This is my fifth column as Vandy Sports columnist for The Nashville Newzine
Vanderbilt and its fans: the odd couple
by Robert Funke
I have a few rules about fandom, especially Vanderbilt Commodore fandom.
Rule 1: There is no stronger bond a fan can possibly have with his team than that of a student or alumnus to his alma mater.
This rule is the very basis of collegiate sports. Every college team has a built-in fan base: its students. It’s so simple, and yet, for Vanderbilt students, it’s difficult. The amount of Vanderbilt students wearing Ol’ Miss attire to the game was horrifying. It is acceptable to be a fan of other teams. It’s even acceptable, when Vanderbilt plays those other teams, to feel like your loyalties are divided. But—but—but—never mind. Forget it.
You know what? I’m not even going to continue with this list of rules. I noticed VandySports.com’s Mike Rapp considered “The Students” part of the “Bad” in his weekly Good, Bad, and Ugly breakdown of the game. As a Vanderbilt loyalist, I, too, am often frustrated with our students. They show up an hour late, they leave an hour early, dress in irrelevant colors (as if they don’t make oxford shirts and ties in black or yellow), they are drunk, but not a fun way (a la LSU), they are easily distracted, they complain about forgivable mistakes (like a running back getting tackled for a mere gain of three yards on a draw up the middle on first-and-ten) as if they were unforgivable mistakes (like a running back getting tackled for a mere gain of three yards on a draw up the middle on third-and-ten).
But I’ve seen our student section get excited for Vanderbilt sports. I’ve seen them wearing black and gold. I’ve seen them knowledgeable about our team and players, and I’ve seen them chanting and cheering and thundering and hollering and doing every single thing that makes the SEC such a fun place for a sports fan. It happens.
Vandy fans go wild in two settings. The first, obviously, is basketball. The second is when we win.
We aren’t winning, at least not in the SEC. We aren’t even playing respectable football. Right now, Vanderbilt seems completely outmatched in the SEC. Here is the reason: We aren’t doing the little things well.
Any decent Commodore fan will cut the team some slack for not blowing the Rebels line off the ball every down, or for dropping the ball on a double reverse, or for not keeping both feet in bounds on a tricky sideline catch. We understand. We’re an underdog. Do the little things well, and we’ll be happy. And you’ll have a chance at winning, which makes us even happier.
Here are the little things we are not doing:
FOLLOWING THE RULES. Every offensive line in the country—nay, the universe—must stay still until the football moves. I would bet good money that the Commodores committed more false start penalties (6) this week than any middle school team in Nashville. Somebody fact-check me on that.
KICKING. Scoring record, schmoring record, Bryant Hahnfeldt was an inconsistent kicker. Ryan Fowler isn’t shaping up to be much better. In my fantasy universe, where all women are vampire slayers and all Vandy kickers make over 70% of their kicks under 40 yards, we are on a three-year bowl streak. And I can grow a beard.
THROWING AND CATCHING. I’ve been defending Larry Smith, and still feel that he’ll be a great quarterback someday, but good gawd. He missed some incredibly open receivers. To be fair, though, some of those open receivers couldn’t catch swine flu.
FIRING INEFFECTIVE STAFF. Our offense is bad. Who coordinates our offense? Ted Cain? Was the offense good last year? No? How about the year before? No?
Last week, Bobby Johnson and the team sent out a personal request (via InsideVandy.com) for students to show up early and get loud for the game.
My response: We were there. Where were you?