Vanderbilt fans hard to spot around stadium before Missouri football game

Saturday, October 6, 2012 | 6:28 p.m. CDT; updated 6:10 p.m. CDT, Sunday, October 7, 2012
A sizable crowd came out to tailgate Saturday afternoon at Lot X before Missouri's football game against Vanderbilt.

COLUMBIA — It was all black and gold around Memorial Stadium just two hours before kickoff of the game between the Missouri Tigers and the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday.

And it wasn't just because both schools' official colors are black and gold.

When Missouri hosted Georgia, fans in red could be seen all around the stadium. Plenty of maroon and gold was seen when Arizona State came to town. Even Southeastern Louisiana was represented with sprinkles of green and gold in the crowd of tailgaters before Missouri's home-opener.

But Vanderbilt fans were not easy to find.

Even Missouri fans around the stadium were quieter than usual, as to be expected on a chilly day with a 1-3 opponent in town.

Lot G, where Dorial Green-Beckham and two other Missouri players were arrested Wednesday night for marijuana possession, was the liveliest spot around Memorial Stadium. The lot sits low behind the south end of the stadium and is cloaked by trees.

Saturday in Lot G, smoke was coming from grills and fire pits across the lot. After loading wood into a black, spherical fire pit, one group of fans gathered around a fire. It made a loud crackling sound while the orange flame burned strong.

Missouri fans filled the lot and carried on the usual tailgating activities like eating, bean bag tossing and playing catch.

Justin Travis, a Vanderbilt fan since childhood, made the trip from Nashville, Tenn. He became a fan as a child when the Commodores were the closest program to where he lived. Travis is a rare breed. He supports the team, despite never attending the school.

With larger schools like Tennessee or Alabama, this might not be so surprising. But not many people are eager to jump on the bandwagon of the Vanderbilt football program, a longtime conference doormat.

But Travis is loyal. He says his father, who stopped going to school after eighth grade, was a Vanderbilt fan, too.

Travis goes to all the Commodores games in Nashville and occasionally travels for road games. He wears his Vanderbilt colors proudly, with a gold shirt with Vanderbilt in black letters underneath his black jacket. Over his white hair, he has a black baseball cap with a gold Vanderbilt logo on the front. He is excited for the game, though knows he's vastly outnumbered by Tigers fans. He's used to it.

"There's a bit of an inferiority complex. But I find that most fans are very friendly."

Even at Vanderbilt home games, fans are known to be outnumbered by fans of the visiting teams. Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is trying to change that. Travis likes the direction the coach has the program moving in. He feels like they are on the way up.

"Then again, I've felt that way for about 40 years." Travis laughed.

Travis is optimistic about Vanderbilt's chances against Missouri, but added that it's an uphill battle for the Commodores to establish long-term success in a region with many nearby recruiting powerhouses.

"Maybe you can find somebody more positive," Travis said. "I've been at it too long."

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