On my ankle I have a faded tattoo of Chief Wahoo. He is the perpetually
smiling mascot of the Cleveland Indians, a team I will love through thick
In recent years, the Indians have been fortunate enough to consistently
make the playoffs, yet their success is not the reason I underwent 45
minutes of nagging pain and unpredicted sweat in a shady tattoo parlor
outside of Cleveland last summer.
Instead, the tattoo is a constant reminder to me of some of the happiest
moments of my youth.
As adolescents, my friends and I reveled in our ability to lie to our
parents about our daytime activities during the summer. While our parents
thought we were shagging fly balls at the local diamond or chasing girls at
the beach, we were oftentimes cruising through some of the more diverse
districts of town, meeting the lower socioeconomic group that shared
Cleveland's public transportation system and trying our best not to get
lost in the vast downtown area.
But, most importantly, we were going to baseball games.
The Indians were terrible, but that never dampened our adventurous spirit
and sometimes even made the trips more enjoyable. On weekends, the bleacher
seats sold for $1 -- yes, $1. And, as bad as the Tribe usually played, we
were often in box seats by the fifth inning. In fact, the stadium was often
so empty that purchasing beer, even at the tender age of 15, became a
Yet, for as bad as the team was, we never booed or got down on our heroes.
Everyone of us copied Julio Franco's batting style and we all dreamed of
meeting Joe Carter or Cory Snyder one lucky day.
I have the tattoo to remind me of those days. When our lives were much
simpler and carefree, when I spent countless hours with my best friends
watching a team that almost always found a way to lose, when happiness
meant chasing a foul ball into the deserted stands.
But, we never booed.
This story brings me to what I think is a tragedy taking place here at the
University of Tennessee, fans booing the team.
Who are you people?
Please don't tell me that you are the same people who remained after the
Alabama game in '96 for nearly an hour honoring the victorious Vols. Please
don't tell me that you are the same people to whom I gave random hugs after
the '97 SEC Championship game in Downtown Atlanta. Please don't tell me
that you are the same people who have pieces of the goalposts from the
Florida victory last year.
You wear the Orange and White and call for Fulmer's canonization when the
team is doing well, but turn into cynical critics once hard times come
calling. What you do is entirely too easy and eons from respectable
behavior. In my opinion, you are nearly as repugnant as the folks who wear
their hats during the national anthem.
This may sound cliche, (in the world of college athletics everything sounds
cliche) but we are all Volunteers.
I have lived in this state less than four years, but I am as frustrated as
everyone else when the team fails to meet their potential. However, I will
That's what Tennessee fans do not yet understand, that being a true fan
means being loyal. And that loyalty breeds from a healthy relationship
between fans and the team.
It may be hard for everyone here in Big Orange Country to understand, what
with the last five years being the most successful in the history of
Tennessee football, but for me it seems elementary.
You cheer for the team not because they are winning, but because they
represent something that you believe in or are part of. I cheered for the
Indians because I loved, and always will love, the city of Cleveland and
the feeling of a near-empty stadium on a summer day. I cheer for the Vols
because I too am a Volunteer.
And who knows, if the team loses a few along the way and they can only pack
70,000 into Neyland Stadium, someday I may put a "T" on my other
Bandwagon fans boo; real fans tattoo
Published: Fri Oct 01, 1999 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 01:58 p.m.