Thursday, June 16, 2011

Love those Vandyboys!

Finally--I have pictures!! (Yes, I know they are out of order. Since you already know the outcome, I think it's okay.) I'm about a week late in sharing these and recounting my experience from the Super Regional, but we'll call this timely since it's the day before our first-ever CWS game. I don't follow baseball like I do other VU sports, but I wouldn't have said three months ago that this was finally going to be our year. I'm so used to the Vanderbilt curse that I may not believe we're in Omaha until George Bush throws the first pitch on Saturday.

I'm sad to report that I won't be going to Omaha. After planning my personal life around Vanderbilt athletics for the better part of five years, I planned a trip to Vegas for next weekend back in January without the slightest thought of post-season baseball conflicts. I mean, there are only so many times you can plan your Christmas vacation around bowl games and be certain to keep the Sweet 16 weekend free and end up sitting at home watching other teams play. I finally gave up...the ONE time we actually MADE IT! It's okay though...if the Dores are still playing next Friday, you can be certain I will be at a casino sports book watching on a big screen. Hell, I might even bet on the game (can you bet on college baseball?).

As for tomorrow...find a TV...put on your black and gold...and watch Vanderbilt sports history! GO DORES!

(As for the title, I'm not sure that "Vandyboys" is grammatically correct, but that's what the teams (and fans) calls itself on Twitter (yes, I'm a stalker). Therefore, if the name is good enough for the players, it's good enough for me!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A low stress weekend of VU athletics...can you believe it?!

On the day of the first-ever Super Regional hosted by Vanderbilt, some thoughts to share:

1) I can only hope it goes the same way as the regional last weekend. A friend asked about my experience, and I told him it was the strangest thing. You know the sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the fumble, missed field goal, bad call that changes the momentum, home run hit by the freshman walk-on, I could go on and on with examples from my 13 years of Vanderbilt fandom. The crazy thing is, the regional DIDN'T feel that way--not for a second. There was no sudden gust of win that stopped the ball dead in the air (Arkansas), no travel that wasn't called (Georgetown), no roughing the punter penalty (UT). Instead, the whole weekend just felt calm and as though Vanderbilt was actually going to win. Forget blood pressure medicine--give me a weekend like that every time I step in Memorial, Dudley, or Hawkins Field, and it would work even better to reverse the cumulative effect of being a Vanderbilt fan on my life expectancy.

2) We set the SEC record for the most baseball players drafted. You know you've got a good thing going when several players were drafted whose number I don't even know. Shame on me, I guess. I need to get a baseball roster ASAP. I thought only knowing the starters and some of the bullpen was enough--not even close.

I'll post more after this weekend...and hopefully share that it too lowered my stress level like last week. We shall see...if we are in such complete control and nothing happens to ruin it again, I may have to double check to make sure I'm on the right campus watching the correct team play.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

When it comes to Vanderbilt, I'm "all in"

I attended an event the other night at Vanderbilt (in the Board of Trust room, I might add) that turned out to be a focus group of young alumni sponsored by Development and Alumni Relations. First, it's very nice to be considered "young" because pushing 31, I don't always feel that way. Second, for a school that seems to lack a visible student interest in athletics (with basketball being the exception), it was interesting to hear how many times athletics entered the conversation--one that was about the Vanderbilt brand, specific memories we each had from our time in school, our affinity for Vanderbilt, etc.

Of the 15 alums present, there were two guys who each write comprehensive Vanderbilt sports blogs (ones that make this little blog seem laughable), myself, and several others who specifically mentioned that the combination of an academically rigorous institution and SEC athletics played a big role in their decision. When I mentioned one of my favorite VU moments being the Auburn football game of 08 and the fact that the student section was FULL before the game started, many agreed and several reflected on memories of that same game. When asked what our single most powerful Vanderbilt memory was, the guy next to me said the VU/Georgetown Sweet 16 game in East Rutherford in 07. Oddly enough, that would have been on my top 3 list, and it turns out that 4 of the 15 Nashville young alums (including me) traveled to New Jersey for the game.

It was a fun event, as having someone ask me to share what I love (and don't love) about Vanderbilt and why the place is special to me is never an opportunity I'll turn down! I hope the DAR folks came away with some good information about what recent (and not too recent, in my case) alums think of their school, but more importantly, I came away realizing that the interest in athletics IS there amongst students and young alums, I think much more so than when I was an undergrad. Now, if the folks in Kirkland would only ask for me for my opinion of what Vanderbilt can do to better promote that interest and get the students to the games!

A friend who graduated from another SEC school recently sent me a text about football recruiting that read, "If I knew I was going to play, I would have to say playing at X (SEC school) would be 10000X more exciting (than Vanderbilt), but if I was just going to be a scrub then it would be good to have a Vandy degree." Obviously, this didn't sit well with me, and it really got me thinking about what was discussed at the alumni event. This friend is right that our football gameday experience isn't great, and it can't be fun for the players to see the stands half full (if not more) of opposing fans. However, to the recruit who WILL play in the SEC, the scrub, or just the student considering VU, here is what I would say:

We're a top 20 university that accepted 15% of its freshman applicants for the Fall 2011 class, we have a wonderful financial aid program that allows students to earn a $200K+ education debt-free, we have a beautiful campus (several called it idyllic--I wouldn't argue) in the middle of a great city (and the largest SEC city by far), we have strong graduate programs on that campus, AND we currently have a top 5 baseball program, there's reason to finally have some hope for football, and we have a preaseason top 10 basketball program. What more do you need?

And I know Vanderbilt isn't perfect, and there things I didn't like as a student that bother me even more now. However, for once in my life as a Vanderbilt fan, I'm focusing only on the positive!

(I promise Vanderbilt didn't ask me to write this--I doubt they care--but I would accept another invitation to the Board of Trust room in return for the free publicity.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Recruits, celebrities, and tombstones...

I'm embarrassed to admit that it has been a month since my last post, as I know you all have been waiting with baited breath. I've been busy, there hasn't been too much going on with VU athletics, and I still have no pictures to include in the blog.

But, I will share some thoughts from the past month:

1) Football recruiting--James Franklin, where in the world did we find you?! While I'm a huge pigskin fan, I don't religiously follow recruiting like some friends. However, after a fairly slow start--having just one commitment for quite a while--we have signed five more this week!! And these are talented kids with multiple big-time program offers! Franklin tweeted recently about trying to get people to drink the VU kool-aid that he was selling. Give me a big glass please...

2) Earl Bennett's son--some of you may know that Earl is married and has a 13 month old son. He shared a picture of his son on Twitter the other day. I would post it here, but I'm unsure if I'm allowed to share a picture from someone's Twitter account. Part of my uncertainty is with the copyright issues (clearly, I have never taken a law course), but I'm also a little concerned that I may look like a huge stalker. You know, the kind of person who follows former Vanderbilt players on Twitter. Oh wait, that IS me. Haha. Back to the point--his son was wearing a Vanderbilt outfit and is ADORABLE. If Jay and Kristin hurry up and have a child soon, it could be Cutler to Bennett circa 2005 all over again.

3) Speaking of celebrity children, does anyone other than me remember being a Cubs fan as a kid because their games were all carried on WGN? If so, you'll remember Shawon Dunston who was a shortstop for Chicago for seven seasons. I guess I was a grammar dork even as a teenager, because it used to always bother me that his name was spelled Sha-won but pronounced Shawn. Anyway, his son, Shawon Jr, recently committed to Vanderbilt for baseball! I'll forgive his dad for the pronunciation of his name now that his son will be wearing black and gold (if he doesn't choose the pro route first). We'll soon have two former major-leaguers in the stands watching their sons/grandsons.

4) Vanderbilt baseball, what is going on? I have my regional and super regional tickets ordered, I have those dates cleared on my calendar, and I want to see baseball in person the first two weekends in June! I think we'll still be a national seed unless we lose the UGA series and lose early at Hoover, and hopefully neither of those things will happen. I just don't want this year's post-season experience to go the same way of the last regional I watched in person!

5) And... on a non-ahletic note, I was recently invited to attend a focus group for Vanderbilt alumni. The e-mail stated I received the invitation because I am an engaged and committed alum. Finally, someone has noticed, and I think I have found the words for my tombstone. Instead of loving mother and wife (in the future, hopefully), caring daughter, believer in God, etc, I may go with "engaged and committed Vanderbilt alum." (I'm only half joking.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Watching Grown Men Cry

Earlier this week, I mentioned doing a countdown of top Vanderbilt meltdowns. We'll save that idea for another time, but turning in my order form today for NCAA Regional and Super Regional tickets got me thinking about a game that would have to be near the top of that list: Vanderbilt (baseball) vs. Michigan, 2007. On the positive side, I was in the bleachers the night--I think it was the Austin Peay game?--we first did the black and gold cheer, and that's one of my all-time best VU sports memories. Laugh all you want, but I literally had goose bumps when that started. And...that's the only positive I can take from Vanderbilt hosting the regional. I'll never forget everyone realizing that Price was coming in to pitch after starting earlier that weekend, and I'm guessing but pretty darn sure that was his first relief appearance of the season. I'll also never forget the way I felt when Alan Oaks, a pinch hitter for Michigan batting .188, hit the homer off of our star. Apparently, Oaks' parents were also in the stands that night--no disrespect to Alan, but I have to believe they were as surprised as the rest of us. After the game ended and we were all in complete shock, I FINALLY left the stadium and walked to my car. As I opened the door, I noticed the 60ish year old man sitting in the driver's seat of the car next to me was sobbing. If I were to see this occurrence any other day, I'd find it very strange to see a grown man almost uncontrollably crying in his car. However, on that Monday night it wasn't strange at all--in fact, I felt the exact same way. There's a name for the feeling--it's called being a Vanderbilt fan.

To end on a positive note, we found out yesterday that John, Festus, and Jeffrey are all returning next season! There will be more excitement (and expectations) for this team than any I've followed since 1998. I think this could finally be THE year for us! (And then that voice creeps in my head saying, this could also be the year that a #1 seed loses to a ....) Nope, I'm not going to say it. Come next March, I will not be crying uncontrollably in my car.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Black and Gold Game Report: Dores Win!

When I clicked submit on my first post last week, I thought this blog might be kind of a one-and-done deal. After all, it is about Vanderbilt sports, and what better representation of the one-and-done concept than our men's basketball team? Ok, maybe that was low, but after spending an absurd amount of money to watch them lose in person in the NCAA tourney twice, I have a right to be bitter. But...back to the subject at hand. Since the feedback I received last week was suprisingly positive (and encouragingly so!), I'm going to continue. The only real criticism I received was from my friend Mary, who said make it shorter, post more often, and include pictures. Since I have no pictures to include this week and nothing I write is concise, I'll take her advice and blog more often.

I went to my first Black and Gold game last night. I know, I'm a diehard fan--why haven't I been out there the past 12 years?? Well, I don't have a good excuse except to say the idea of watching the black team play the gold team never really appealed to me. What I was so clearly missing all this time was that when Vanderbilt scrimmages, Vanderbilt wins!! It was wondrous. You sat in the stadium feeling positive and optimistic without any of those normal thoughts creeping into your head. You know, the "what can we possibly do to lose this 4th quarter lead, where will the disastrous fumble occur, when will the punt be blocked and returned for a TD"--those thoughts. All Vanderbilt fans have them. They even celebrated the victory with fireworks! It's a tenuous relationship that Dudley Field and I have, but last night was by far the least stressful that place has ever been. No fights with opposing team's fans, no throwing full water bottles in the direction of other people out of anger after a loss, no .... (actually, I'll stop right there, since I have done the aforementioned things. This way, you will still think highly of me.)

For those of you who are reading and actually want to learn something, I'll share my favorite moments from the scrimmage:

1) The walk-on QB John Townsley. Who doesn't love a walk-on? And who isn't waiting for him to go into Neyland Stadium and win the game for us? Hey, a girl can dream.
2) The enthusiasm that James Franklin has brought to this program. The estimated attendance was 8000 and people were there EARLY and were wearing black and gold. Believe it or not, there was excitement about Vanderbilt football.
3) The fact that there was no calling of the hogs, barking of the dogs, or other SEC traditions. When your stadium is usually half full of the opposing color, you find these things incredibly annoying.
4) The scrimmage ended with a touchdown reception by Larry Smith (yes, the QB) in the back of the end zone with two seconds on the clock. A sign of a new QB emerging (Jordan Rodgers, where are you?!) and Smith converting to a receiver? I'm not an idiot, as I know he'll either be our #1 or #2 QB. However, as much as the TD should have ended things on a high note, for me it only brought back the horrid memories of Bobby Johnson lining Cutler up on the outside and putting in an inexperienced Chris Nickson in the pivotal MTSU game of '05.

Speaking of the above game that should really never be mentioned again, I may do another post completely devoted to Vanderbilt meltdowns that have left me unable to function the next day. MTSU would be a great start, but I'll have to apologize to Mary. A post on that topic would be very long.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Football 101 with me (and Coach Franklin)

As the blog craze becomes more and more popular, it seems that many of my friends are writing about one of two things: families or cooking. Well, I don't cook much and when I do, it's certainly not worthy of any recognition in the blogosphere. As for family, I have a great one, but since I don't have children or a husband (or even a boyfriend--maybe this blog will help with that!), I doubt anyone wants to hear about my daily phone calls with my mother one state over. So, I've decided to combine two things I enjoy--writing and Vanderbilt sports--and share my thoughts with all of you. By enjoy, I mean writing--I absolutely love and am obsessed with Vanderbilt sports. And by all, I may only mean my family and a few close friends who read to show their support, but that's okay too.

Since my blog is new, I decided post number one should also be about a new event--one I attended last Saturday. Someone at Vanderbilt (James Franklin, I think) had the great idea to FINALLY offer a women's football clinic! For anyone who even remotely knows me, you know that I live for Vanderbilt football, so even with some recent health issues, there was no way I was missing this. (I did have to sit out the drill portion, which was sad, because I wanted to impress the new quarterback coach with my throwing arm.) I won't divulge some of the info that was shared so that this clinic seems even more mysterious to the men out there, but I will say that I'm pretty damn excited for the season! As much I offer my unwavering support to VU athletics, I am anything but the eternal optimist, and I went into the Franklin hire feeling pretty ambivalent. However, I love his enthusiam, and I think we have the right man for the job. I still want to see results on the field before I proclaim that he will be our savior, but I think he gets what playing at Vanderbilt is all about. He certainly could have sold me on his pitch of the combination of big-time football with an elite academic experience, all in a large but friendly Southern city. With the very short amount of time he had, I think I understand why he did so well with recruiting this winter--he brings an energy to the program that was previously lacking. To appeal to my sometimes-elitist mentality when it comes to Vanderbilt (yep, I'll admit it), I was happy to learn that the new staff holds three degrees from Ivy League institutions as well. I was particularly impressed with Bob Shoop, the new co-Defensive Coordinator. A Yale graduate, he was polished and articulate but also had a TON of passion! I don't know how much 17 year olds care about the words a coach uses or the way he presents himself, but I do and I'm pretty sure some parents of those 17 year olds do too.

If anyone is still reading at this point (I've probably lost everyone but my mom and dad), here are some highlights of the day:
1) Tour of the locker room and more importantly, the chance to hold a football helmet for the first time. My two thoughts? Wow, they're heavy and I would not trust that amount of padding between my head and the 300 lb player throwing me to the ground! (It's important to report that no half-naked players were included in the tour, but that would have brought my enjoyment of the day to a whole new level.)

2) My first-ever chance to watch game film and actually concentrate on one player at a time. Watching live, I certainly can't focus on all 22 men at once, and it gave me a new perspective to see things frame by frame. I mean, who really watches the OL and DL closely at a game?

3) The fact that there 100-150 other women out there who care enough about VU football to come to the clinic! Sure, some weren't the most knowledgeable football fans--I mean, who does not know what redshirting means?! I wanted to show off and explain the definition of greyshirting to one up everyone--but they gave up their Saturday to be there. It's just like all I ask for the actual games--show up, wear black and gold, and cheer, whether or not you can name one player on the field or know the first thing about being a student at Vanderbilt! For the record, some women seemed to know a lot!

4) The coaches seem very family-oriented. There were kids running around, babies that didn't even scream at the sound of a loud whistle, and every coach talked proudly about his children. Several even mentioned that their kids are why they are out here doing this. I'm a sucker for the sentimental aspect of things, and the OC and DCs pics of their kids on the slideshows tugged at my heart a little.

Not so impressed with:
1) The training table (i.e. the athletic cafeteria). I think it used to be called the Hendrix (?) Room but it doesn't seem to have a name now. I know, Magic is famous and has been voted the number 1 athletic chef in the country, and I don't mean to take anything away from him. However, I felt like I was at Rand circa 1998. I will say that the chicken was not pink and there was no mystery meat in any of the casseroles, but I was just not that impressed.

2) The fact that I didn't win a door prize! Since the only people (or should I say person?) who could possibly still be reading at this point know me extremely well, you also know my competitive nature. I knew the answer to every question except one, but I just didn't get my hand up fast enough. I actually had the chance to answer one and gave the wrong answer, and I silently berated myself for about an hour after this. It's not that I had to have the $25 Ruth's Chris gift card (though I like their petite filet), but I wanted the chance to show the coaches my vast array of Vanderbilt football knowledge. Sadly, there was no competition to match current and former players names and jersey numbers. I would have won that one in a heartbeat! *And the question I didn't know? Name the 5 years Vanderbilt has played in a bowl game? 5, you're wondering? Yep, Franklin was being extremely confident and threw in 2011. Let's back up and look at the 4 proven years, and I didn't know the first two. Shame on me. Of course, they did both occur before my birth, but that's not a good excuse.

Lastly, Coach Franklin mentioned that he had received his first hate mail from Vanderbilt fans (he may have gotten some from Maryland fans on his way out the door?) regarding this clinic and was called sexist and misogynistic. The women's studies minor and feminist in me has to chime in here. I don't believe it's sexist in any possible way to offer women the chance to come together as a group of Vanderbilt fans and learn more about football. It wasn't taught in a way that implied that someone needed to explain what touchdown means to all of us, and considering that we haven't had a chance to play or coach or really be involved in football in a meaningful way, I was all for it. And yes, I know that if I could have kicked a 50 yard field goal in high school, I probably could have played with the boys, but let's be honest--every time I try to kick or punt a football, it really hurts my foot!