This week's hangover is brought to you by Norco with hydrocodone, for those times when having a scalpel cutting into your gentleman's handbag is the high point of the football weekend.
You knew it was coming. You knew it was going to be just like this as soon as you turned on SEC Pravda and saw the smiling slackjaws of Dave Neal and Andre Ware, as soon as you realized Penn Wagers had brought his band of mental defective zebras, as soon as you realized this is Vandy-Florida. Because no matter how badly they burst into flames, Florida must always be the darling child of the SEC East, which is why a team whose coach has been on the chopping block all year was jocked for the ENTIRE OPENER with their prospects for getting to the SEC title game, which will require a string of events only slightly more likely than my hitting the Powerball at the very moment my wife leads Scarlett Johansson into the hot tub with us. But it's Florida-Vandy, so you knew it was coming.
Which is why I can tell you that a Florida player threw a punch on the very first drive, and was flagged for it, but not ejected, and you are not surprised. Which is why I can tell you that Vanderbilt caught an unsportsmanlike conduct flag after their touchdown which was attributed to...no one, and you are not surprised. Which is why I can tell you that Florida took the lead on a touchdown that was signaled by the official with the obstructed view despite a no-score sign from the one with the unobstructed view, and upheld on replay that was apparently done with Hipstamatic, and you are not surprised.
I mean, what can you say? They got ten points off two turnovers, and our seven straight stops on N-and-goal which were actually eight went for nothing, and we're down by 10, and then after that it's just a chase scene. Because you're throwing to catch up with your freshman QB and your freshman WRs, and you can't keep the Gator offense on the sideline long enough for your defense to get any rest, and you're suddenly getting gashed for two more touchdowns by...I'm not going into it. All I'm going to say is that I'm proud we still have the green dots on our helmets, and I'd rather lose this game a hundred times than win it once with Treon Harris under center.
But that's it. That's why I really truly hate this league. Because our place is predetermined from the outset. You know the breaks are going against us. You know you're going to go against guys who don't have to stay in class and out of the police blotter to be on the field. You know the in-house conference media is going to write you off. All you have is the hope that you can somehow win through, somehow rub it in their face, somehow take advantage of things, and when everything lines up just perfectly...steal eight wins. And then watch your coaching staff leave so some other team won't have to suffer the ignominy of only winning eight games in a season.
How long? If we're never going to get any credit for trying to do things the right way, if we're never going to get any shine during the one brief window when things go well, if we're going to have to choose between Birmingham, our own state and our own city at bowl time, and if everybody's going to jump right on the "THATS WHY YOUR VANDY [sic]" train as soon as it turns again...how long can we go on like this?
Now, for our trouble, we get a week off to drown ourselves in Four Loko and Pibb Ice and damn the warnings on the side of the prescription bottle, and then? On the road to the #1 team in the country as of this writing, and then after that one final home game against those warrior poet scholars from Knoxville and their citrus-enrobed legions of the common clay of the Old West. And then, we're back to a fool's hope again. The same hope of every other season from 1983 to 2010 bar one: that the freshmen will become sophomores and the offense will start to gel and that the defense will hold stalwart and that we might somehow aspire to rise to our previous height...eight wins and fourth place in the division.
Other teams are somehow young, promising, striving to overcome their youth, rallying behind new coaches, roll out any excuses you like. But somehow, in our case, ever and always, to the rest of the conference and the rest of the world...we're just Vanderbilt. And so I'm just going to finish these pills and try to remember how it was that we walked the earth like titans in the days before there was such a thing as an SEC.