My Personal “Vol Walk” of Shame

December 3rd, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 9 (NLT)

9 People with integrity walk safely,
      but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.

 

Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

As the newspapers and sports shows are riddled with orange and white over the hiring of the new University of Tennessee head football coach, Lane Kiffin, my heart stirs within me.  For, you see, the very campus and stadium that houses the beloved Volunteers are my old stomping grounds.  Time would not permit me to recount all of the times I have stood at the intersection in front of the University Center as the Pride of the Southland Marching Band has paraded by with enough pomp and spirit to move even the staunchest of calloused Alabama fans to tears.  Rocky Top, the quintessential fight song of the ages, replays over and over again in my ears as I reflect upon the sea of orange and white, of which I am merely a droplet, that fills Neyland Stadium each week.  Touching, isn’t it?

There are many game day traditions that I miss being a part of.  One of the more hallowed customs is the celebrated “Vol Walk.”  Each game day, all of the coaches and players don their finest attire and trek all the way across campus on streets lined with loyal fans on each side.  The “Vol Walk” is an event of honor for the players as the Tennessee faithful cheer them on and build them up for whatever challenges they may face in the stadium before them.  Spurrier’s visors.  Urban Meyer’s stellar spread offenses.  Nick Saban’s tenacious defenses.  Vanderbilt’s pathetically lackluster efforts.  You get the point.

The “Vol Walk” is a journey of honor reserved only for those who have put the practice and effort into preparation for the game.  Rest assured that only those who are actually on the team are allowed to participate.

But I am reminded of another “Vol Walk” of sorts . . . one of lesser honor.

The year was 1999.  As a sophomore on campus, in addition to receiving a stellar education, I was also honored to receive the second best gift that college had to offer: free football tickets.  Ah yes, what days those were!  All that was required to receive the student ticket was waiting in line at the University Center to pick it up, and then a swipe of the student ID upon entering the stadium.  It was truly an exhilarating experience to join the other rabid Tennessee students in the student section to cheer the Vols and heckle the opponents . . . and sometimes Phillip Fulmer too.

However, there was one small problem: only students were allowed to use student game tickets . . . hence, the swiping of the student ID.  Why was this a problem?  Well, because one of my friends from church, who consequently was not a student, wanted to attend the Alabama game with me.  Therefore, we devised a master plan of epic and seemingly brilliant proportions based upon faulty conjecture and ill-advised wisdom . . . you know, college.  We decided to “borrow” an ID from another student . . . a female student who was not attending the game . . . and to use it to help us both get through the student gate.  It wasn’t stealing or anything . . . come on, she wasn’t using it.  Usually, all that was required was the swiping of the ID and no one ever bothered to stop and look at it.  The plan was flawless.

Being the selfless individual that I was, I gave my ticket and ID to my friend and I took the girl’s ticket and ID.  That way, if something went awry, I could just come claim that I had the wrong ID and that the right one was somewhere else . . . which was technically true.  Thus, my “Vol Walk” began.

Understand that on game day, 110,000 people cram their way towards the gates to enter the stadium like a humongous pack of orange sardines.  If you’ve never attended a sporting event of that size, the people around you seem as deep as the ocean; it’s truly an amazing spectacle.  Walking towards the gate, I avoided eye-contact with the security guard and tried to blend.  With each fateful step, I could feel my face getting hotter and my knees getting weaker . . . apparently, I wasn’t very good at deception.  I handed the ticket to the usher and then swiped the bogus ID card.  All went well and I began walking towards the beautiful football field within . . . fanhood intact!

Then, in the most uncanny twist of fate imaginable, the security guard who had been standing idly by while tens of thousands of people flooded past him, made a bee-line straight for me.  What!  Why me?  Out of everybody walking here, you’re coming after me?  I was stunned!  

“Hey, let me see your ID,” he gruffly mumbled.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what happened next.  He figured out that the girl on the ID wasn’t me and I was “gently” escorted to the gate.  That afternoon, my buddy and I watched the Alabama game from our living room.  My “Vol Walk” of honor ended in shame.

You see, I tried to step outside of the path of integrity and because of that, I “slipped and fell” out of the Alabama game.  I theorize that God allowed a huge orange light from heaven to illuminate my scalp like a halo of guilt so that the security guard would stop me and I would understand the importance of integrity, even in the little things . . . especially in the little things.  It’s a good thing I’m not at all melodramatic.

“People with integrity walk safely . . . “  You can say that again . . . and people who don’t walk with integrity lose their tickets . . . spiritually, of course.  All those people with their own ID’s and tickets walked right through that gate and right past that guard because they had nothing to hide.  I’ve certainly walked on the wrong path since then, but I’ve learned that the path of integrity is way safer and gives access to many more adventures . . . even if you’re a Bama fan.

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~ by johndriver on December 3, 2008.

One Response to “My Personal “Vol Walk” of Shame”

  1. And to think I looked up to you, John. But as long as you learned your lesson, i s’pose I can let this one slide. ; )

    A lot of times, I might be in a bit of trouble, whether it be self afflicted or because of other people, but when the time comes, I try to do the right thing without cutting corners. Speeding, for example, to get somewhere quicker without being late is very common. It’s better to arrive at someplace 5 minutes late than to be pulled over 15 minutes and end up paying maybe 150 dollars.

    Actions do have consequences and we need to be prepared to accept those consequences when they come up; but to “follow the crooked path” is to dig that hole deeper than it needs to be. Walk the high road and don’t be afraid of heights when the road grows narrow. God likes it when we can maintain our balance. =)

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