I had a 22 minute walk ahead of me from Gate 4 of the student section all the way to my apartment just across the river. We had just lost the most heartbreaking game I have ever witnessed, before even taking into account the absolute chaos that was the litter-fest.
This was last Saturday. I, just like you and everyone else, was crushed. Unfortunately, I had to make that walk alone. Fortunately, however, it gave me the chance to really reflect. We lost to Ole Miss. Fans threw stuff. What does it all mean? Well, I think I came up with some answers on that long walk home.
Control What You Can Control
There were 102,455 of us fans in Neyland Stadium last Saturday. Despite some of our best attempts, we really had no control over the outcome of the game. “But we were loud! We got in their heads!” Nah. These are elite college-level athletes that play in packed stadiums every Saturday for years of their lives. Our yelling does not make nearly the impact that we think it does.
Now, this isn’t exactly a bad thing. There are countless situations in life where we have little to no control of the outcome. Sporting events, lotteries, weather and so much more. If I sat here and listed all of the things that we could not control, I promise you this article would exceed my word count.
Fortunately enough, there are just as many, if not more, situations where we are in control. We need to focus on those. You can’t change how much work your teacher assigns you, but you can change how you approach that work. You can’t change how hard it is to get a call back on an internship, but you can change how many internships you apply to. If you do everything you can to control what you can, you can live a better life.
We Derive our Own Meaning
Now here is the cold, honest truth: The Ole Miss game didn’t matter. Not one bit. Not for a single second. No matter the outcome. Let me walk you through it.
As a Tennessee Volunteers fan, this game did not matter. We will win somewhere between six and seven games this year, probably make it into a mediocre bowl game and then conclude the season. As far as “most memorable” seasons, this one will not make that list. Even if we had won, it really would not have meant much.
As a general college football fan, this game did not matter. It was a showdown between two middle-of-the-pack SEC schools with zero shot at a national championship. If it wasn’t for the absolute debacle that was the 25 minutes of trash tossing, most college football fans wouldn’t have even noticed this game.
As a general sports fan, this game did not matter. It’s the middle of the regular season for the amateur football league and frankly, there is more important stuff to watch.
As a general person, this game did not matter. Remember, most people in the world do not watch American football. I promise you that if we could survey the universe, the majority of humans did not even know that this game occurred.
Despite all this, the Ole Miss and Tennessee game did matter. It mattered to me. It mattered to the rest of the students that showed up over an hour early to get the best seats. It mattered to the rest of the 100,000 people that attended. It mattered because, well, we all collectively decided that it did.
This is one of the most fundamental truths to all of existence. In my opinion, there really isn’t much in the world that inherently carries meaning. Now, you could frame that in a negative way and say that “nothing really matters,” and you wouldn’t be wrong.
However, you would be missing out. Choosing to assign meaning to things in your life gives you the power to enjoy what other people would disregard. It allows you to care about the silly things that nobody else would even think to consider.
I decided that the Ole Miss game mattered. That’s why I spent all day Saturday making a silly “Lane Kiffin Claps When The Plane Lands” sign. That’s why I spent all day Friday making an even sillier “Kiffin Shuts the Fridge With His Hips” sign. That’s why, as I was walking home alone at 12:30 a.m. after one of the weirdest losses in school history, I felt at peace.
I had to cognitively realize that I was emotionally invested in that game solely because I chose to do so. And, best of all, I can do that with whatever I would like. I hope that you get the chance to do the same.
Max Thompson is a junior at UT this year majoring in business management and journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter for high-quality NFL analysis!
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