But "Vandy" Lance Smith uncharacteristically missed the fourth quarter of last Saturday's thrilling 24-21 loss to Ole Miss.
I jest not. Vanderbilt came closer than most anyone realizes to losing its number one fan. Read on.
Oh, he had arrived early as always and slapped the players on the shoulder pads as they had crossed Jess Neely Drive. He had taken his seat in Section F, and had commenced giving the Rebels a round of holy hell, just as he does for every home game. (No cursing though; Lance always stays within Bobby Johnson's guidelines for good sportsmanship.)
He had watched his beloved Commodores play some of their best football in ages on their way to a 14-6 third-quarter lead. When Benji Walker came in to complete a 50-yard touchdown bomb to Erik Davis, Lance was about to cheer himself silly. A major SEC upset was brewing.
But sometime toward the end of the third quarter, amid the sweltering 90-degree heat and wilting humidity, Lance began feeling a bit woozy-- probably just as a number of other fans did last Saturday. (If you were there, you know what it was like; if you weren't, you can't imagine. By the second half, it was an absolute sauna.)
Lance was overcome by cramps, nausea and dehydration. He suddenly realized this was serious. Just as Justin Geisinger and Jay Cutler had done before him, Lance decided the prudent thing to do would be to take himself out of the game.
First he headed for the concessions, only to find that the concession stands on the concourse behind Section F were all out of water. The concessions folks sent him to the stadium's medical staff.
"I told the nurse there the stadium was all out of water," Lance said. "She looked at me and said, 'We ain't out of water!' And I said, hey, lady, over in Section F, we're out of water! Hey, we don't sit on our hands in Section F like a lot of fans do-- we get after it, now."
By now, Lance was cramping severely in his abdominal region. The nurse quickly diagnosed his symptoms as signs of heatstroke.
"She put me on an I.V., and I missed the whole fourth quarter," said Lance. "She wanted to put me in the hospital, but I wouldn't go. But I did have to miss the end of the game. I feel like I let the whole team down."
Lance revived enough to banter with the players after the game and try to lift their spirits. But later that evening he went home and threw up repeatedly-- and it wasn't just because Vandy had blown a 21-14 fourth-quarter lead. Lance knew he was still feeling some of the after-effects.
"I ain't as young as I used to be, Bubba," he said. "It got a little scary there for a while. I got where I couldn't even turn all the way around without cramping."
By Monday night, Lance had made almost a full recovery. He was back to calling the Commodore Call-In show, back to wondering aloud whether Vandy had maybe gone too conservative once they had the lead.
When Vanderbilt (0-1) takes on the visiting Chattanooga Mocs (0-1) Saturday, kickoff is set for a more reasonable 6 p.m. Weather conditions should be much more conducive for enjoying this one. A crowd of around 25,000 is expected. The Event Staff has promised to have sufficient water on hand at all concession stands, and Lance swears that for this game and all subsequent games he will keep himself properly hydrated.
"I've been asked to take part in the halftime show this week, Lance said. "I don't know yet exactly what they're gonna have me do, but I'm pumped." (Could be worth the price of admission right there.)
When factored in with the humid conditions, last week's loss took a toll on fans, and had to have taken an emotional toll on Bobby Johnson's team. Lance hopes that both he and the team will be able to bounce back and work out some of their frustrations this week when the Commodores face the Division I-AA Mocs.
"You tell everybody to be there early for that Star Walk," Lance said. "You know who started that thing, don'cha?"
No, I honestly didn't. You, Lance?
"Sure did, Bubba. That goes back to when Watson Brown was the coach. They used to stay in a hotel out in Brentwood, and bus back in for the game. I told Watson, I said, I'm gonna be here to meet you guys getting off the bus.
"That's how that whole Star Walk thing got started."
The things you learn talking to Vandy Lance.