By Thomas Sanders
Cheering for Vanderbilt is a little like chasing the dragon, except painfully opposite. Instead of needing more and more success to flood the brain with dopamine, I’ve built up such a tolerance for disappointment that it requires an inordinate amount of failure for me to even feel pain anymore. You know, like when your charismatic new coach, who single-handedly energized a fan base with five decades worth of track marks down their arms, decides to give underachieving Auburn every opportunity to steal a win on the road. Being favored by a whole touchdown pretty much guaranteed that the ‘Dores would drop a steaming black and gold load at some point, so a hard-fought loss to a perennially decent/good team would have only driven me to drink a little more than I would have on a typical Saturday; but cutting the field in half for a struggling offense by refusing to punt when a home win means more than a road loss is inexcusable for a coach who wants to be considered elite. But I digress.
Since the best Vanderbilt team in years miraculously made one less mistake than Auburn’s worst team in years, I’m free to focus my pain-seeking behavior elsewhere, and where better to start than the giant block of empty seats in an otherwise packed stadium? At kickoff for their own team’s biggest game of the year thus far, all but about ten rows worth of students were either still drooling on their pillows or trying to force down mimosas just steps away on fraternity row. All Vandy students, listen up:
-You are still very young and have iron-clad livers. Hangovers are not an excuse until you have actual work to attend the next morning.
-Vanderbilt, in an evil scheme to make you feel more connected to your peers, has mandated that you live on campus. Most college towns usher your ass off campus after your freshman year, leaving you to either walk or fight tirelessly for a spot on game days. Grab your shower shoes, clean the bar tar and Friday funk off yourself, and walk the hundred feet to the game.
-Saying that you need to catch a buzz before walking in is also a joke. In my college town the pat-downs are so severe that we ask the cops to buy us dinner first. Here they don’t even touch you; get creative.
-Early kickoffs suck, but we’ve all had to fight through the pain. Hey frat star with your crokies and sorority stickers, while you’re trying to flirt your way to a lunch time hookup (which never happens, by the way), the skinny freshmen with full body paint are making up homoerotic synchronized dances in front of a nationally televised audience. Bring your date and make us proud, dammit.
-Seniors and beyond, I realize that you may be old enough to have legitimate excuses for being late to big games, but hopefully after three years of drinking the game day pain away on Demonbreun, you appreciate just how fantastic it feels to be a Vandy fan right now. Don’t take it for granted.
As a lifelong Vandy fan who escaped the pains of constant hometown agony for another perennial SEC bottom feeder in Ole Miss, I feel I have earned a Masters Degree in managing expectations. That’s what makes college football so great, though: even underdog teams can rally like Coach Bombay’s Ducks at the Junior Goodwill Games (well, except Kentucky). Despite enduring one of their most unsuccessful seasons in recent memory, Auburn fans populated Dudley Field with numbers usually only seen when the fatties from Knoxville roll into town. And yet our own students, in the midst of Vandy’s most relevant football season in decades, can’t even fill their own section for an SEC game? I know the majority of Vandy students come from outside the South, specifically the Eastern seaboard and Midwest, so maybe they don’t understand how territorial we get about football. I’ve perfected the art of deflecting the customary trash talking that comes with pulling for a loser: “We play to our competition,” “The refs hate us,” and my favorite, “We never lost a party.” But there’s really no excuse for the student body, the lifeblood of a college stadium’s energy, to give their team and this city the proverbial finger.
At my private Nashville high school, our coaches used to motivate us by saying we were the dumbest smart kids on this planet. They must have forgotten about the future doctors and lawyers down the street who pay sports car tuitions but can’t recognize a winner just steps from their dorms. Alabama residents may have no need for a library card, but at least they’re loyal. I bet a few hundred more Auburn fans would have filled those seats.