Commentary: Losing is a moral imperative

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 2:14am

We need to nip this “winning” thing in the bud.

I want my daughter to grow up with all of the character-building experiences that made me the man I am. The recent behavior of Vanderbilt’s football team threatens to deprive her of a meaningful life lesson that could have come straight from the book of Ecclesiastes:

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, for Vandy. One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the dropped pass, the inopportune face-mask, the obtuse play-calling and the fourth-quarter collapse, they abideth forever.

Rooting for the Commodores instills humility, endurance, modesty and a variety of other redeeming virtues. Vince Lombardi, who is probably the best-known philosopher in America, spoke of how “winning is the only thing.” But in reality, the facts of daily life are all about bouncing back from losses.

A little winning is OK, of course, but only enough to set a youngster up for the salutary kick in the teeth of a 1-10 season. The first VU game I ever attended was a 63-8 thrashing of mighty Davidson in 1969, when I was six. The team has never since matched that point total. But it has produced abundant tutorials on how real life works.

It's important that my child learn how it feels to huddle under an army blanket in Neyland Stadium’s cheap seats, in the driving, stinging snow, as Tennessee piles up touchdown after touchdown on the way to a 42-7 win. Lesson: We endure, even unto the final horn, no matter how hopeless our cause.

She needs to undergo the searing ordeals that inoculate us against the expectation of justice in the world. Life ain’t fair. I learned it young.

I am better-prepared to handle the myriad wrongs meted out to me as a grown-up because I know that Dennis Harrison did recover that fumble at Oklahoma in 1977. I know Larry Seivers was definitely out of bounds when he caught that two-point conversion pass from Condredge Holloway at the end of the 1974 UT game. I don’t care what the officials said.

Bobby Johnson’s squad is failing miserably in Vandy’s historic mission of hard-knocks education. Starting off the season with four hard-fought wins in a row might make fans happy at run-of-the-mill universities, but this is Vanderbilt. Such conduct is depriving us of the backbone-building heartbreaks that make us strong.

Unless...

Aha! I get it now.

1984: VU shocks everyone with a four-win start, including a victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Then Tulane comes to town, and a gut-wrenching defeat sets in motion a ruinous slide lasting the rest of the season.

2005: Again, four wins in a row. Next year is here, by golly! Oops, here comes MTSU.

I take it all back. The four-win streak is simply a tried-and-true pedagogical tactic that Vanderbilt has patented.

Auburn is coming to town next. I'll have to take my daughter to that one.

By: VanDSIRROM on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Thomas Wood is a ut fan.

By: Jokapsig on 12/31/69 at 6:00

VanDsirrom, I'm not so sure he is a UT fan. He's articulate as hell. No slam against UT here.No, I really think he's just been a long suffering Vanderbilt fan, whose eyes have been glazed over by years of painful memories out on West End.

By: CedricBlye on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Tom Wood is using satire.