I wrote this a few years ago for publication in Nashville, and then posted it last year (and probably a time or two before that)… But give me a little leniency here: We’re on the heels of perhaps Vandy’s only victory this year. God bless Robbie Caldwell’s sweet, sweet heart.
I am a Vanderbilt football fan. My father played Tight End for the Commodores in the mid-Sixties, so I’m kind of obligated. I go to the games. I have several programs – including one from the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl – on my coffee table. There is a “V” bumper sticker in the back window of my Honda Accord. And I even have a black and gold shaker in a vase on the desk in my office.
I grew up at Dudley Field: Section B, Row 9, Seat 2. I was 7-years old when George MacIntyre took over head coaching duties from Fred Pancoast. My all-time favorite player is Boo Mitchell. I know stats; like the fact that the ‘Dores made 185 first downs in 1999 and that Allama Matthews had 152 receiving yards against the Alabama Crimson Tide in September of 1982 – I was 10, and he was my hero.
I am a Vanderbilt fan. I always have been (except for maybe during the Rod Dowhower era… I was trying to “find myself” in Europe, and I believe Rod was trying to find himself on the sidelines). But the fact of the matter is that I ‘show my gold’ every chance I get.
I admit that without shame or reservation.
Perhaps because my loyalty is so genuine, I am often forced to defend it along ideological lines. I readily admit that I enjoy attending games “between the hedges” or amidst a deafening “Good Ole’ Rocky Top” wearing my number 12, Greg Zolman jersey and being looked at as if my head were on fire. I kind of like the way it makes me feel when I am the only Commodore fan who cheers when we stop Our Lady of the Valley Technical Institute on second down and inches.
But the disdain for the Commodores is so great throughout college football culture that everyone just assumes I am a glutton for punishment by singing “Dynamite” at the top of my lungs.
My college buddies think I don’t understand what real football is all about. Even my wife, a University of Alabama graduate, rolls her eyes and snickers when I talk about my favorite team.
So, bear with me for a moment as I idealize Vanderbilt football: America’s Team.
This country was founded on the ideals of great men for the common good. An extraordinary few working with the ordinary lot. Vanderbilt University is a bright, shining beacon of education and class in a sea of drunken frat parties and General Studies degrees. I challenge you to find on the VU campus a bumper sticker that reads, “My Blood Runs Black and Gold.” We are better than that. An extraordinary few working with the ordinary lot.
Imagine going to class every day to work on the human DNA genome project with expert scientists from all over the world, and then having to line-up across from an angry 380-pound Sasquatch on Saturday afternoons. These players averaged well above 1300 on their SAT’s. We have an Offensive Lineman who was the Valedictorian of his high school a couple of years ago. These are football players with real-people goals and dreams for their futures… for THE future of us, the ordinary lot.
My father left Vanderbilt with 70-something catches, a few touchdowns, a couple of broken bones and an education like none other. He then went on to establish an international marketing firm with offices in 13 countries worldwide.
But the reality remains that the Vanderbilt Commodores are not very good in the eyes of most football-loving Americans.
But what a history! Dan McGugin coached the Commodores for thirty seasons. 271 games. He won 197 of them. Incidentally, Dan McGugin was a part of the extraordinary few who fought for our country during World War I. There have been 15 coaches since the great McGugin. Names like Red Sanders, Bill Pace, George MacIntyre and Watson Brown. Great men working for the common good of America’s Team, the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Throughout its 109-year history to date, the Commodores have won more games than they’ve lost and lost more games than they care to remember. But that’s America! The good outweighs the bad, and we are always looking for a better tomorrow.
But, win or lose, The Fates will choose,
And Vandy’s game will be the same.
When Vandy starts to fight!
(Excerpt from “Dynamite.” Vanderbilt’s fight song written by Francis Craig in 1924.)