat and really soak it all in. This game will still be talked about twenty years from now and to say that I was in attendance for the largest football game ever, that is really special to me and is something I will be able to brag about to my friends and family for a really long time.
When asked if the hype surrounding the game and the atmosphere played a role in how the team prepared, Vols running back Jalen Hurd stated that the game was “special, but we always try to treat every game the same way and stay focused.”
The Volunteers are obviously very used to playing in front of large crowds as Neyland Stadium is the fifth largest in the nation with 102,455 on hand on any given saturday. The stadium was rocking on saturday but that did not seem to effect all of the players as one might think it would. Hurd felt as if Neyland is still louder, he described it as, “someone screaming in your ear” and that even though the crowd was much larger, it did not make anything that much more difficult for him.
This seemed to be the overall consensus or the Vols. Junior Offensive Lineman Jashon Robertson stated that the crowd, “was loud at times but I definitely believe that Neyland is louder. We prepared for the game like any other game, it was a great experience and opportunity to be apart of the largest football game ever. Going into the game we talked about the opportunity that we were given and being able to talk to our kids one day about winning and leaving behind a legacy.”
This game could not have happened at a better time as the 15 year reunion of the attacks on the World Trade Center was the following day. During the national anthem, fans on one end of the stadium all held up cards that in unison, spelled out “USA” and created the US flag on either side of the stadium.
All of the fans in attendance showed major pride for their nation at half time as well as Lee Greenwood sang God Bless America in what would up seeming like a sing along. Both Tennessee and Virginia Tech fans all came together and put aside their feelings about the game to show respect and pride for those who have fought for the right for there to be events such as this. This was true patriotism in full effect and was unlike anything else. Logan Rooker stated, “ I have never seen anything like it, I honestly think that every single person in the stadium that night was singing at the top of their lungs. I don’t know how else to describe it other than amazing.”
Amazing might be the best word to describe the whole weekend. A majority of the people in attendance had never been to Bristol, let alone a NASCAR race. After this showcase, it is safe to say that NASCAR has gained a lot more fans, or at least people who appreciate what it is like to go to a race as everyone in attendance got a little taste of the action.
The game ended in a victory for the Volunteers as they overcame an early 14 point deficit and went on to crush the Hokies 45–24. After the game, confetti rained down from the sky as the players were awarded a trophy and also recieved a hat, shirt and rings to commerate the victory.
The celebration topped off what seemed to be a bowl game or even a National Championship. Coach Butch Jones was quoted about the celebration and stated that he felt as if it was, “a little over the top.” This may be a shared opinion with many people throughout college football, but better way to end the over the top Battle At Bristol with an over the top victory celebration?