I went to a college where everything was draped in orange, from the buildings themselves, to the attire in the school store, down to the lanyards and the cushions for fans to sit on at the football games. I’m surprised the beer at the bars near campus wasn’t all orange as well. That’s how much the school (nee, the town) bled orange, and probably still bleeds it to this day. In Knoxville, Tennessee, orange isn’t just a color; it’s a state of mind.
I used to like the color orange before I found myself at the University of Tennessee and everything I saw for miles around sported that color. It was on every license plate, on the flags that hung out car windows, adorning the menus at popular restaurants in the Knoxville area, and even on pet food. I don’t even want to know what they had to put in that pet food to make it the bright orange they advertised.
The Vols (and their rabid fans) pride themselves on supporting the team first, and everything else second. I haven’t lived in Knoxville for 15 years, but when the school made it to a bowl game last year I remember seeing orange when I looked in the stands at the game on TV. I tuned in because of some fascination with a school that I never truly identified with. Maybe it’s because I love green, and green doesn’t always go well with orange. Or maybe it was something else.
But then I moved, and I thought I had left that insane amount of orange in my rearview, both physically and mentally. I got here, though, and because of this place’s proximity to Syracuse I was drawn in yet again. These fans aren’t quite as rabid about their Orangemen (and I suppose Orangewomen too) as Knoxvillians are about the Vols, but they aren’t too far off. And oh, the orange! It’s the same vibrant color I thought I had left behind, the same brilliant orange I thought was gone for good. Boy, was I wrong.
Now, this time of year, with the Syracuse basketball teams heading to the Final Four, the hysteria has hit a fever pitch. Nearly every person I saw today at the mall was wearing some variation of Orange, desperately trying to be a part of a surprise run by two teams none of these same people took to this position on their brackets. Is that hypocritical, to have so much support for a team now when they had no faith just three weeks ago? I don’t know, but don’t tell them you think it is. Those fans’ll take your head off.
I went to a college where everything was draped in orange, where the mascot was a droopy-eared dog who wore a mix between a shawl and a cape. But it was orange, so I guess it counted. I guess anything orange still counts. Which is both sad, and really, really cool. I’m just not quite sure which at the moment.