I know all about moral victories.
And I should, because I’m a Vanderbilt fan. When I was a Vandy student, I made the pilgrimage to Knoxville for our 1989 game with Tennessee. We were 1-9. The Volunteers were 9-1.
I expected a bit of gracious condescension from our hosts. After all, they were big and powerful and we were small and weak.
It was November in Knoxville. Some of us were wearing Vanderbilt sweatshirts or ballcaps. It wasn't like we had our faces painted or anything.
Still, an orange-clad fan got in our faces and hollered, “We’re gonna kill you!”
I mean, what was there to debate? We were 1-9. They were 9-1. Of course they were going to kill us.
But a funny thing happened. The game started and the Vols didn’t kill us. In fact, we were winning 10-3 going into the fourth quarter. And more than 100,000 fans were groaning. It was a beautiful sound.
It didn’t last, of course. Tennessee’s Carl Pickens caught a touchdown pass and the game was tied and then he intercepted another pass to set up the winning touchdown and then it was over. We lost 17-10.
We’re driving back to Nashville and a guy in an old orange Camaro pulls alongside us and gestures for us to roll down the window. We do. And he smiles as if he’s going to say something graciously condescending.
And then he screams, “We kicked your ass!” And he puts the pedal to the metal and blows away our Honda Accord.
We laughed. Tennessee hadn’t kicked our ass. Instead, we had scared the daylights out of them. We were supposed to get whipped, and we’d almost won.
In fact, we had won. We’d won a moral victory.
And there’d be plenty more where those came from.