Some notes from a successful visit to Nashville for college football’s opening weekend:
- The game: Although they weren’t dominant, particularly in the first half, Vanderbilt ended up running away with this game late, beating Elon, a 1-AA team, 45-14. Open ‘Dores has a recap here. More highlights and notes from the team are here. Starting quarterback Larry Smith looked confident in the pocket, and many of his incomplete passes were receiver drops. Second-string quarterback Jordan Rodgers (younger brother of Aaron) appeared late in the game and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass on his first play, but he otherwise appeared to struggle with defensive pressure. One point of concern going forward is that the oddsmakers are not high on the Commodores this season, as evidenced by Taco Bell pegging its free taco point threshold at 14. The weather and the opponent made for a slow-motion tailgating environment, but we had a very nice setup, and new features, including an increased presence of cheerleaders rallying the fans and a full processional of the team and coaches, bookended by the marching band, through the center of the tailgating area and into the stadium was a welcomed addition to the pregame schedule.
- Other games: Due to the 6:30 pm kickoff, I only caught the last few minutes of the LSU/Oregon and Boise State/Georgia games, and I was surprised– though not very–that neither was closer. We already had evidence that an A.J. Green-less UGA squad was unlikely to be successful, and Oregon now has a two-game losing streak against SEC opponents. Speaking of Auburn, I would’ve liked to see Utah State finish what it started and shock the obviously weakened defending national champions, but I kept those thoughts to myself while watching in a sports bar full of the Auburn faithful.
- Traveling to Nashville: Three comments here. First, it was a hot weekend, as you can tell from the 108-degree reading at about 5:00 pm in south-central Kentucky on Friday. It did not seem to cool down much for the game on Saturday. Second, while trying to pass my time on the drive to Nashville, I thought about the ideal road trip sporting event radio broadcast. Specifically, if you had to listen to one type of live-event broadcast, featuring teams or competitors other than your favorite, over a drive of at least four hours, what sport would you choose? While caring about the outcome from a pure sports fan perspective is a factor, so too are driving factors like level of excitement such that you don’t drift off at the wheel. My initial list:
- Horse racing. Maybe I was in the Bluegrass State when I thought of this one, but really, I think that although this would be low on the general care-about-the-sports-outcome factor, having hours of two-minute bursts of concentrated excitement could really make the time fly.
- NASCAR. This may be the most compelling radio there is. If you haven’t heard it, tune in sometime and just try to switch the dial before a commercial break.
- NCAA men’s basketball tournament. In particular, the first weekend. Obviously this is only available for spring-breakers in March, but if they could somehow rebroadcast classic first and second-round games, edited down to thirty minutes and have Gus Johnson call them, it would be tough to beat this option.
- World Series elimination games. Instead of having rapid-fire energy bursts to keep your knuckles white on the wheel, a close, important baseball game would invert the strategy by trying to draw time out and making it so you aren’t even noticing how many dozens of cars you’re passing between pitches.
- Honky-tonks and more: No trip to Nashville would be complete without live music, and two essential stops are Robert’s Western World and the Station Inn. The former, “the undisputed home of traditional country music,” is in the midst of the bright lights/honky-tonk strip downtown, and Robert’s feature house band was on the stage, playing to a typically packed house. (See below.) The latter, “bluegrass and roots music’s premiere listening room,” is just off the main drag, and Sunday night’s bluegrass jam was as packed as ever, even given the cool, rainy weather that rolled into town that day. In addition, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my first stop in town, Jackalope Brewing Company, Nashville’s newest microbrewery.
Stay tuned for more on-hand coverage of games throughout the season, and if you want to write about a visit to see your favorite team, let us know: aldland[dot]com[at]gmail[dot]com.