I lived in Birmingham, Alabama for three years after I graduated from Vanderbilt in 2005.
I can tell you all about Alabama, Auburn, and even UAB.
I went to Jordan-Hare (pronounced "Juhr-duhn" and "Hair") Stadium on the Plains, and the Bear told me (and 90,000 of my closest friends) that he "ain't nevuh bin nothin' but a winnuh" (it may sound like poor English, but that just shows you don't understand).
One of the things that people ask you when you move to Alabama (and they continue to ask you after years of living there when you kindly inform them that you're from Tennessee), is "who are you for?"
Or, in the vernacular, "who ye fer?"
This is a question of vital importance, as any Alabamian will tell you, because it's a declaration of your partisanship in the State's on-going, guerilla civil war between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
My answer to the standard inquiry was, with pride, "Vanderbilt."
"Vandy-built?" they would ask with incredulity.
"Vanderbilt," I would reply, raising my chin and narrowing my eyes.
And then they would laugh. "Why in the world do you pull for Vandy-built?"
What frustrated me the most about the question is that it is, in all honesty, a fair one.
Why would a sane, well-rounded, well-educated, and intelligent person choose -- voluntarily! -- to be a fan of Vanderbilt Commodores football? And yes, the question wasn't about basketball, baseball, or any of the other cornucopia of sports offered by the two SEC institutions in the Yellowhammer State, it was about football.
This week, a request from Cian, who runs the sports blog Fuhbaw, gives me an opportunity to answer that question that haunted me for three years in Alabama, because Cian asks it sincerely.
To help him pick his new "Alma Mater," Cian has asked me to answer some questions about Vanderbilt Football, and I've decided to rise to the occasion.
Cian asks, "What's unique about the Commodore fan experience?"
Loyalty. Unwavering, unswerving, and often unnerving loyalty. There is no other school in a conference like the SEC who so consistently draws in 40,000 people to watch a team probably-lose. For twenty-six years (and hopefully, this year will be the end of the drought), Vanderbilt fans have stood by their team, only to watch them pile losing season on top of losing season.
Media, other SEC fans, many Nashvillians, and the public in general may question our sanity, but Vanderbilt fans continue to buy clothes, merchandise, and (most importantly) season tickets (this year, in our 26th year of losing seasons, we've sold more season tickets than we have in almost 20 years) and root for their Commodores.
People don't understand why. The answer is because we're a family. When everyone's against you, you have to stick together, and that's what we've done.
Cian asks, "Why should I become Vanderbilt Commodore fan?"
We have an "intimate" stadium, where there's never a bad seat (unless you happen to be in the stadium during a Yew Tee (that's Yew-niversity of Tennessee, whom we can't bring ourselves to call a "university") "home" game). You don't have to worry about traffic jams, because the stadium only seats 40,000 (compared to our neighbor to the East, whose stadium seats 105,000).
Black and gold are much more classy than other colors. How many schools are named for Robber Barons? And are proud of it? How many schools in a landlocked State choose a naval officer and the accompany naval traditions for its mascot and schtick?
Wouldn't you want to have Steve Martin-- err, Bobby Johnson for your head coach, too?
And, most importantly, being a Commodore fan means home games in Nashville: Music City, USA! Whether you like country music or not, you'll love this town. It's one of the big perks of being a Vanderbilt fan (the alternatives, in the SEC, are not exactly appealing -- Starkville? really?).
Finally, the biggest reason you should become a Vanderbilt fan is because we need more of them!
Cian asks, "Is there any reason I shouldn't become a fan?"
If you don't own a gold-and-black bow tie, you cannot be a Vanderbilt fan (unless you're VandyLance).
There's one, other little thing -- it's no big deal, really. We don't win a lot of football games. Other than that, no reason you shouldn't pull for the Commodores!
Note: Anyone who is a regular reader of S&S knows that my answers to Cian are meant to be satire and a bit of humor at our own expense. If you really want to know my thoughts on being a Commodore fan, read this, which I posted after our loss to Auburn last season.