A glistening pond to a man crawling across the desert.
The face of a good friend after a long time apart.
Your favorite meal sitting in front of you after not eating all day long.
These are a few sights that must bring equal joy as the upcoming fall sports season to a Vol fan after a spring and summer filled with injuries, terrible luck and some very messy possible scandals involving athletes in several different sports.
Almost no team was immune from the calamity, with basketball, track and field, baseball, tennis and football all succumbing to the grip of whatever has ailed UT sports during this year.
The men's basketball team had a remarkable stretch of futility last spring, losing seemingly every night on a last-second shot by some SEC sharpshooter. It would be Florida's Brett Nelson one night, then Georgia's Ezra Williams the next. They lost six out of seven from December into January by an astounding 14 points - total. Watching coach Buzz Peterson try to explain the nightly "snatch defeat from the teeth of victory" parade was a sight to behold.
Then track and field was hit with the bug, first on the men's side.
The Vols were once again favorites to walk away with the national championship with Leonard Scott and Justin Gatlin leading the team into Baton Rouge, La., full of confidence. However, an early injury to Scott proved too much for them to overcome, and LSU earned the title. Scott finished his college track career in the field house of LSU's Bernie Moore Track with his head in his hands, and UT found itself watching another team celebrate the title they felt they should have won.
But the women weren't immune to problems themselves, as former coach Myrtle Ferguson was accused this summer of stealing the identity of former UT All-American Kelli White to obtain a credit line. Some were curious why Ferguson left her job last April. Now it appears likely somebody told her to "get out while the gettin's good," so to speak, because they knew this accusation was coming.
That wasn't the only scandal that struck the athletic department recently, as pitcher Jay Sadlowe was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with a Gibbs Hall housekeeper. This issue has not yet been resolved, and both sides have quite different accounts of the encounter.
But it's not truly a catastrophe in these parts until the virus hits the football team, is it?
Just recently, former UT quarterback Tee Martin admitted accepting money from a booster before his senior year after at first denying such a transaction ever took place. If UT is deemed to have any wrongdoing by the NCAA, they could face anywhere from a reduction of scholarships to probation and loss of bowl eligibility, depending on the severity of the infraction.
With all that, Vol fans have got to have their mouths watering at the sports calendar for the next few months.
The football team has new uniforms, is playing with a new football and is a consensus top-5 pick in the country. And with home games against Miami, Florida and Alabama, the season should be interesting, at the least.
The women's soccer team is enjoying its highest-ever 14th ranking, coming off a breakthrough season under coach Angela Kelly. They could easily be a top-5 team by year's end, with all 11 starters returning from last year's squad.
The men's basketball team has reduced their ticket prices and changed the color scheme of the court at Thompson-Boling Arena. They'll also welcome back Ron Slay after a season full of injuries. Now, if they'd only leave that cavernous "Tommy Bowl" and head back over to Stokely ...
But the fans can flood the arena in November after seeing their Vols finally turn things around and have their rebirth in the fall after dying out in the spring.
Or maybe the fall is doomed too. If the first eight months of this year are any indication, that glistening pool might just be a mirage.
Misfortune strikes world of UT sports during summer months
Published: Wed Aug 21, 2002 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 04:22 p.m.