Passing of a Vol fan

No one was happier to see Tennessee beat Kentucky last weekend than my father. "It meant a lot to me," he said, "that Phil Fulmer won his last game."

As fate would have it, that was my father's last game, as well. He died Friday morning at age 81.

Like thousands of Vol fans, my father was fond of orange shirts and caps. He was even fonder of rehashing the most recent game or previewing the upcoming game. Tennessee football wasn't his life, but it was one of the best things in his life.

My father attended no more than a dozen UT games through the years but he arranged his weekends so he was near a radio or TV during the broadcasts. He told everyone he met that he had missed just one Vol game in 50-plus years. His favorite part of the story concerned New Year's night of 1990. While hospitalized awaiting triple-bypass surgery, he informed the nurses not to sedate him until after he had watched the Vols play Virginia in the Sugar Bowl.

My father loved Vol and Lady Vol basketball, as well, but UT football clearly was his greatest passion. He was never happier than when the Big Orange won, never sadder than when the Big Orange lost.

I know first-hand that he was a very difficult man to please, especially at Christmas. I finally figured out that the key to making him happy was to buy him a shirt with some orange and white in it. Christmas shopping became a lot easier after that.

Over the past 40 years my father and I spent hundreds of hours watching UT games on TV and listening to them on radio. Several of his friends told me he was really proud that I cover the Vols for a living, although he never shared that information with me. That father/son thing, I guess.

Orange wasn't the only bold color my father liked. He was partial to flashy clothes that turned heads. In fact, my mother told me to be sure and "pick out something loud" for his funeral attire. I did.

I have to wrap this up quickly because the viewing of my father's body is fast approaching. I want to make sure all of the floral arrangements are in place, especially the orange and white one.

It's from me.

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