This Week In The 'Drome: Music City Bowl, Raiders roll, Pro Bowl, toilet bowl and more ...
Convenience vs. Expediency: This week's City Paper cover story examines Vanderbilt's relationship with the Music City Bowl and indeed with Music City itself.
It's hard to overstate the barely restrained teeth-gritting in that piece. The Vandy folks are still awash with the excitement of playing in a bowl — any bowl, even one that's just across the river. But the Nashville Sports Council didn't come off as terribly enthusiastic of getting stuck with the 'Dores.
It's hard to blame them, of course. As the article explains, Vandy isn't the SEC school of choice for many people in Nashville — the city being attractive to alums from across the conference. And certainly, Vandy fans will occupy far fewer hotel rooms than, say, Ole Miss fans.
But everyone is trying to make the best of the situation. And sometimes these things work out.
Sometimes the first choice — even if it's the splashier selection — isn't the right one. John Kerry will sail through confirmation as Secretary of State and may prove to be a better pick there than Susan Rice.
Consider Princess Dagmar of Denmark. In the late 19th century, Denmark, like Vanderbilt, was trying to prove its relevancy in Europe, the world's ultimate power conference. Unable to compete militarily with Prussia or Russia or Britain (the Alabama, LSU and Florida of this analogy) it sought simply to be the best of the rest.
The plan of action was to marry off the royal daughters to future crowned heads. Alexandra married the future Edward VII. Thyra married Ernst Augustus, who would have been King of Hanover but for those aforementioned Prussians.
And Dagmar? She got engaged to Tsarevich Nicholas. Poor guy died before he could take the throne (a fate only slightly worse than losing to Vanderbilt and ending up in Birmingham's Compass Bank Bowl), so Dagmar just moved on to his brother, who became Tsar Alexander II. And it worked out. You know, until 1918.
The point is this: For Vandy, the Music City Bowl isn't so bad. It's on TV. It's winnable. No, it's not in Florida, but it's a damn site better than no bowl game at all. For the bowl, they could do worse than Vandy. Maybe the fanbase isn't the biggest but they are enthusiastic. Maybe they aren't a British Princess, but there are certainly uglier daughters of Denmark.
The Week Behind
Pfffft : Kenny Britt's touchdown in the waning moments of Sunday's game against the Packers was the exclamation point at the end of, "My doctor just said I had a record-setting goiter!" — pointless punctuation vainly craning for faux-excitement at the end of a sentence of dreadful drek.
And indeed that's what watching the 55-7 drubbing felt like: a sentence.
Jean Valjean didn't suffer through this kind of punishment. Five years for stealing bread seemed merciful by comparison. No no, we had to convince ourselves — the thrilling win against Detroit, the comprehensive handling of the Steelers — that there were better times ahead. We tried to escape. We tried to achieve. Each time, we were smacked, ever harder, by Javert's baton. We dreamed a dream in times gone by.
Embarrassing in victory against the Jets, the Titans showed they are equally capable of being embarrassing in defeat as the tepid toilet-water season of 2012 swirls slowly to its predictable conclusion.
The players tweeted and talked about the shame they felt. Mike Munchak crassly proclaimed the team is not as bad as its 5-10 record indicates. He is wrong. They are exactly that bad. They may even be worse, but NFL scoreboards do not allow for negative numbers to be displayed.
Bud Adams stopped writing stern letters and shut his Texas claptrap. His silence, too, sounds like a sentence. A big dark period at the end of a regrettable passage in the franchise's history.
This One's For All The Smyrnas! : For the first time since 1995, MTSU beat Vandy in basketball.
The 56-52 win Friday at Bridgestone may, though, say more about the 'Dores than the Raiders.
For all of the talent Kevin Stallings had last season, there was a terrifying inability to close out games, embodied mostly in the form of the ephemeral Jeff Taylor. Stallings has repeatedly said there are times he prefers this season's vintage of his team; they are less talented but more a reflection of him. But against MTSU, these 'Dores fell apart down the stretch.
And what's to blame? Stallings indicates a slip to the worst habits of a better team:
“It’s indicative that their minds are someplace else,” Stallings said, “which is proof to me that we got individualized when [MTSU] started making their run instead of staying together and doing the things that worked for us. We started thinking about other things than what I was telling and wanting them to do.”
Garbage Time : Everybody sit down. Deep breaths. No Titans made the Pro Bowl. ... R.A. Dickey wrote a cool letter to the Mets and the city of New York after being traded. ... TSU football coach Rod Reed earned himself a contract extension.
The Week Ahead
Don't Call It Subprime : Monday, Vanderbilt will attempt to play the most exciting football game of the year at LP Field.
Not that that's a hard ask.
Vandy takes on an NC State team which finds itself at a bit of a crossroads. The school fired its coach — yes, after qualifying for a bowl game; the novelty of the post-season does wear off eventually, 'Dores fans — and is forever trying to secure its place in the pecking order in the ACC.
There are lots of other compelling stories, too: Vandy's Warren Norman has a brother at NC State. The school's AD was once AD at Maryland (and once declared James Franklin the coach-in-waiting for the Terps).
And Franklin seeks his first win against a team which finished its season with a winning record.
While Vandy has yet to knock off a winner in Franklin's tenure, the Dores' ability to beat the teams they should is a welcome — and noticeable — change on West End.
Worthless Prediction : Score one for the home team. Vandy 24, NC State 20.
Plenty of Seats Available : Pointless.
That'd be the perfect adjective for the Jags-Titans game, except that the Titans defense is so bad, they couldn't hold the Jackson Five to less than 21, let alone the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I don't pretend to know who will be the starting quarterback for the Jags, but whoever it is has the unenviable task of being a seat-warmer for Tim Tebow.
As for the Titans, they'll try for win No. 6. Well. "Try."
Worthless Prediction : The Titans will probably end up winning so they can go down as the worst 6-win team in the history of the NFL. Tennessee 35, Jacksonville 28.
Resolution : For years, Guy Lombardo was what America watched on New Year's Eve.
He and his Royal Canadians would play "Auld Lang Syne" from the basement of the Roosevelt Hotel. That song performed in that way became a tradition. Lombardo and the Canadians was how American turned the calendar page.
But then Dick Clark figured out something. Americans were bored with the same old, same old. He started the Rockin' Eve and eventually Lombardo — and his make of music — disappeared.
The NHL lockout is now beyond its Hundred Days. What was once grueling is as tedious as a Jonathan Trott inning and teetering on the edge of being irrelevant. The NHL — and the equally exhausting players' union — need at best a game-changing Waterloo ... and at worst, exile to the South Atlantic.
Now, at least, there is a deadline for the end of this exercise. Locally, the concern, as Boclair notes, is at what cost to momentum?
On the ice, there are plenty of problems with this uselessness dragging on — players playing different systems with different people, risking injury with other teams. Off the ice, it could be even more devastating. Each cancellation wipes off another game Preds fans — the casual and die-hard variety both — had circled: Ryan Suter's return, the first Red Wings visit, and so on.
If the two sides find their way together, there will be some excitement in a truncated, compressed fever of a schedule, each game feeling meaningful in a way they don't always in a full season. But each day that passes makes even that less likely. Each day represents a movement away from hockey to some other use of time and money. Anger has faded to ennui.
What was once a winter staple — like Lombardo — is becoming a curious, misty footnote. And without a resolution, Lombardo's band won't be alone in their irrelevant Canadianness.
So, um, after this week, there's no more football and there's no hockey on the horizon. Do you know about an exciting bowling league I can cover? Shoot me a line at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.