Against my better judgment, I paid the ridiculous price for a ticket to this game (seriously, you know that BNV is real when you start looking at some of the scalping prices for our tickets this year -- one unintended consequence of our success: ticket scarcity), and I'm getting ready to head down to Georgia this afternoon.
As I look forward to the game, I have that classic mix of Vanderfan emotions: hope and fear.
Hope, because I like the Commodores in situations like these: We're around a 14-point underdog, we just lost to the second- or third-worst team in the conference, we showed an incredibly anemic offensive effort in a loss to a lesser opponent, and we're playing a team with SEC Championship aspirations who'll probably be looking ahead at a trip to Baton Rouge.
I guess that there's just something built into the Vanderpsyche (perhaps all those years of losing seasons will do it?) that makes us feel more at home with seemingly insurmountable odds.
Don't you feel the same way? It's as though the pressure's off, and opportunity is knocking.
Now I know these aren't the thought-patterns that a fan of BNV should be having. But let's face it, folks: the team may be BNV, but I was raised during the reign of SOV. Those old habits are hard to break, and part of me wants the security blanket of "well, we weren't supposed to win, so it's ok."
But it doesn't seem fair to this team, not this year, to have an attitude like that. It's like Thomas Stinson writes: "winning, in its perverse way, only makes losing worse."
I know I felt a lot worse about last Saturday's loss to Mississippi State that I did the last time we lost to the Bulldogs from Starkville.
Of course, I'm a true Vanderbilt alumnus and fan, and so for me hope goes on. It doesn't matter that Coach Richt and his players are saying all the right things about how much they respect Vanderbilt and remember the Commodores' last trip to Athens.
That's just the football-version of political correctness. One is not allowed to openly and non-subtly trash-talk one's opponent unless one wears a visor and once coached in the National Football League (I'm looking at you, Steve).
No, I just can't believe that after all these years of smug superiority, the folks at Georgia, or at any of the State U.'s we face week in and week out, are ready to deal with a world where Vanderbilt really is the no. 22 team in the country.
I believe that these Dawgs and their fans live in the same world as the sportswriters and bloggers who kept saying, as the season went deeper and the 'Dores kept winning, that this week would see the natural order restored and Vanderbilt brought "back to reality."
And that brings us to my fear.
The question that has plagued me since our "Crooming" last week is this: what if reality for us really is that perpetual teetering on the edge of success that we've experienced over the past few years? What if they're all right, that we really can't win in the SEC with the types of players that we have and the academic standards that we maintain?
What if, despite pouring resources, emotion, and sheer faith into this program (not to mention an historic 5-0 start), we still end up with a losing season?
That's the dark specter who'll be haunting my thoughts as I drive down to Georgia tonight.
Ultimately, the reason that we all invest so much of our time, money, and energy into following a team like Vanderbilt is because we want to believe -- and we want it badly! -- that a team like the Commodores can succeed. That doing things the "right" way will pay off.
I do not know what the outcome will be when the clock hits 00:00 at Sanford Stadium tomorrow afternoon. But I will be there, wearing gold, waving my shaker, and loudly singing "Dynamite!" when we score.
And I won't be alone, either. Sitting right beside me at the game? My good friends -- and long-time Vanderbilt season ticket-holders -- hope and fear.