The other day, an elderly gentleman walked up to me, stuck out his hand and said, “Class of 1958.”
I shook his hand and said, “That’s great,” but he seemed to be waiting for me to say something else.
And then I remembered I was wearing my Vanderbilt ball cap.
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“Class of 1990,” I said.
That got me thinking. If I’d been wearing a University of Alabama cap, would a graduate of that fine institution have assumed that I also went to school there and told me what year he graduated so I would tell him what year I graduated?
It would have been more likely that somebody would have hollered, “Roll Tide!” and waited for me to holler back.
And it also would have been likely that neither one of us had actually attended the school. Nor, and maybe I’m going out on a limb here, could we have identified Tuscaloosa on a map.
I’m not knocking Bama fans, of which there are millions.
I just happen to have attended a university where not even the people who went there want to admit it during football season.
In other words, if you go to Vandy and won’t wear a Vandy hat, then you sure as heck won’t wear one if you don’t go there.
So if you’re a Vandy graduate and you see a guy wearing a Vandy hat, you can go up and tell him what year you graduated, and he’ll tell you what year he graduated, if he can remember he’s wearing a Vandy hat.
That doesn’t mean nobody roots for Vanderbilt. For example, later this month when Alabama travels to Nashville to play Vandy, you can bet that a certain fan base wearing orange and blue will be cheering like mad for the Commodores.
That won’t shock anybody. I mean, back in the 1980s, a friend of mine who’s an Auburn fan went to Tuscaloosa to see an exhibition basketball game between the Crimson Tide and the Soviet Union just so he could root for the Soviets.
For the occasion, he bought a giant flag with a hammer and sickle on it.
Now that’s a real fan!
But it’s tough being a Vanderbilt fan, even in your own house.
My wife, whom I met at Vandy, theoretically wishes that the Commodores could win all their games, but she also roots for the Tennessee Volunteers in every game they play except against Vandy, and even then she feels sorry for them if they lose to the Commodores.
My daughter, who attends the University of Georgia, still follows the Commodores, but only so that when they lose she can send me text messages like this one: “Just a reminder that your success does not hinge on Vanderbilt’s success as a football team. Have a great day.” She texts me a lot.
My oldest son, also a UGA student, recently asked me how my team was going to fare this year. My team? After all these years he spent rooting for Dad’s Dores?
Even my two youngest sons have jumped off the Vandy bandwagon. Last year, after we blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to South Carolina, they both announced they’d never watch another Vandy game with me again.
“You already know they’re going to lose,” they said. “So why do you get so upset?”
“I don’t expect them to lose like that!” I said.
One of them graduates from high school in the spring, and he gave me a list of colleges he wants to visit. At the very top: the University of Alabama.
“So you want to be a winner,” I said.
“You got that right,” he said.
At least he won’t have to remember what year he graduated.