JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Vol fans are probably still pinching themselves over the end of a 15-year losing streak to Alabama.
Saturday’s win was emotional and for those who were there experiencing it in person was almost indescribable.
“Out of all the games I’ve ever been to, this was the best one I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to a bunch of games…this one was the best by far,” said Shane Winegar, who was at the game Saturday. “Everybody was handing out cigars. It didn’t matter who they were, they were your friend right then. Everybody was hugging, cheering the excitement was there.”
The field was stormed, the goalposts were brought down and a memory was made forever for Vol fans Saturday night.
“We looked at each other and were like ‘Let’s go on the field’ and there we went. Jumped over the wall…man it was great being on the field,” Winegar said. “When they started carrying [the goalposts] up the stands like they were going to throw it over the edge… I was just like ‘Oh my God this is gonna happen.'”
The third Saturday in October is reserved for one of the oldest rivalries in college football no matter how good the teams are.
“I’ve not missed a Tennesse–Alabama game in Knoxville other than the COVID year since 1972 so I didn’t want to break the streak for that and I wanted to be there just in case we won. It was very important to be there for me,” said fan Phil Vittetoe. “I got teary-eyed down there. It means a lot because Tennessee football is the most important unimportant thing there is and like they say in the SEC, it just means more…it was great being down there with my son.”
When the game-winning field goal was scored, “Smoke ’em if you got ’em” also rang true in the Tri-Cities.
“Everyone was coming in. People you hadn’t seen before coming in to make sure they had their stogie ready for after we beat Bama to light ’em up,” said Moses O’Neal, the manager of Ligero Cigar Lounge in Boones Creek. “Our biggest holiday is Father’s Day every year and we put those numbers in the dust. It was amazing how many cigars we sold in anticipation of this victory.
The lounge and shop saw a 200% increase in sales heading into the weekend. They also saw a rush of customers after the game was over.
“You could tell starting Thursday that it was something special happening,” said O’Neal. “We’ve had little upticks in the past. You’ve always got your optimistic UT fans, myself included that always have one put back for that occasion but this year there was just a real buzz about it.”
The win on the field was also one for retail. Fanatics 101 in the Mall at Johnson City saw a spike in gear sales Sunday.
“It’s a good problem to have. I look forward to hopefully having this problem and seeing how much stuff we can have and fill up this whole store… paint Fanatics 101 orange,” said owner KD Bowen. “Fans always represent and show up but now people come out of the woodwork that didn’t normally believe in the team but now starts to believe in the team now that we beat Alabama.”
The store already has ‘We beat Bama’ shirts on the way, set to be on the racks Friday.
“People have been calling this morning, a lot of emails and different things like that,” Bowen said. “A lot of people pre-ordering.”
Everyone News Channel 11 spoke with is hoping for an undefeated season. And for the first time in a while, they’re really feeling like it’s ’98!