Ed. Note: Never mind that Vanderbilt hasn't had a winning football season since 1982. We caught up with the undisputed No. 1 Vandy fan, "Vandy" Lance Smith, last week in the middle of one of his rants, readying himself for Saturday's crucial, season-opening clash with South Carolina. Though the season hadn't even started, we found Lance already to be in midseason form. He talked, and talked some more... and we did our darnedest to write down what he had to say. Preach on, brotha Lance...
"Folks, my grandkids are going to have a different Vanderbilt than the one I grew up with. Oh, the academics have always been there, and they're still there. But it's a new day at Vanderbilt.
"This football team... I'm tellin' ya, we can get off the bus with anybody. Right now. You can't even hardly pick out a freshman. They're not out tellin' ever'body this is their year... they're not saying a thang. I b'lieve they're just gonna come out and play FOOT-ball, and let ever'body else worry about what's happened in the past, and what's gonna happen in the future. We're livin' today!
"They're strong. They're big! They have a captain named Bobby Johnson, who is a CHARACTER man. You've gotta have character, because with character comes discipline. That means do your job, don't worry about somebody else's job on the other side of the ball. You do YOUR job, and build character that way, and if that all comes together, it's called a TEAM, bubba. A TEAM.
"When you've got a TEAM, you learn to care about the guy next to you. Instead of worryin' about him, you learn to CARE about him and LOVE him. This team has that! There's nobody on this team that thinks they're any better than anybody else.
"But we've got to start winning the fourth quarter. We've been winning the first three quarters around here for 30 years. To win the fourth quarter, you've got to play as a team, and believe, and care about the guy next to you. If you don't have that, you're going to make mistakes, 'cause you're worried about ever'body ELSE making mistakes.
"I'm tellin' ya, Bobby Johnson is the best coach we could have. As soon as we have a winning record, the San Diego Chargers are gonna offer him a two-year, $150 million contract. I told him, if Corbin stays, YOU'VE gotta stay!
"And that's another thing. Gordon Gee, when we restructured... now, this just my opinion, I've gotta say, this is just my opinion... but what it did was to open up that MONEY to help athletics! Because athletics can be important to your school! We're not just about academics-- we want to be in the Southeastern Conference too. Athletics have got to be held in a higher esteem too, and you've gotta spend money to make money.
"Listen here, we had five schools come try to get five coaches in the last four months. And we kep' 'em all! That's right, Auburn! He don't wanna coach for you. He wants to coach for Vanderbilt. He's got a lifetime contract. Same thing, when Johnson wins, they're gonna come for him. But you know what? Johnson is a Vanderbilt man. He's a family man, and a man of his word. Remember the CHARACTER word? There it is again.
"This is a new day at Vanderbilt. It's time to PLAY, not just talk about playin'. You won't hear any Vanderbilt players saying, this is our year. They're just gonna come out and play, and we'll just see when the Gamecocks roll in here. It won't be the end of the world if we don't win, but...
"But wait a minute. I ain't even gonna say that. WE'RE GONNA WIN. It's time for us Vanderbilt fans, me included to start saying WE'RE GONNA WIN. Every game, and we're not gonna worry about who we're playing. It's decided every weekend out on that football field. It's the players. They're the ones that care. They're the ones that put out the sweat and the guts... and the academics, and that ain't no day at the beach either.
"Look, we finished in the Sweet 16 last year in EVERY SPORT except soccer and football. And we're fixin' to do something about that this year. When we went through that restructurin', all the media said, now Vanderbilt is gonna start losin' in ever'thing! Well, WE WON in ever'thing. Then they said, well, now you're gonna lose all your good coaches. Well, we kept all our good coaches. Have you noticed somethin'? They haven't wrote anything lately.
"They can't write anything bad right now. We're undefeated in football. We won in everything else. But I'll truly say this: evidently in the South, we're gonna hafta win football games to be respected. Look at our tennis, look at our baseball... everything has come together. But we have GOT to beat some people in football to get that exposure.
"We've got to manhandle South Carolina. We've got to beat 'em up. We've got to be a Vanderbilt team that's never played like this before. Face it, this is not a finesse league. It's about linin' up across from the guy in front of you, and beatin' him up. That's what it's got to be! It's got to be, no pun intended, a cockfight. We've got to whoop 'em, we've got to skin 'em, and we've got to feather 'em.
"We really need to beat 'em BAD. We need to stop makin' it so comf'table for ALLLL these other schools to come in here on a Saturday night, beat Vanderbilt, get drunk, go to the Opry, and just have a gay old time, y'know? THOSE DAYS ARE GONNA HAFTA STOP! I'm not sayin' taunt the other team's fans or anything like that, but we've gotta beat their football team! That's how you do your talkin'. You beat their football team, and they do all your talkin' for ya!
"It ain't no fun no more to come play Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym! That ain't no FUN! And there's a reason for that. And it ain't me... it's all the fans, yeah, but it's that BAIS-ketball team beatin' you on that floor out there that makes it no fun.
"Look at the baseball team. It ain't no fun to come play us in baseball no more. Gentlemen, it's a new day at Vanderbilt, and football is gonna be the same way. We've got to do it in football too.
"We need the fans to get out here. Hey, you know me and you are gonna be there, but we need to beat South Carolina to bring in those people that are out there sayin', 'Eh, I don't know. We'll wait and see.' You beat South Carolina and win two or three of those first games, then you start fillin' up the place. That's the way you start making tradition, bubba."