Friday, September 5, 2008

The Island of Misfit Toys


Dori ran 3.5 miles yesterday and carried Will to bed tonight. Will smiled the whole way down the hall. My three-miler yesterday was a bounceback run - 26:12, an 8:44/mile pace in warm conditions. I'm skipping tomorrow because our coaches decided to have us do our long run on Sunday. The conditions are supposed to be excellent.

Will, his godfather Al and I watched Vanderbilt upset South Carolina last night, 24-17. The Dores never flinched. Watching Vanderbilt lose is like watching any Halloween movie. You know Jason is going to appear from somewhere and do his thing, but this time Jason got the Gamecocks. Dori asked me if I'm happy. Of course I am, but I told her, "It's not life and death" if we win or lose. It certainly felt that way 15 years ago.

VU's win was gratifying on many levels. They beat a very good team ranked No. 24 in the country. The coaches addressed last year's weaknesses - special teams and conservative playcalling. The team faced adversity and smacked it in the mouth. They won with grace and displayed sportsmanship. They finally won an important home conference game. But it was more than those things.

Ninety percent of all college football players have no chance of getting in to Vanderbilt, so we recruit from a limited pool. VU is outspent every year by the other 11 SEC schools, all of them public. Our facilities are OK but not as nice as the big schools', and our fan base is small. Our star players are athletic, but a tad undersized compared to the Georgias and Floridas in our conference. Vanderbilt is the league's version of The Island of Misfit Toys; often we attract players the other SEC teams don't recruit heavily. I could go on, of course, but you get the point.

After the game, the players were excited but humble. Our running back who was the game's MVP thanked God for the glory to be able to play college football. That stayed with me last night and today.

People sometimes ask us why we're fans of perennial losers. Dori and I are alumni, but we simply like exposing our kids to the coaches, administrators and players. Nearly all the players graduate from a great school and you rarely hear of anyone having a run-in with the law.

They're role models in a world that needs more of them. And maybe we're losing the perennial loser tag in football.

Go Dores!

1 comment:

Laura Creekmore said...

This is a great post. I, too, feel the wins and losses in a different way than I did 5 years ago, even, but I am always proud of Vandy and the stand-up programs it runs.