If you’ve read my stuff over the last two years I have written for GABA, you know that Carolina is a fandom that came to me later in life. My formative years were spent in Alabama and my degree is from the state’s flagship university.
While Tennessee and Carolina are division rivals, there is no special hatred between the teams the way there is between our fans and say, Georgia. That hatred does exist, though, between Bama and Tennessee, so I have tons of friends from college that spent last week sharing photos of their favorite Tennessee fans in the wild.
Two of those fans...well, two couples really, so four of those fans, caught my eye. More than that, these four really captured my imagination.
I did a Google image search and couldn’t find anything. I scoured Facebook and Twitter hoping to find matches or information about these four.
There was nothing. Bupkis. Zilch.
If there was ever information about who these people were, it’s gone now. This isn’t something that sits well with me. Everyone deserves to have a story. If there isn’t one out there for these folks, it is up to me to write their story so that the world my know their names and their souls.
This is Tennessee week here at GABA. So what better way to preview this week’s opponent than by getting to know the people that have purchased the small allotment of tickets sent to the Tennessee athletic department before this season began?
First, let’s get to know this older, smartly dressed couple.
This is Barton “Bart” Kern and his wife Tish. They live in Arlington, TN, where Tish is the principal of the local high school. Barton is a funeral director. There aren’t a whole lot of people in Arlington that haven’t trusted him to bury their parents.
Barton and Tish met in Memphis shortly after college. She was in grad school at Rhodes. He was a young undertaker. They were in a movie theater and simultaneously told children in the front row to “keep it down.” They instantly fell in love over their mutual hatred of “nonsense.”
The couple doesn’t have kids of their own. Tish says she doesn’t like the thought of bringing work home with her. Bart, as you can see, is something of a nihilist. He believes every birth is just a countdown to someone crying over that person’s death.
Bart is known to keep Tootsie Rolls in his pockets while at work. Once, a secretary told a crying girl, at the funeral home to say goodbye to her grandmother, that Bart might have some candy for her. He gave the girl a Tootsie Roll, sent her on her way, and then asked the secretary to shut the door. He then proceeded to scold her for giving away candy that wasn’t hers in the first place.
They were more than happy to see Butch Jones leave Knoxville. “I just didn’t get all the touchy feely crap,” Tish says whenever someone uses the phrase “champions of life” in her presence. Bart was disappointed things didn’t work out differently because Butch “had a haircut you could trust.”
When it came time to replace him, Tish was adamant that the only answer was Peyton Manning. “No one loves the Vols like he does.” Bart had a customer who’s brother sat next to a guy at church last week that sat next Jon Gruden on a plane, so he thought it was clear Gruden was going to be the Vols’ next guy.
When that didn’t come to fruition, Bart said that “at least they got someone you can tell wants to win.” They also like that Jeremy Pruitt doesn’t smile very often. “Only a fool shows his teeth that much,” Tish has been known to say to folks sitting around them at Neyland Stadium.
Next, let’s enjoy the state of Tennessee in its sentient, human form. This is the story of Cindy Pat and Danny Wayne Rifle of Orme, Tennessee.
Now, first it should be mentioned that they were Cindy Pat and Danny Wayne LeFont until 2008. They changed their last name to Rifle to show Barack Obama (or “President Oh Bummer” as Cindy Pat would later come to refer to him) that they were proud gun owners.
Cindy Pat’s mother (Rose Tolliver) named her after the most beautiful woman she had ever seen — Cinderella. She is a stay-at-home mother who started her own YouTube channel. Originally, all of the videos were about country cooking recipes, but in the last three years, most of them have been about the Deep State. Viewership has jumped ten-fold.
Danny Wayne Rifle manages the gift shop at Ruby Falls just outside of Chattanooga. He was on the fast track to take over his own Wal-Mart until about eight years ago. He got passed over for a promotion and decided he was ready to bet on himself.
They are politically active. Danny Wayne routinely talks at the local middle school about how important it is to get involved in the NRA in your youth. Cindy Pat volunteered for the Trump campaign in 2016. Her official duties included manning a call center and handing out stickers and fans at the Tennessee State Fair that year. Unofficially, she also took it upon herself to go to a local polling place and shout “Pussy!” at anyone that took literature from the state Democratic Party representative.
Cindy Pat and Danny Wayne can spout off Jarrett Guarantano’s stats from every game this season. They like when the Vols are on the SEC Network, because Jeremy Pruitt has his boys 3-0 on DirecTV channel 611 this year, and also because they really enjoy that Academy Sports commercial where Marty Smith and Laura Rutledge go hunting.
Like most Tennessee fans, the Rifles hate Steve Spurrier. They never had an opinion about Carolina until the HBC took over the Gamecocks. After that, Cindy Pat was very adamant about only calling the University of North Carolina “Carolina” and only calling the University of Southern California “USC”.
Danny really gets Jeremy Pruitt. “Hell, I don’t know what no asparagus is either,” he once called into 105.1 ESPN Chattanooga to say. He also likes that “Coach knows when’s the right time to be a dick, especially to the media.”
These are the people that will be in the Tennessee section at Williams-Brice on Saturday. Be friendly to them. Now that you know their story, feel free to treat them like family. Sure, they are scary mountain people, but they are people.