For the older man in the white shirt who started slumping in his seat, the high- profile and hotly-contested college football game began to slide away. I was seated in the row right behind him - all steep seats with not much margin for error for standing, walking, sitting, or slumping. The wildly anticipated match-up between long time rivals Tennessee and Florida kicked off last Saturday afternoon, under beautiful skies - and a really hot and not-going-away-any-time-soon sun. We had not beat Florida in 11 games - or 11 1/2 if you count the first half of this one. That had been as brutal as the sun. Volunteer orange and white shirts dominated Neyland Stadium of course though our section had its share of Gators in blue. But everyone had one thing in common. We were all rooted to the action on the field, rooting for our respective teams, and riveted to the game.
But then something - heat and dehydration most likely - began to take its toll on the gentleman seated in front. Suddenly all of us in the immediate vicinity surrounded him as our attention shifted to his distress. Our impromptu paramedic staff was a melting pot - male, female, adult, student, old, young, black, white, orange, and blue. Seat cushions were quickly tented above him to provide shade as his son went for help. My friend had just bought a towel that was draped across his head and saturated with water. My cup for ice was a quick donation. A cloth was passed down from somewhere for his neck. Bottles of water started coming from every direction and a young lady in a blue top slid down from another row to grab one of his shoulders so he wouldn't topple forward. A UT kid literally wearing a Superman style cape, fashioned from an orange t-shirt, stood to anchor the man's knees. We were getting some positive signs as the Red Cross staff arrived with a chair to get him out of there. It was a tricky maneuver because he was right beside the rail above our exit access. Folks gathered on all sides to get him loaded, strapped in, and lifted out to safety.
Then he was gone, and so was a good chunk of the third quarter. And, then, oh my gosh, we all looked up to find that the momentum of the game had shifted in our absence and the Volunteers were piling up points.
The Vols went on to defeat the Gators this past Saturday, and we pray our guy had a similar turnaround. In the football world, ours was a stupendous win and seriously beat some odds. But the greater win, and better odds, was the reassurance that in our world, if we need help, there's a really good chance that another kind of volunteer will jump in. And nothing else will matter, including what color your - or their - shirt is.