1. Your mascot. Not the dude, or the plushie, but the real live dog. You cannot hate a dog, even if you picked the dog least representative of Tennessee as a populace, since the bluetick is active, intelligent, and goes insane without a job to do. The bluetick is also a "loud, constant, and howling barker." Anyone familiar with 100,000 mumbling fans of Neyland Stadium knows this is deeply inaccurate. (Shhh. Tennessee fans are the Michigan fans of the SEC, minus the pretentions of education and doubled down on the Realtree.)
Athletic, relentless, and nope, not appropriate at all, really.
2. Your former penchant for recruiting terrifying defenders. The price went up for them, or perhaps the recruiting salesmanship went through the floor, but at one time Tennessee recruited ursine killers of the hollow and dale like Al Wilson and John Henderson. Parts of Jesse Palmer may still be embedded in Al Wilson's teeth from the 1998 Florida/Tennessee game. They probably taste of delicious Canadian bacon and hair gel.
3. John Chavis. We love Chief for all the right reasons. He never beat Florida that much, but was intense, beat the hell out of people, and had a mustache that belonged on a drunken ranch hand in an old Western. He also didn't win against Florida a whole lot, something that makes you quite likable indeed, but not as likable as having the good sense to pursue life outside the parallellogram-shaped prison that is the state of Tennessee. He did that, too. Chief's all right in our book.
4. The Vol Navy. There's nothing really meant to say about this. If you can take a boat to a game and just pull up and drink with total strangers and not end up with scores drowned or set ablaze in barbecue, you're doing something right. You can just walk onto total strangers' boats and they will give you alcohol and food, often without pushing you over the edge and into the river. The only other place in America where this happens is in Miami, but walking onto the Frot-Yacht (owned by BangBros, LLC) is an entirely different experience.
5. Casey Clausen. If you're going to make an unlikable bantam rooster of a quarterback, make it really, really obvious what he is from the start: four carnival stilts bound together with Livestrong bracelets and topped with a Dragonball Z wig. Losing to Clausen was less an exercise in anger than disbelief, as in "oh my god, that bundle of sticks and Three Doors Down albums just beat our football team." Solid heel work: the legacy of the Clausen family in all theaters.
This is Jimmy Clausen, but don't tell the AP that, because this is what pops up when you look for "Casey Clausen" in the photo archive. Same thing, though.
6. Your running backs. Mostly Arian Foster, since he answered questions in a press conference in "pterodactyl" once and skewed weird in a place that struggles deeply with the slightest deviation from normal. Arian, like so many other people, would only discover happiness outside the state of Tennesseee. Oh, and Jamal Lewis, both because he was brutal between the tackles, but also because he was a future coke dealer, and thus completely about that hustle. (Travis Stephens? NEVER HEARD OF HIM.)
7. Your fans' general level of predictability. When our toddler comes ripping through the room, we usually think "battle stations!" in our head because at no point is anything safe: your balls, your knees, your eyes, the TV, the windows, his balls, knees, or eyes, or anything else, really. Whether he knows he's doing it or not, something is going to get crashed into, and it will not be pretty.
We think the same thing when dealing with Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, or Georgia fans: keep your head on a swivel, and make sure someone has your six. Tennessee fans, for the most part, are content to grumble and drink, except for that lady who spat on us at Neyland. We did shut them out that night 31-0, so yeah, that's gonna happen, but besides her? Grumbly and tense is predictable, and we will always take predictable over "Alabama fan suddenly trying to rip your shirt in half for no reason in the middle of the street because 'I'M JUST FULL AH THE TIDE BABY.'"
8. Proximity to the China Knife Bazaar. Not joking. Very few college football venues come with a guaranteed opportunity to buy a twenty dollar crossbow in easy driving distance.
9. Peyton Manning's forehead. It was the little impact bruise on the forehead from his helmet that turned it from "freaky acromegaly" to "adorable geological feature."
10. Tuesday, January 12, 2010. We honestly can't remember anything as weird as this, ever, and for that we will owe you for lifetimes, Tennessee.