France's greatest football mind — Yves Saint Laurent — put it best: "Fashions fade; style is eternal." No doubt he would have been appalled at both Vanderbilt and the Titans wearing white in their post-Labor Day games, a stylistic faux pas of the highest order.
That was nothing, however, compared to the lapses Nashville's teams committed once they put those uniforms on. If Monsieur Saint Laurent had been a connoisseur of the gridiron, he would have found more reasons to be appalled than just sartorial gaucherie.
"Gauche" is too mild a word for last weekend's train wreck. Gauche is for blowing your nose loudly, then meticulously refolding and pocketing your hankie. Le mot juste is something more biblical, something giving off a reek of charred cities, brimstone and a mess of pottage.
Neither team demonstrated much chance of staying power. Absent a dramatic recovery, both may see their fortunes fall victim to the siren song of fad, destined to crash on the rocks.
James Franklin talked great guns in the offseason, piquing interest in the Commodore program to Olympian heights. He flitted cross-country in his recruiting helicopter, seeking prospects in far-flung places with the vigor of Jim Cantore chasing a hurricane.
His full-throated pronouncements that Same Old Vandy was a thing of the past replaced the well-earned weltschmerz of the Commodore faithful with something new: hope. Hope that the Liberty Bowl trip portended future success. Hope that 6-7 would no longer be a mark of a fantastic season. Hope that maybe, just maybe, competing for a divisional title was achievable.
Franklin sent his charges into the South Carolina game clad in black, and they fought hard, taking an early lead. Alas, at the end they collapsed — with the inevitability of decades of folly pressing like a weight on their outsized shoulders.
So Franklin went to Northwestern and he dressed them in white — eschewing the aforementioned fashion stricture, perhaps signaling that Vandy sought to be more than a team that represents the kind of people who care about the appropriateness of white-after-Labor-Day.
And again, they fell apart. The play-calling was as plain as those white duds, as bland as white toast, as uninspiring as white noise.
Jordan Rodgers made mind-bogglingly bad decisions and disastrous turnovers, raising worries he's more a successor to the long line of laughable quarterbacks at Vanderbilt than a facsimile of his Super Bowl-winning brother.
Northwestern is a good measuring stick. Long a Big 10 doormat, they've gone to five straight bowl games despite being saddled with similar academic requirements as exist for the Commodores.
Perhaps then, Saturday's disappointment would be eased by a Sunday surprise. Perhaps Chris Johnson was ready to show his 2,000-yard season was no anomaly.
Instead, in the Titans home opener, Johnson set a personal record for futility, rushing for just four yards on 11 carries, putting him on pace for a glitzy 64 yards for the season.
With every carry and every glaring mistake from his offensive line, Johnson's 2009 season of 2,006 yards looks more like Hypercolor T-shirts: neat to experience, wildly hyped — but with each passing year, a likelier candidate for the pile of, "Hey, remember when that was a thing?"
Meanwhile, the Patriots — who dismantled the Titans with frustrating precision — are the Little Black Dress of the NFL: always the right choice, no matter the occasion.
And in this case, the occasion was embarrassing the hapless Titans in their opener.
The Patriots played football with ease and grace, crisscrossing LP Field like Clark Gable in a tuxedo. The Titans played more like Clark Griswold on vacation, the end zone as unreachable a destination as Wally World.
Second chances are available for both the 'Dores and Titans. Vandy returns home this weekend to play Presbyterian, a game they're predestined to win. And once the Titans get through the unrelenting jab-uppercut combo of their first four games, the schedule eases.
For now, though, frustrations are high on the East Bank and West End, stoked by failing to meet the expectations set by Johnson's pronouncements of prosperity and Franklin's unrelenting moxie.
Grand declarations are fashionable in the off-season. But winning when it counts is a style that's eternal.
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