Talk about surreal.
It was late Wednesday night and my alma mater, Vanderbilt, actually had a chance to win a national championship in a sport other than women’s bowling.
I was not optimistic. That’s because the Commodores had just blown a two-run lead and were now tied with Virginia in the eighth inning of the final game of the College World Series.
Oh, and Virginia’s closer, who throws 98 miles an hour and was a first-round major league draft choice, had just taken the mound.
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In my 30 years as a Vanderbilt sports fan, I’ve seen the ’Dores snatch defeat from the jaws of victory more times than I can count.
In fact, the biggest Vandy sports moment I can remember was in 2008 when the football team won its first postseason game since the Eisenhower administration by beating Boston College in the Music City Bowl. Our offense failed to score a single touchdown, and our punter was the MVP.
So on Wednesday night, I had the usual sinking feeling. My oldest son, who just turned 16, told me to cheer up. He had reason to be upbeat — he’d been finishing his driver’s training online while he watched the game, and he was taking his driver’s test the next day.
“We have great players,” he said, “and a great coach.”
“You don’t understand,” I said. “This is Vanderbilt.”
And that’s when our centerfielder, an economics major named John Norwood, stepped up to the plate.
The Virginia reliever fired him one of those big-league fastballs, high and out of the strike zone, and Norwood turned on it and then just stood there. He’d made contact. The ball sailed over the leftfield fence.
The game wasn’t over. In the bottom of the eighth, the Cavaliers or Wahoos or whatever they call themselves loaded the bases with only one out.
But this wasn’t SOV, as Vandy fans have taken to calling ourselves. That stands for Same Old Vanderbilt.
This team was different. We really did have great players and a great coach. Our closer pitched his way out of the inning and then went to the ninth and put the batters down 1-2-3.
I watched the last UVA player swing and miss, and the black-and-gold players make a dog pile and then hoist up the national championship trophy.
I thought I was dreaming.
And then I thought about the University of Alabama. Do Bama fans feel this way when they win it all?
Probably not. The Crimson Tide has won 15 football championships, plus six in gymnastics, a couple in men’s golf, and one apiece in women’s golf and softball.
The next day at work, I was fielding congratulatory texts, emails and Facebook greetings, and still wondering if I was dreaming.
That’s when my wife sent me a photo from her phone. It was our son holding aloft his brand-new driver’s license and looking like he’d just won pole position in a NASCAR race.
My wife said she was about to call our insurance company and add our son to our policy.
Talk about cold reality.