There wasn’t much to be particularly happy about on Rocky Top at the end the 1st half last Saturday evening. The Volunteers had played the Georgia Bulldogs to a somewhat pedestrian 6-6 stalemate heading into the locker room, but, nevertheless, there was still a lot of energy in the Knoxville night; still hope for the future and the second half of SEC football that lay ahead.
And then the band took the field.
Listen, we all know that halftime performances can be a bit drab, prompting the creative forces in charge to take risks; to think outside the box in an effort to keep butts in the bleachers and — if nothing else — help curb America’s growing obesity problem. Having said that, there is never a reasonable excuse for the liberties taken at Neyland Stadium over the weekend. Never a rational reason to subject 100,000+ rabid football fans to a Tennessee-themed reworking of Victor Fleming’s 1939 fantasy musical classic, The Wizard of Oz.
That’s right, Volunteer fans watched in captive horror as their “Pride of the Southland” marching band conducted a dialogue-rich reenactment of Dorothy and her dog “Smokey’s” trip down the “Checkerboard Road” in search of a way back to Rocky Top. Replete with embarrassingly lame jokes about Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and even the evening’s guest in the form of the “Wicked Witch of Georgia,” I think they may have even thrown in a still incomprehensible jab at Texas A&M (around the 6:15 mark).
Out of bounds, Vols. Out. Of. Bounds.
But wait, there’s more. Obviously not content with embarrassing merely themselves, someone in Tennessee’s music department decided that legendary Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summit should be cast as the Good Witch (and the basketball team as the munchkins, apparently). Indeed, Coach Summit was even tasked with asking Neyland’s capacity crowd to click their heels three times and say “There’s no place like Rocky Top” (I’m not making that up; see around 7:00).
By now, of course, the Tennessee crowd was becoming cannibalistic. The kindest of Georgia fans probably offered their condolences, but most knew the damage was irreparable (and delighted in that fact). The positive energy had been sucked out of Neyland as quickly and as violently as Dorothy had been sucked into Oz.
With the home crowd still reeling from the ten minutes of halftime hell they’d just sat through, any home field advantage was now lost. Tennessee would go on to lose 20-12, gaining just 33 yards in the 2nd half, and in game that saw Georgia’s defense hold the Volunteers to -20 rushing yards for the entire contest. It may very well be only the second time in college football history where a marching band has played a pivotal role in the outcome of a game.
Leave the novel reinterpretations of The Wizard of Oz to bored Pink Floyd fans, okay, Vols?