"That's Vanderbilt football"
Greetings from Nashville, home of the 2008 Music City Bowl Champions, Vanderbilt University! I know that December 31st was a busy day for bowl games, but hopefully you got a chance to watch the Commodores take on the Boston College Golden Eagles. The sports media has done a good job of putting this game into context (Vanderbilt’s first winning season or bowl appearance since 1982, our first bowl win since 1955, etc.) but you need a fan’s perspective to really understand this win means and what “Vanderbilt football” is all about.
By means of introduction, I am a 2005 Vanderbilt alumna and I’ve been working in the admissions office since then. Admittedly, I was not very interested in football during college, but I have become a bonafide fan since graduation. In my travels across the country for Vanderbilt, I have been amazed and touched by the deep allegiance that alums hold to this university, not the least of which is to the football team. There is a common understanding that it’s hard work to be a Vanderbilt football fan. The refrain so often heard at games (usually after some goofily botched play) is “that’s Vanderbilt football.” Sure, there have been some high notes to “Vanderbilt football” in the last 25 years, like beating nationally-ranked teams and watching our players go on to NFL careers. But more often, “that’s Vanderbilt football” is uttered with resignation to our fate of bad luck.
The start of this season did not come with high expectations, but then a funny thing started happening – Vanderbilt started winning. We started the season 5-0 with wins over conference opponents South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Auburn. We hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, but still finished 6-6 for the regular season. We were thrilled to get a bid to the Music City Bowl because it meant that all of our alums could come home to Nashville for our bowl experience. Admittedly, many of us were nervous about our guys playing a 9-4 Boston College team. After all, this is “Vanderbilt football,” where anything that can go wrong will, right? Well, not that day. We played well and the goofy calls finally went our way (did you see a replay of our touchdown??). It was the coldest day all week and once the sun set around 5:00, it got very chilly at LP field. But there was no thought of leaving the game because it was so exciting. It was a close game with a few big plays, but more of the little plays that keep you on the edge of your seat. When the clock ran out and we had finally won it, the atmosphere was exuberant!
Suddenly, “Vanderbilt football” has a whole new meaning. It represents a group of upstanding guys playing good football. It represents a loyal and energized fan base. And it represents pride in our university and its athletic programs. I am pretty excited to now say, “that’s Vanderbilt football!”