Regionals showed why the Thefts are taking over the world


Some of them are self-inflicted. Tennessee baseball has a brash young head coach, Tony Vitello, who has already been suspended this year. This mentality carries over to the team. The Vols thumbed their noses at criticism, going back to Vitello’s Mike Honcho reference to the Vanderbilt Commodores’ cheating allegations.

However, as they swept their NCAA Regional last weekend, beating the Alabama State Hornets, Campbell Fighting Camels and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, it never became more clear that they are attacking the world. It seems that is exactly what they want.

It all started on Friday. Evan Russell missed Tennessee’s first baseball game due to a medical condition. However, ESPN broadcaster Troy Ekeler said while calling the Missouri State Bears and Oklahoma State Cowboys that Russell was suspended for using PED.

Russell’s father, Jack Russell, said on Twitter that his son missed the game due to a health issue. Sporting director Danny White then had to issue a statement about it. That clearly wasn’t true with Russell returning to the team on Saturday, and Ekeler issued an apology calling the game Missouri State and Grand Canyon Antelopes.

Ekeler deserves credit for apologizing, but that’s a serious issue considering the accusations Vandy tried to level against UT and the bats they used during the regular season. Vandy’s coach Tim Corbin has a habit of falsely complaining about the Vols, but combine that with this report, and it makes for an unfair perception.

Back-to-back 4-0 comebacks against Campbell and Georgia Tech helped the Vols qualify for the Super Regionals, and Jordan Beck demonstrated how all Vol fans feel about the situation. In the top of Sunday’s ninth, Beck kicked the tying run to kick off a six-run inning with a brace. He then raised his middle finger.

For what it’s worth, Beck was behind Vandy’s cheating accusations as he was ruled ineligible to play in the series opener against them and had a home run ruled out due to that the bat was allegedly illegal…even though it was scrubbed before the game. He drew the Mike Honcho reference, a throwback to “Talladega Nights.”

Enter Monday. Want to know what the Tennessee baseball series’ outrage story was? Spoiler alert, this wasn’t a fake report on Russell. That was the groan about Beck’s sportsmanship after his gesture during his ninth-inning brace. Twitter was rampant with outrage.

Again, no context came from any of these accounts. Nobody cared about the false accusation of cheating against Beck earlier in the year, combined with what was thrown at Russell on Friday. No, the problem is that the Flights are reacting to this as they run through their regionals.

All of this makes it clear. This NCAA tournament is Rocky Top against the world. Anyone can throw false accusations at them, but they are the ones who have to handle everything like adults. They were the most hated team in the SEC, and now it has reached the nation.

As they prepare to take on college sports darling Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Super Regionals, that will become clearer. It’s almost the same way the national media branded Notre Dame and the Miami Hurricanes in football as Catholics versus Convicts in the 1980s. Tennessee baseball should continue to embrace hate. It brought them here.


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