Imagine the team you’re rooting for is losing by 13 points and the game clock is slowly churning down.
This team you’re rooting for has the ball, but they face a third down and eight. Usually, in moments like these, throwing the ball at least to the first down marker or past it is a good idea, but that’s not exactly what Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano decided to do. Instead, Guarantano threw a dump-off pass to Tim Jordan for a loss of one. That forced the Volunteers to punt trailing 22-9 in the fourth quarter.
Now that I’ve set the circumstances, the following chain of events is what I’d like to call a perfect storm. Tennessee punts the ball away, and after watching this sequence of events, there was a certain Tennessee fan that was not happy with the result. ESPN cameras somehow found this lone fan in Section 123 yelling choice words toward coach Jeremy Pruitt.
This Tennessee Volunteers supporter stood alone as his fellow Vols supporters had fallen silent due to the lackluster performance. Indiana fans couldn’t have gotten a word in with him around anyway.
Well, the fan that ESPN caught in a rage was me. Almost immediately, I began to receive messages from basically everyone that’s ever known me and was watching the game. Over the course of the next five minutes, everyone from family members to people from high school that I never even spoke to were sending me messages telling me ESPN had captured me showing my displeasure, if you will.
But that was just the beginning. There were a few people with large Twitter followings that decided that posting the full eight seconds of my tirade would make interesting content, and it did. Clay Travis, Barrett Sallee and Josh Ward were a few of the first sports media personalities that posted the video. And then it began to spread.
People were forwarding me the video, Tennessee fans were sympathizing with me, rival fans were making jokes (you know, middle school fat-boy jokes, which are my favorite) and the views on the video started to climb.
Something else then started happening on the field. Tennessee was beginning to show signs of life. The defense, which hadn’t really been bad all game, was beginning to bow up, and Guarantano decided to start throwing the ball toward players wearing the same jersey as him (which was new for this game).
Before you know it, Tennessee got on the board with their first touchdown of the evening as Quavaris Crouch, who plays linebacker and running back, found the checkerboard with a one-yard rushing touchdown.
After the score, Pruitt called “bunt right”, an onside kick, and it worked. Tennessee took possession of the ball once again. The Volunteers made their way back down the field, scored again, and with an extra point, took a 23-22 lead, A lead that just a few minutes earlier didn’t seem plausible. Tennessee held that lead and never let it go as the Volunteers were able to complete the improbable comeback. So improbable that ESPN had Indiana’s win probability up to 97.7 percent at one point.
At this moment, the video that showcased my extensive vocabulary on national television was still rising in popularity, and some Twitter users suggested that it was my “pep talk” that got the team going and helped them win.
Now, I won’t take any credit for anything that happened on that field, but in that moment, Tennessee fans had someone like them that was a microcosm of the game. Tennessee had underperformed, and a lot of the fans weren’t happy. Whether that was with the play calls, coaches, whatever, it didn’t matter. We, as fans, just wanted to see it get better, and it did.
People were tweeting, following and even thanking me. I went from 450 followers to over 3,000. It’s honestly hard to describe. Basically, a very popular football team won, and for some goofy reason the fan base thought I was the reason why. They were very appreciative of me for simply losing my mind: a feat that happens on a regular basis, whether I’m watching the Titans, Braves or any other Volunteer team.
Clay Travis asked me to be on his radio show and Josh Ward asked me to be on his podcast, and I accepted both offers. I enjoyed telling my side of everything that happened from the game to why I was mad and who I was mad at. I can’t lie, I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame. I don’t have near enough space to write all of my favorite comments from Twitter or Facebook here, but I did have quite a bit of fun with all of the banter.
All in all, it was a fun week. Some of my best friends and I spent the better part of a week together on the beach, and I got to watch my favorite college football team complete an improbable comeback. I had a sudden spike in popularity and rode the small social media wave until it was done.
After returning home, I watched my favorite professional team defeat the New England Patriots. You love to see it.
Casey Patrick is a sports reporter for the Dickson Post and the Cheatham County Exchange