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Country crooner’s allegiance to Vols under further review

During my recent trip to Knoxville and Middle Tennessee to visit relatives, I decided to inundate myself with information about Auburn’s Oct. 3 opponents, the Tennessee Volunteers, and their fans’ thoughts about the fast approaching season. It should be a shock to no one, but they are in the same situation that we Tiger fans find ourselves in — we all have no idea what kind of team is going to take the field this Saturday. Both sets of fans seem lost in a fog of too little information and fears for the worst following the shared disappointment of 5-7 seasons in 2008.

Supporters of the Tigers and Vols have to grapple with new coaching staffs, new coaching philosophies and lots of question marks on both sides of the ball.

Of course all of this doesn’t stop some uninformed Volunteers from pounding their chest about head coach Lane Kiffin and the new Volunteer attitude, which seems to entail poking a 10-foot Gator in the eye with a stick only to see it devour your lower half in one swift chomp.

So to truly take the pulse of the orange blindered and idiotic, I found myself with only one place to turn to: sports talk radio.

And I was filled with glee that fans of the Vols are turning on their once pride and joy, country music star Kenny Chesney. The subject of Chesney’s now-questioned allegiance to the Vols was filling the airwaves. And tempers ran hot!

The reason for the renewed interest in Chesney? He’s penned the new theme song for the 2009 season for ESPN and ABC. More on that later.

Chesney, at one time, claimed an undying love for the Vols and performed in front of a half-filled Neyland Stadium for a concert calling it a dream come true. “I sat right up there and watched UT kick Notre Dame’s butt when I was 5 years old,” he told the slack-jawed masses in 2003.

chesneyI hate myself for it, but I’m going to have to stoop to a new low and reference CMT News further, regarding that show in 2003:

Backstage before the show, the area around the stars’ tour buses was a surreal mixture of Chesney family reunion, sports convention and Hollywood cocktail party. Chesney’s mom, Karen, and several other family members mingled while UT football coach Phil Fulmer stood in the meet-and-greet line. Brett and Brad Warren chatted up [Peyton] Manning, Carter talked music with Kid Rock and Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox visited with Uncle Kracker. It was a testament to Chesney’s growing star power.

“We had practice yesterday, and I flew in today,” Manning said. “The original deal was, if I get onstage with Kenny to sing, I’ve got to get him to practice or play a game with the Colts.”

But it seems that Chesney’s loyalties have been a bit skewed by money and fame as of late. He’s been seen and filmed pandering to both Florida Gator and Alabama Crimson Tide fans by wearing their garb during recent stops to Gainesville and Tuscaloosa.

It is driving Tennessee fans nuts.

For example, wearing a Crimson Tide hat:

OK, sure. One might make the argument that someone might have thrown the hat to Chesney on this particular night. Or possibly, he might have lost a bet. I saw Willie Nelson visit to Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, and he put on an Auburn cap that someone threw on stage. It isn’t like Chesney was wearing a jersey or anything … huh? What’s that?

A jersey?!?!?

OK — sure. That can’t be topped. How can Chesney’s treachery to Vol fans be topped after that? Oh, maybe having the Gator mascot greet you at the airport.

Leading cheers while wearing a Gators hat?

Or possibly wearing a Gators helmet and inviting Tebow on stage?

(If you are like me, you are entitled to groan and/or roll your eyes here. I’ll wait.)

Chesney is making the news this week and jabbing at the Vols’ fans festering wound anew because he has penned the new college football theme song for ESPN and ABC entitled, “This Is Our Moment.” It debuts with the first televised college game Thursday.

After suffering through a season of Rich & Big’s “Coming to Your City” we now face new horrors.

So, what was Chesney’s inspiration for his surely odorous opus?

“It was one of those moments of spontaneous inspiration,” [Chesney] recalls. “We were talking about how much goes into getting on that field, what it means to those guys out there… and Bill Bonnell turns to me and says, ‘You oughta write a song about it. … ‘I mean, there we were at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse with [announcer] Brett Musburger, [sports analyst] Kirk Herbstreit and the head producer of ESPN Saturday Night Football on ABC [Bonnell]—and the next morning I’m gonna do College Game Day—and it just hit me! I asked for a cocktail napkin, and started writing the verses and the chorus.”

Sounds like a charming evening doesn’t it? I bet Musburger chews with his mouth open. For once, I’m glad I’m not rich and famous, faced with the prospect of such dinner companions.

“Spontaneous inspiration” = “half-ass attempt”? You be the judge Thursday. (And if you are to believe certain rumors about Chesney, you have to snicker at him saying “cocktail.” Heh heh.)

But guess which “College Game Day” it was that Chesney attended? Last year’s Vanderbilt vs. Auburn game. Chesney predicted the Commodores to win, pandering to the hometown crowd. He picked the correct outcome too, the jackass.

So what’s my beef? Well, how come Chesney hasn’t pandered to us Auburn fans yet?!?!?

We’re deserving right? Why haven’t we seen video evidence of Chesney cooing to Aubie up on stage at the The War Eagle Supper Club lifting his wine cooler to shout “War Eagle”?

Maybe its the lack of commonality between Chesney fans and Auburn fans. I’m sure that there is an overlap, but probably not as pronounced as your run-of-the-mill Bama and Gator fan. Surely, Chesney’s management knows that you have to strike while the iron is hot. Much like your little brother in the far-flung state of Alabama picking USC as his favorite team back in 2004 simply because they were among and continue to be among the best, so too do many people now claim the Tide and Gators as their team in these dark and troubled times.

It makes financial sense for Kenny Chesney to embrace those SEC schools along his stops.

“Get up there and pimp that Gator helmet, Kenny!”

“Hey Kenny! Give a lil’ Roll Tide! for the ladies this time.”

So, maybe it’s a good thing Chesney’s paper-thin affections have been directed elsewhere. Do you normally find yourself at concerts with people of this ilk?

I didn’t think so.

About J.M. Comer

J.M. graduated from Auburn in 1998 and again in 2000 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. He is currently a copy editor in Washington, D.C., and lives in Baltimore, Land of Pleasant Living. If you find yourself in beautiful Baltimore, he recommends Faidley's crab cakes, a stop at Atomic Books, an O's game at Camden Yards and plenty of Natty Boh.

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