THE BUTTON LADY- A TENNESSE/FLORIDA RIVALRY STORY


I am the Button Lady.  What is a button?
n.  a badge or emblem bearing a name, slogan, identifying figure for wear on the lapel, dress:  campaign buttons.

I always wear metallic school buttons to games.  I have collected buttons for years.  My oldest button is a VOLS one that is very fadedand slightly nicked up.
My friend Robin has an even older one….

Robin and Kathy with their buttons Tennessee/Florida game photo by Kathy Miller

Go Vols Go

When our family moved to Florida from Tennessee, I knew I would have to be subtle in my support for my Alma Mater. Instead of team tee shirts I decided to wear buttons. A Tennessee button.  Even when tailgating at the University of Florida, I remain true to my school.  I wear a big T button.  When people ask why I am wearing a Tennessee button, I always reply, “Tennessee is playing somewhere today”.

I also always wear a Gator Mom button.

This gets me out of The Swamp alive.

By now you know I have strong ties to both the University of Tennessee and the University of Florida.

The story below is about Pat Summitt, the longtime Lady Vols Basketball Coach.  She is a role model for our family.  Pat began coaching the Lady Vols when I was a sophomore at UT.  The team sold donuts to raise money for uniforms.  My husband, Dave, is a Duke graduate.  When our children were young we watched Pat’s Tennessee team win the national championship for the Lady Vols and Coach K’s Duke team win the national championship for the Duke men in the same year.  Our children had pictures taken in our oversized UT and Duke sweatshirts.

James and Lizzy in Tennessee Duke sweatshirts photo by Kathy Miller

Pat Summitt put the Lady Vols program in the history books.  She was the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, including men’s or women’s.

And she had early-onset dementia-Alzheimer’s type and has passed away from this disease.  I saw nothing but remarkable support and love given to Pat Summitt as she battled this terrible disease.  The following story is a favorite in our family.

Tennessee/Florida games are always interesting in our house.  We are definitely a house divided.  I graduated from UT.  Dave, although a Duke graduate, is both a Volunteer and a Gator fan and yes that is an oxymoron.  Our children, Elizabeth and James, were raised Tennessee fans but decided to go to the University of Florida.

Lizzy Gator Chomping at Tennessee game photo by Kathy Miller

Their paternal grandfather, “Pops”, was a Florida alumni and supporter.

Pops and Lizzy photo by Kathy Miller

Their maternal grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins are Tennessee fans.

Lizzy Grandma and James photo by Kathy Miller

We began a new family tradition in September 2006.  For the first time we went to the Tennessee/Florida football game in Knoxville in “divided colors”.  Most of us had on our Tennessee garb.  Elizabeth and James had on their Gator tees.

The following year we went to the Tennessee/Florida game in Gainesville.

Our family has a Gator house, a place Pops bought to use during football weekends.  It is on University, very close to the stadium.  We tailgate at Pops’ Place or at James’ fraternity, Sigma Nu.

Remember, I always wear buttons on game day.  As we walked to the game we passed a guy on the corner of University and 21st.  He was heckling the UT fans with a bull horn.  We chuckled as we made our way to the Swamp.  The game did not go well for Tennessee.  I was very disappointed with the UT score.  I left the game early.  The  Bull Horn Guy was still on the corner heckling UT fans.  As I approached  this guy with a determined gleam in my eye, he said, “Uh Oh!  Here comes Pat Summitt!”  He saw my Tennessee button.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  Although Pat Summitt is famous as the UT Lady Vols head basketball coach, not everyone in Florida and especially at a Florida football game knows who she is.  I spoke with this gentleman and when he saw my Gator Mom button, we parted on good terms.

Fast forward 2 years.  Tennessee is back in Gainesville for the Florida game.  As our group strolls to the Sigma Nu house for tailgating we see a huge banner hanging from the balcony.  It says, “The Gentlemen of Sigma Nu Welcome Alumni, Family, Friends and Special Guest….Pat Summitt”!  James’ fraternity brothers had heard the story of the bull horn guy calling me Pat Summitt.  My favorite picture is of us standing on the porch under that banner.

Sigma Nu with Kathy Miller aka Pat Summitt photo by Kathy Miller

I always wondered if people passing by the house on their way to the game thought, “What is Pat Summitt doing at the Florida Sigma Nu house?”

I could not have been more pleased  being compared to Pat Summitt.  She will always have a special place in the heart of our family and the hearts of sports fans everywhere.

GO VOLS!!!!

Dave, Lizzy, James and Kathy at Tennessee/ Florida game photo by Kathy Miller

Watch for upcoming stories from my tailgating travels.  I welcome your comments, recipes and any inside information about your favorite tailgating spots.

Come celebrate with me.  I’ll save you a seat at the table!

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