Why is Public Intoxication such a big deal in Knoxville?

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By Matt G

After a trip to see the Missouri Tigers play the Tennessee Volunteers this past season, we were left wondering, “Why is public intoxication such a big deal in Knoxville, Tennessee? As soon as Missouri’s inaugural SEC schedule was released, November 10th was circled on our calendars.  We were finally in a conference with destinations worth traveling to, and Knoxville would be our first.

We booked our flights, arranged to stay in Nashville Thursday, rent a car, then stay the weekend in Knoxville. However, we would only need a hotel two of those nights.

Our Thursday couldn’t have gone much better. Nashville is one of the best cities we’ve visited and will likely garner another visit for this year’s SEC basketball tournament. We were able to hit a few of the mainstays on Broadway before heading over to the Tin Roof for a night of heavy drinking and a lot of fun. Everybody managed to make it back to the room one at a time. We woke up Friday and made the trek to Knoxville expecting more of the same.

The night started at Calhoun’s on the river along with the rest of the nearly 10,000 Mizzou fans in town for the game. I’m pretty sure this is the only restaurant Missouri fans were made aware of because the place was packed and was all black and gold. It was a neat location with a nice view of the stadium, but the service and scenery wasn’t quite what we were looking for. We then headed to the market square area to meet some friends and start bar hopping. There were a lot of 30-40 somethings with goatees, graphic tees, and shiny buttondowns, so we decided to make a trip to the more 20s friendly enviornment on the strip.

We made it to the strip with a group of 10 or so. A lot of shots and drinks were had before ending up at Knoxville’s version of the Tin Roof. This again would be our favorite bar of the night and our last clear memory before disaster set in.

The bars closed and one of our new UT coed friends was kind enough to invite us back to her place. Two of us happily accepted. How we eventually arrived in sorority village is unclear. The first thing either of us remember is taking a tour through a very dark and quiet sorority house. Our guide, realizing how terrible an idea this was, kindly showed us out. The challenge now became figuring out where we were and how to get back to our hotel on the outskirts of town. I posted up in the parking lot, which would later become a costly mistake, while my buddy walked to the end of the street to find a cab (we were unable to get a hold of a cab and our phones were struggling at this hour).  

When the cruisers strolled by, we saw them as a welcome relief, a kind public servant who would surely help us on our way. A very naive thought in hindsight. I kindly asked the police officer for a ride or assistance with securing a cab. The police report identifies this request and indicates one male was wearing a gold polo and the other a black polo with “Missouri” on the front. Another clear mistake that probably contributed to our unusually long stay in Knox County Jail. After being heckled as creepy Missouri fans peeping around sorrorities, we were put in the cruiser and eventually a paddy waggon with a true motley crew of characters. Our favorite being the Canadian kid in town for a wedding vomiting all over himself and blaming it on the guy next to him. If Canada has a version of Locked Up Abroad, he has to be on it.

We arrive, get put in the drunk tank, and are booked for Public Intoxication and Trespassing (because i was still in the parking lot when they arrived). The bail is set at a total of $1500 to free us both. We assure them that we have the money on our cards. We are told they have to finish some processing and then we will be able to bail ourselves out. In the meantime we are told we will be protected by some other inmates because we are “pretty”. This is when time starts to crawl by. After several hours our names are called. We will finally have our freedom.

False alarm. Not only do we not have our freedom, but we are given a bag of prison goodies to go with our jump suits and orange crocs. A guard leads us down several hundred yards of hallways before we are corraled into a pod of cells. To a couple of suburban fraternity boys, this is Alcatraz. Panic starts to set in and I plead with the guard that we have more than enough money to get us out. My plea falls on deaf ears.

We are separated and put in different cells. Luckily we were both grouped with DUI inmates serving weekend sentences. We avoided all the hardened criminals staring at us from their cell windows. The guy pointing at me, drawing hearts on his window, and blowing me kisses sends me into a deep depression that makes me think I will never see the outside again.

Several hours of trying to recall how or why I ended up in this predicament, as my cellmates laugh at the fact that a couple of visiting football fans are in county jail for public intoxication pass by. The sun rises, some bizarre item disguised as food comes through the door (it is quickly given to a Gollum looking inmate who begs for it from outside our cell), and then the nightmare is fully realized. One of the guards puts the Mizzou/Tennessee game on a TV in the corner that can almost be seen if you press your face against the glass.  

Images of our tickets on the 50 yardline, 10 rows off the field, the look on my buddy’s parents’ faces as they realize we aren’t getting them their tickets, and we are nowhere to be found all haunt me. Yes, our friend’s parents drove all the way from Missouri to go to the game with us and trusted us with their tickets. The guilt from this realization is the worst I’ve ever felt. It’s halftime and we’re down 21-7. The faint sound of Rocky Top is driving me mad. I have now given up on life, and I have no idea whether my buddy is still here or not.

Somehow the Tigers force OT and our names are called over the intercom at the same time. 14 hours later we can finally go. We watch the game winning field goal from a holding cell and are then released to my friend’s parents like a couple of dogs with our tails between our legs. Missouri just had their one shining moment of a dreadful first season in the SEC, and we watched it from a jail in Knoxville for a couple thousand dollars a piece. We were both convinced that our treatment and convenient time of release had a lot to do with our fandom. Whether it did or didn’t, you aren’t changing our minds.

We take the long ride back to our hotel crammed in with said friend’s parents, aunt and uncle who are all clearly considering the best way to torture us. We write them checks for their generous loans, and they head back to the Show-Me state. We decide to stay in and watch some football and order a pizza, just to be safe. 

The entire trip home the next day we keep asking ourselves, “Why is public intoxication such a big deal in Knoxville?”

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.