March Madness, Lady Vols, and the NZ All Blacks

We are still in the U.S. waiting on the NZ work visas but at least March Madness is in full swing. It is a good distraction. 


Last night the Lady Vols survived the Sweet Sixteen (the photo above is from the Tennessee Lady Vols Facebook homepage). They head to the Elite Eight tomorrow. Much of Tennessee glows orange when the Lady Vols (or Vols) are winning.  Holly Warlick is our hometown favorite but Pat Summitt will always be our queen. Smokey is paraded around the venue. Rocky Top, our unofficial team song, blares loudly with each win  (

Rocky Top

Wish that I was on ol’ Rocky Top
Down in the Tennessee hills
Ain’t no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top
Ain’t no telephone bills
Once I had a girl on Rocky Top
Half bear, the other half cat
Wild as a mink, sweet as soda pop
I still dream about that

Rocky Top you’ll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ol’ Rocky Top
Rocky Top Tennessee, * Rocky Top Tennessee

That’s enough for now … but the * is the place you have to say “whew!” really loudly and flip your orange and white pompom in the air. Everyone does.

If you are not from the U.S., and more particularly, not from Tennessee, you are most likely a little lost. We know that feeling–we are completely lost (and trying to learn) about New Zealand sports and teams. But I will get to that later.

March Madness: the three week period in March when U.S. college basketball teams play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) tournament. Sixty four teams begin the tournament for men’s teams, 64 for women’s. So long as the team wins, it reaches the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and finally, the Championship.

Vols: Short for “Volunteers” which is Tennessee’s team name; rhymes with balls, calls, halls, malls, walls–NOT moles or poles!

Tennessee football
UT students cheer on the Volunteers against Florida on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee’s season record fell to 2-1 after the 21-20 loss. Photo by Cathy Clarke, Knoxville News Sentinel staff

Lady Vols: University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team, 8-time winners of the national championship.

Holly Warlick and Pat Summitt: Holly is our current coach. Pat is our former coach who made the Tennessee Lady Vols famous. Holly is from Knoxville, then played for Pat, then was an assistant coach for Pat. When Pat was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers, Holly became coach. See Pat will always be our Queen.

Smokey: Tennessee’s mascot is a hound dog since it is sort of hard to know what a volunteer looks like; smokey is also a specific color of grey; and the Smokies are the nearby mountains where people go hiking, picnicking, and camping, also called the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Don’t ask me why Smokey sometimes has an E and other times doesn’t. I don’t know.

Orange: The University of Tennessee’s color–along with white or smokey grey. It is a specific orange. It is not Texas orange. It is not Florida orange. It is not Syracuse orange.

Here is how serious Tennessee is about “our orange.” According to

TN Orange
The UT site also explains:  “Black is not a color in our palette and should be avoided at all costs ….”

I am not kidding. That is what it really says.

BUT New Zealand’s national sports teams are almost all related to the color black.

The All Blacks: the NZ national rugby team, and rugby is the national sport

The Black Caps: NZ national cricket team

The Black Ferns: the women’s national rugby team

The Black Sox: the men’s national softball team

The Black Sticks: the national field hockey teams

There are more but you get the idea. Like Tennessee, New Zealand takes their sports seriously (, see?


When we move to NZ, we will have to add some black to our otherwise orange sports attire.  We can do this. It’s a learning process.

And just two more photos: Tennessee football, 108,000 people, all coordinated to wear either orange or white to checkerboard the stadium. It is a thing of beauty (yes Annie, I swiped your photos)!



Black is our new orange. Now remind me, what are the rules in rugby?



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