Last month, a DJ in Charlotte asked me a simple question: “So, Keith, where are you from?” I answered like I normally do. I said, “Nashville, TN…home of the Commodores.”

When I say that, most people immediately think that I’m speaking of the band. They normally follow up with something like “Really? I didn’t know they sang country music.” Then the laughter begins once I explain that it’s not the band, but rather the mascot of my alma mater, Vanderbilt.

Few people outside of Tennessee know about the mighty Commodores, largely because our football team hasn’t been to a bowl game since the invention of the endzone. Vanderbilt has a football history about as much as Texans have a vegetarian history. So whenever I mention the mighty Commodores, it’s met with snickers and giggles and guffaws and occasionally people hacking up phlegm.

It seemingly doesn’t matter to a lot of people that the university is one of the best in the nation at research and education. What they prefer to focus on is the fact that Vandy’s trophy room is used as storage for unsold season tickets. (Next year they’re adding a wing.)

The mighty Dores have experienced success in other sports, but Nashville is in the South, and college football is the athletic pursuit of choice. Games are played on Saturdays because if they were on Sunday, nobody would go to church. Very sad indeed, but true.

Fans of Southern teams love to show off their allegiance. Many will buy any piece of merchandise if it is adorned with that team’s logo. They say it’s to show their pride. But is that much pride necessary? Could there be any confusion if you saw someone with a Florida Gator T-shirt, hat, pants, headband, lapel pin, and face paint, but didn’t see any Gator shoelaces or nipple rings? Subtlety is not an option, apparently.

I honestly believe that to some super fans, there may not be a limit:

“Whatcha selling?”

“Bags of cat shit.”

“Do they say Go Vols on ’em?”


“I’ll take a dozen. No wait…I’ll just get twelve.”

I once witnessed a Mississippi State fan buy toilet paper with the MSU logo on it. I pointed out that he should get some with the Ole Miss logo because that’s their main rival, and also because, hey, it’s toilet paper. He then looked confused for several seconds before his head exploded. My reasoning made sense, but he couldn’t fathom purchasing something with another team’s emblem.

Anyway, back to Vanderbilt. My point is that college football is incredibly important down here, and the mighty Dores just aren’t good at it. A big reason may be the fact that it’s a private school and athletes have to go to real classes with real professors and take real exams. To most blue chip athletes who have been treated like gods since they were able to read Xs and Os, this is known as “Bizarro World”.

Some say that such reasoning is no excuse, because other private schools succeed at football, like Notre Dame. But the Fightin’ Irish have tradition, like their Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has the Rapture. Well, at least that’s what it looks like with the stands empty.

I have been asked on numerous occasions why I don’t root for the state school. This is where I need to point out that I really really really despise the Tennessee Volunteers (a.k.a. the Vols) and would cheer for invading Martians if they had a football team and played those cheatin’ sacks of criminals from Knoxville. I have started another campaign…to spread the phrase “Suck it, Vols!” to every corner of the earth. It’s catchy and quite cathartic. Try saying it aloud. Now try it again. Fun, isn’t it?

True, Vandy isn’t as good on the gridiron as most schools. But those are my boys and I will always cheer for them. I do believe I’m the only comic out there promoting the Commodores. Therefore, I’m a trend setter. So follow my lead, kids. Join the official Vanderbilt fan club. Membership includes a bumper sticker and a formal letter of apology from the head coach. An extra $50 and you get to sponsor a fourth quarter interception. Pretty sweet, eh?

Some of you may think that by making jokes about the team’s history and chronic ineptitude, I’m only fueling the fire and perpetuating the “laughing stock” label that hangs around their collective neck. But believe me when I say that my heart and soul truly ache when Vandy loses. Not to mention my knuckles, which tend to punch things like coffee tables and car windows. Besides, life is a lot more fun and much more tolerable if you laugh at your less-than-perfect circumstances. Scientists have even proven that laughing ten minutes a day can lengthen your life by a year or two. Using that formula, if I keep watching Vandy play football, I’ll be alive five years after the earth crashes into the sun. But the faith is there.

Go Dores! Suck it, Vols!

Keith Alberstadt

Categories: Columns