Oh, for the good old days when the most annoying thing about the Southeastern Conference was More Cowbell.
Now I’m afraid there’s a crisis brewing in Omaha, where much of the SEC tends to make the two-week pilgrimage for the College World Series.
At last count, four of them were on hand for this year’s festival.
Let me just say this up front: Omaha is a ridiculously friendly, forgiving and accepting outpost, its citizens eagerly welcoming visitors for the CWS fortnight and ready to show off the city’s many charms and wares.
They even drive around in a cheery, polite manner, to the point it’s hard to find a traffic jam.
They surely don’t deserve what they’re signed up for this year.
Yes, it’s Vanderbilt.
Condolences in advance to the fair people of Nebraska.
The SEC isn’t in the habit of apologizing for Vanderbilt’s athletic teams, which used to be known mostly for assisting mightily in the league’s efforts to fill out an All-Academic team each year.
The Commodores have been very good in baseball for a while now.
But mention Vanderbilt baseball and you don’t think of David Price or head coach Tim Corbin or JJ Bleday or the 2014 national championship.
You think of the “Vanderbilt Whistler,” then wince and cover your ears.
That incessant whistling during Vandy games has hijacked years of warm and fuzzies for the Commodores —aka, “Homecoming U.” — who always seemed to be fighting long odds by using actual egg heads to compete against all those SEC jock factories.
No more. Now Vandy is just a Whistler who’s an affront to the senses, all of it going four-square against most measurements of common decency.
You just thought the “S-E-C ... S-E-C!” chant was irritating when the league is taunting the rest of America.
The Vandy Whistler makes Mississippi State’s cowbells sound like a soothing lullaby.
It’s the most excruciating sound known to sports with the possible exception of those South African vuvuzela horns that noise-polluted the World Cup a few years ago.
But that was soccer. Those fans deserved what they got.
This is baseball, college baseball,, America’s Pastime, the NCAA’s most peaceful undertaking.
It deserves better.
Vandy deserves better.
Vanderbilt is better.
I find it hard to believe, but apparently many Vanderbilt fans approve of these antics. Maybe, after all these years, they find it reassuring that they can finally do something that gets on other teams’ nerves.
Some Vandy fans don’t like it anymore than opposing fans or TV viewers since it doesn’t support the Commodores as much as it ruins the baseball experience for everybody within earshot.
But it’s worse than we knew.
A lengthy investigative report by the Nashville newspaper, the Tennessean, uncovered the troubling revelation that there are actually two Vandy Whistlers.
Sometimes they work in tandem, sometimes not.
But it took only one of them to torture the SEC tournament a few weeks ago.
You’d think with all the technology available these days that ESPN could invent a filter to eliminate the gosh-awful chirping.
Instead, the SEC Network seemed to be encouraging him, with announcers complaining but also playing right into his hands with lots of air time.
Hello? Generally that’s what any fan who thinks he’s more important than the game is looking for.
But we got to put a face with the annoyance.
You wouldn’t have picked him out a police lineup — which, first amendment rights be damned, is where he belonged — as the stereotypical, button-down, elbow-patch Vanderbilt alum.
Not with a graying, slicked-back mullet that would have made Alabama or Georgia blush, all the while doing his whistling — and this is where I lost all respect — while using two fingers.
Anything that could possibly embarrass the SEC ought to embarrass Vanderbilt.
But apparently not.
So the league office should insist on having the following statement read to the TD Ameritrade Park crowds before each Vanderbilt game in Omaha:
“Your attention please. Please note that the so-called ‘Vandy Whistler’ is not officially affiliated with the Southeastern Conference, nor does he (they) reflect the views, values, sensibilities or acoustics of the league, which otherwise comes to Omaha each year in peace and with good will and with more than a few kegs to share. We ask for your patience in this delicate matter and please know that we don’t like it anymore than you do. Also, we would gladly take any suggestions on ridding this menace from the college baseball landscape as, after year’s of frustration and more than a few lingering headaches, we are fresh out of ideas.”
Remember the other day when I suggested Florida State and coach Mike Martin as an adopted team to root for in the CWS.
But if you’re one of those more comfortable rooting against, something, I’d suggest Vanderbilt. The sooner the Commodores are sent home from Omaha, the better it will be for everybody.
Pro tip: Mute the TV first.