By Mark Nagi
A new year is upon us and the possibilities are endless. In life. In love. And certainly, in the world of sports.
I got the crystal ball out of storage and will let you the good reader know what’s in store over the next 12 months.
(Note: Some of these are actual predictions. Some of these are jokes. See if you can figure out which is which!)
In January, Memphis coach Penny Hardaway asks if Tennessee can re-schedule their game. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says that he has to wash his hair.
In February, the Vols put the finishing touches on their Class of 2022 by hitting the transfer portal and bringing in five players from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Speaking of the NFL, the Indianapolis Colts beat the Los Angeles Rams to win the Super Bowl.
In March, the Lady Vols basketball team upends Connecticut in the Elite 8, advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 2008. After the game, Tennessee head coach Kelly Harper and UConn head coach Geno Auriemma get into a shouting match, which leads to former Lady Vols Candace Parker hitting Geno with a steel chair. Kennedy Chandler leads the Vols to the Sweet 16.
In April, Tennessee’s Orange & White Game is moved to Bristol Motor Speedway, and 85,000 fans show up for the spring scrimmage.
In May, local high school athletes head to the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro, and as always make us proud.
In June, Tennessee’s softball and baseball teams advance to the College World Series. Baseball coach Tony Vitello is named one of People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful people. Plans are unveiled to build a retractable roof stadium as a replacement for Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Phoenix Suns win the NBA title, and the Toronto Maple Leafs win their first Stanley Cup in 55 years.
In July, the Vols head to SEC Media Days. Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel predicts that the Vols will score 75 points a game with an average offensive possession of 8 minutes per contest. Alabama head coach Nick Saban announces that he plans to coach until he is 85. The Ole Miss Rebels meeting with the media is delayed after their student-athletes get leg cramps at the podium.
In August, it is beastly hot, and we all stay indoors with air conditioning on full blast.
It is a September to remember for the Tennessee Volunteers, as they win all four games. 20,000 Vols fans watch them win at Pittsburgh. Over 100,000 fans pack Neyland Stadium for their first win over Florida since 2016. However, a campaign to put Heupel’s picture on the back of the Jumbotron is almost immediately squashed when those same folks remember the Butch Jones debacle.
In October, the Vols are brought back down to earth with losses at LSU and at home to Alabama. But a win over Kentucky improves their record to 6-2.
In November, the biggest win of the Josh Heupel era occurs with a 42-41 upset at Georgia. Heupel is given a key to the city of Knoxville. The Vols finish the regular season 10-2, their first 10-win season since 2007. They miss out on the SEC Championship game but earn a Sugar Bowl berth. Tens of thousands of Vols fans take out second and third mortgages to fund trips to New Orleans. The Atlanta Braves repeat as World Series champions.
Finally, in December, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker heads to New York City, where he accepts the Heisman Trophy. Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning, two of the Vols previous runners up for the award, are on hand to watch the first Volunteer win the award.