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The Lucky Vol Burger Debacle of 2003
- Updated: January 16, 2013
I’m superstitious as hell, y’all. Always have been. Always will be. You’d be amazed at the countless things I’ve done (or not done) in hopes of getting the Vols a W. Don’t get me wrong. Rationally, I understand that I cannot — and do not — affect anything that happens on the field of play. Yet, on the other hand, who’s to say, right? I mean, we’ll never know what would happen if we turned back the hands of time just so I could don the lucky hat I (inexplicably) failed to wear to the big-ass game we lost.
You know why we’ll never know? Because it’s impossible to go back in time. (Duh.) So, again, who’s to say it wouldn’t have worked were time travel a viable option?
No one. That’s who. Which is exactly why I’m so superstitious. And my friends all know this, some more than others. But none more than three of my very closest friends — Jeff Como and twin brothers Shane and Spade Rose. (Yes. His real name is Spade.) And the reason why they know my superstitious nature better than anyone else is because each played a key role in an episode which will be forever known as The Lucky Vol Burger Debacle of 2003. Which is exactly what I’m here to share with you today. Consider it a precautionary tale of what can happen when you mix superstition, UT football and lifelong friendships.
But before I get to the particulars, it should be noted that Shane, Spade, Como and I are integral members of the highly esteemed Basement Braintrust – an exclusive club that gathers each and every Thursday evening in Shane’s basement to discuss various and sundry topics, UT sports being chief among them. As you might imagine, this is an extremely tight-knit group. Hardly anything could ever come between us. Which is precisely why The Lucky Vol Burger Debacle of 2003 is so extraordinary.
Because it did just that.
See, Como and I met at Sam and Andy’s out west on the Friday before the first football game of the 2003 season and we both ordered Vol Burgers. The next day, despite looking flat, the Vols hung on for a victory against a gritty Fresno State team. At which point Como and I decided that the Vol Burgers we’d eaten the day before must have been lucky ones. Which is why we convened at Sam and Andy’s each and every Friday. To eat a lucky Vol Burger so the Vols would win.
With fantastic results, I might add. We won our first four games that year and were 2-0 in the SEC, beating Florida in the Swamp and outlasting South Carolina at home in overtime. (I know. We always play South Carolina right around Halloween, but that year, the game was on September 27th. Does anyone remember why?)
Anyway, next up for the Vols was a trip to the Plains to square off against the always dangerous Auburn Tigers. Daunting? Sure. But nothing that a couple of lucky Vol Burgers couldn’t take care of. Only on that fateful Friday, there’d be more than a couple of Vol Burgers. There’d be four. Because Shane and Spade decided to join us.
And, I dunno, y’all — it just wasn’t the same and I knew as much even as it was going down. In weeks prior, the Vol Burger lunches had been ALL about the game. Como and I discussed both teams’ strengths and weaknesses. We broke down the critical match ups. Hell, we even took turns presenting our “keys to the game.” But on that day, it was more like four buddies grabbing lunch. The Vols part, while still there, was de-emphasized. At least in comparison to previous weeks. And wouldn’t you know it, we lost to Auburn, 28-21.
That next Friday, Como called to ask if I wanted to meet up for lucky Vol Burgers.
“What about Shane and Spade?” I said.
The uncomfortable silence that followed told me all I needed to know. Like me, Como had sensed that the previous week had been different. And like me, Como wondered what would have happened had we not changed things up. After a brief conversation, Como and I made the difficult decision to not invite Shane and Spade to grab lucky Vol Burgers with us. We felt it was in the best interest of the team for us to get back to the way it was before the Auburn loss.
Right after we hung up, Shane called to see what time we were meeting for lucky Vol Burgers. There was really no good way to deliver the news, so I just told him point blank.
It didn’t go well.
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