Saturday night in the sleepy city of Bristol, Tennessee, a world record was set as 156,990 people attended the largest football game in history. This game pitted the University of Tennessee Volunteers against the Virginia Tech Hokies.
I was born in Kingsport, Tennessee (about 20 miles west of Bristol) and lived for most of my life in the small town of Gate City, Virginia (about 25 miles northwest of Bristol). I have close friends that attended both universities and were at the game. Bristol itself is almost equidistant from both UT and VT and the city of Bristol is split between Virginia and Tennessee.
Allegiances are a one-way street in the area around my hometown. You either love the Vols or the Hokies. Even the students at my alma mater, East Tennessee State University, tend to have more allegiance to one team or the other. Trash talk is plentiful and now, the Vols have bragging rights. But, for approximately 2 1/2 minutes, they all stood as one.
As Jennifer Nettles stepped to the microphone, thousands of fans raised cards that were given to them to display waving bars of red and white to the left and right and a field of blue in the turn with the letters U-S-A spelled out. Along with that, a massive American Flag was unfurled on the field.
Despite an unofficial rivalry that engulfs the area around my hometown, on Saturday night, they all came together as one. For those 2 1/2 minutes, nobody was a Volunteer or Hokie, nor were they Virginian or Tennesseean, they were simply Americans.
Check out the performance below: