the hangover, week 5: where I belong

IN which I come home.

I mean, what can you say about the game? We covered, we went over the number, Jerrod Seymour may have cinched the starting job, Jonathan Krause continues his yeoman effort, Austyn Carta-Samuels is quietly being our best pure passer since Jay Cutler, and yes it's only UAB but we did what we're supposed to do to a team like UAB: a methodical pounding.

This week's post isn't about that.

I got into Vanderbilt as an undergrad, but chose to go somewhere else when another school made me a ridiculous scholarship offer. That's still the single biggest mistake of my life, from which so many others flow, but that's neither here nor there. When I applied for grad school, and Vanderbilt made me a surprisingly generous offer, I jumped at the chance. Here's a tip, kids: grad school is not the place for you to try to launder your college experience. Due to a number of circumstances, I didn't pass the prelim exams, and after three years, I was done with grad school, and it was time to leave.

And it hurt. A lot. Not least because of all the places I've ever lived - my native Alabama, the greater DC area, Silicon Valley - the west end of Nashville is the only place that ever felt like home from the first day I arrived. I didn't know what to expect when I pitched up on the corner of 21st Avenue, but this town, and this school, took me in and made me feel like I belonged. And when that ended, it was a long time before I felt like I could legitimately embrace being a Commodore again, after the way I blew it.

And a few years later, after a new career and a cross-country move and a marriage, I sat down the weekend before the 2006 football season and had a long think about things. I'll spare you the logical wranglings, but I decided it was time to try to embrace being a Vandy guy again. My undergrad institution had disappointed me for the last time, and I cast them into the abyss for good, and I also decided that my upbringing notwithstanding, it was time to let go of the Crimson Tide - if you're going to be Vandy, then be Vandy. And so I went to Nashville over Thanksgiving, ate some ceremonial SATCO, cleaned out the bookstore of gear, and pledged myself for good to the Commodores.

You know how it's gone since then. 2007 and 2012 in basketball. 2008 and 2011 in football. Damn near every year in basketball. Hell, bowling won a national championship and cross-country topped the SEC. Despite some truly spectacular postseason flame-outs from time to time, my faith was largely rewarded. And then there was last football season.

I don't know what I expected when I decided to come back to campus for the Presby game. I figured we'd win - it was as sure a thing as had appeared on our schedule ever, and I didn't want to take a chance - but it was also my first actual trip to campus since 2006 and my first actual football game in person since Vandy-Notre Dame. I didn't know what things would be like, I didn't know whether I'd be the old dude in the club, I didn't know whether I was chasing the shreds of something I'd imagined. And from the moment I stepped onto the campus, it was like nothing ever happened. I was back and I was home and I was part of things and I was swept into a tailgate and I inadvertently found myself up on the jumbotron and oh yeah, my local NorCal QB got the start and we won going away, 58-0.

I say that because all that happened again this weekend. This time I brought my wife, but otherwise, it was just the same. Rotier's and SATCO, the sun setting behind Kirkland, the view from the Overcup balcony, five hours of tailgating with our new gang, and a decisive victory behind our hometown QB.

Vanderbilt didn't have to take me in, but it did. Twice. A decade and a half apart. And I am grateful to all of you - students, alumni, season ticket holders, or just enthusiasts - for granting me an equity stake in our tribal enterprise.

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