I’m a Vanderbilt fan. Always have been. Always will be. Vanderbilt football fans are long-suffering. I’ve spent years watching my team wrestle defeat out of the jaws of victory. So when my team became bowl eligible, hubs and I decided we were going to go to the game.
We spent New Year’s Eve traveling to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl, watching the game, and traveling back to Nashville. It was a long day and the outcome of the game was not what I wanted. Yep, we lost.
We took a chartered bus and on the way home there was a bit of grousing about the bad experience. I have to admit, there was a moment during the 3rd quarter when I was mentally calculating the amount of money we spent on the day. But even though we lost, I really had a great time. So much so that I plan to frame our Liberty Bowl poster and tickets.
Vanderbilt has only been to five bowl games in the school’s history. The last one (2007) was on a New Year’s Eve Friday and I needed to work. (As a fundraiser, I never take a vacation day on New Year’s Eve. That’s a day when donors want to make last minute gifts and I want to be available to them.) The bowl game before that was in 1982 and I was a broke college student.
Fast forward to 2011: Why did I enjoy six hours of travel, an over-priced tail-gait luncheon and a game loss? All my life I’ve watched bowl games on television. The stands are filled with happy people wearing their team’s colors. Most of the fans had to travel to get to the game. Half of those fans leave disappointed. But at least they got to cheer on their team in a bowl game. I’ve always wanted to be one of those cheering fans. On Saturday I was.
I liken it to all of the 5Ks, half marathons, and even my 2011 marathon attempt. I’m a slow runner and the Olympic Committee is not looking for me. But I get to be out there with other members of the running community. Every time I pin a bib on my shirt and line up at the race, I feel like someone who gets to sit at the cool kids’ table in the school cafeteria. Running races was something I enjoyed in my 20s. But once I started spiraling into disordered eating, races were a thing of the past and something I thought I would never do again. Now, after losing 91 pounds (and counting), getting back out there brings me joy.
Sure, I would have been overjoyed if Vandy had won on Saturday. If I ever race and place in my age division I might die from a shock-induced heart attack. But for me, just being there is enough.