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The Vibe at Vanderbilt: The Worst Saturday?

How much does the college football game day stink at Vandy? Let us count the ways (which will take more time than counting the fans)

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By Joshua Cooper

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The ESPN College GameDay set rises over a sea of black and gold in front of Vanderbilt's Dudley Field. Fowler, Herbstreit and Corso are breaking down the Commodores' impenetrable defense, deft quarterback and Heisman-worthy tailback. But it's impossible to hear the trio as the fans' screaming drowns them out. It's just another jacked-up Saturday in the phenomenon known as Vandy football.

Then the alarm sounds, rousting Vanderbilt fans out of this obvious fantasy. They turn on the TV and see two unknown broadcasters extolling the Commodores' skillful punter and consistent long snapper. Reality has set in: We're at Vanderbilt.

Walk around the campus and you'll see no sign of school spirit, except the banners hung by sororities who "love the Dores" -- but not enough to show up at games. The regional SEC syndicator produces its obligatory Vandy appearance early in the season so it can show Alabama, LSU and Tennessee when the SEC gets into full swing. If you have tailgating in mind, most of the people around you probably graduated from Vanderbilt during the Eisenhower Administration; the rest are decked out in the opponent's colors.

Then, just before the start of the game, the mighty Commodores sprint out of the tunnel to the roar of their fans, most of whom, alas, are drowned out by the battle cries of the visiting team's backers.

During the game a virtual debutante ball commences. Girls dolled up in Sunday dresses and guys in snappy shirts and ties show up after halftime, missing the band's umpteenth cover of Santana's Everybody's Everything or Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train. By the start of the fourth quarter, though, they realize they've drunk all their booze and ditch.

Win or lose, but mostly the latter (Vandy hasn't been to a bowl since 1982), the few diehards stay to watch. After the game, they sing the alma mater with the team and then head home, normally tired and upset, except on the occasional UT-Chattanooga weekend.

Last year, in a 28-17 win over Kentucky that ended the team's 23-game SEC losing streak, a cool autumn wind and a chilly rain kept most students away from the show. Afterward the few hundred fanatics who made the trek tore down the goalposts in what must have been a world-record 10 minutes. Which answered that age-old question: If a goalpost falls at Vandy, will anybody be there to see it?

Joshua Cooper, a senior, has attended 21 straight Vanderbilt home games.

Issue date: September 16, 2004

SI On Campus: September 16, 2004 issue 
SI ON CAMPUS

Sports Illustrated On Campus, a new magazine covering college sports and collegiate lifestyles, is available as an insert in 74 major college newspapers across the country every Thursday throughout the school year. Click any of the links below to see selected content from the latest issue.

Cover Story: Best College Football Weekends: 1-10
Cover Story: The Best of the Rest: 11-25
Road Trip: University of Miami
Scorecard: The Vibe at Vanderbilt
The Final: Not So Fast, Notre Dame
Previous issue: September 9, 2004
 

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