Back to Lane Stadium

A couple of weeks ago, my former roommate Josh posed a challenge to our circle of male Northern Virginia friends: join him on a quest to get tickets to the Thursday night Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech football game, drive down to Blacksburg, catch the game and return home the same night so some of us could go to work the next day. My initial reaction that it was a fool’s errand was quickly overtaken by the idea of the awesomeness of such an epic road trip, that we’d even consider it in the stage of our lives when most of us are married, buying houses, working overtime in jobs we’re lucky to have, and generally distracted by the real world. Plus, it had been more than two years since I’d seen a VT game in Lane Stadium, so I was well overdue. I jumped on board without wanting to stop and analyze what it would mean to catch a 7:30 game that was by no means a certain win, leave town by midnight if we were lucky, and then drive four hours back home.

Last night (and early this morning) was the culmination of our adventure, and it worked out beautifully. Even though Matt, Josh, Brian, and I were coming from three different areas of Virginia, we worked out a plan that kept us mainly on the interstate and efficiently transported us to and from the game. Despite traffic and a rainy drive down I-81, we had plenty of time to walk downtown Blacksburg and tailgate at a satellite office of Brian’s workplace. Best of all, the rain disappeared a couple of hours before kickoff, leaving a cold but tolerable evening for football behind.

The game itself wasn’t a pretty win, and for nearly three quarters my emotions were vacillating and leaving me gasping for breath, hoping that the Hokies wouldn’t make us all endure another heartbreaking loss to a Georgia Tech team that seems to have our number. But no matter what was happening on the field, I couldn’t ignore the fireworks and cheers, the announcers and cheerleaders, the Highty Tighties and Marching Virginians, the smoked turkey legs and hot chocolate – it felt right to be a part of that again. And in the talent of David Wilson‘s 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, after which the entire stadium was vibrating with insanity, right up to Rashad Carmichael‘s interception in the final seconds to seal the win and keep the game out of overtime, the Hokies delivered. Just like that, the car ride home promised to be a goofy, lighthearted four hours instead of a steering wheel-pounding, sulking eternity. Go Hokies!

Here’s the photo evidence of the night, submitted for your approval.

hokieswinfireworks

You’re A Good Hokie, Charlie Brown

iTunes songs left: 224
It’s been a tough weekend to be a Hokie. As if the football embarrassment last night wasn’t enough, I just watched what could have been our first basketball upset of Duke in Durham, ever, be overturned by a last-second stunner. I mean, tonight’s basketball game should at least let everyone know that we have, in fact, arrived in basketball (for the most part), but the sting and the shock comes too soon after the disaster in Jacksonville.
I’m going to try to negate it by pointing out a few positive things that are associated with being a Hokie, particularly a Hokie amongst a strong concentration of fellow alumni. Witness Saturday afternoon, when I went shopping wearing my new VT hoodie. It wasn’t long before one elderly gentlemen gave a smile, a thumbs-up, and asked me if we were going to win later that night. I returned the thumbs-up and replied, “I sure hope so!” During the rest of my trip around Fairfax, I got a couple of manly nods from passing folks in orange and maroon, and one guy from Michigan struck up a random conversation with me in the lunch line. It reminded me more of being at the Sugar Bowl than being back in Blacksburg, really, because on-campus you expect a certain amount of camaraderie. Though it’s not as concentrated here as it was in New Orleans, you still get that sense of brotherhood when you run across another Hokie.
My point in all this is that even though we sometimes have a lot of hard times to go through, with painful losses to freaking Florida State and Miami and the like, and even though our teams don’t seem to know how to play in big games, we are still a tight group here in the Hokie Nation, and I am proud to be a part of it. Now, all we gotta do is avoid playing in Jacksonville against a team from Florida, and we’ll be ok…
… oh wait, scratch half of that. Ah well, whatever.

Too Many Hurricanes This Year

I’ll refrain from commenting very much on this weekend’s game. The pain is still a little too deep to bear at this point, and Tom and Josh have already written excellent reflections on just what went wrong in Lane Stadium Saturday night. I know on my end, I refused to watch ESPN or read the papers Sunday.
All weekend, in fact, it seemed as if nothing could go right: I got caught in accident traffic on 66 on my way down Friday night, followed by no fewer than two accidents on Sunday evening – one on 81 and then another on 66. My trip back was a total of five hours, but it would have been more if I didn’t at least have the presence of mind to take Route 11 around Lexington/Stuart’s Draft, where the accident traffic began getting serious. Of course, hundreds of other drivers had the same idea, making the trip through the Virginia farmland a little longer than anticipated.
But I’m putting all that behind me, because I still got to see Gina and hang out with my friends at the game, a Ben Folds concert is on Thursday night, and I’m settling in even more into my job. There – the balance is restored.

A Trip To The Park

Editor’s Note: I’m backdating this to Thursday, because that’s where it should really go, even though I definitely didn’t have the time to finish writing this then.
Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending the Virginia Tech and University of Maryland game at College Park. Jeanette scored some tickets from a friend of hers who is still a student at UMD, so when she offered one to me, I accepted it without hesitation. After work, I met up with John-Michael and Jeanette’s friend Stephen, and we headed on up the Metro to meet Jeanette in College Park. I had never been to an away game at Tech before tonight, so the opportunity to watch some Hokie football firsthand up here was very exciting.
And the game, as you probably know by now, was a bit of a nervewrecker for Hokie fans. By halftime, with the score only 7-3, a far cry from the blowout Virginia Tech had by that point in the game last year, we were certainly nervous. However, despite some sloppy shakeups on the Hokie offense, Marcus Vick was able to run like crazy, our defense performed superbly, and Maryland wasn’t able to capitalize on several chances to score. So, we walked out with a respectable 28-9 win.
And I’m glad we did, because I don’t know if I would have survived exiting the stadium if the outcome had been closer, or had resulted in a Maryland victory.
The somewhat “untold” story of the night, if you were watching the game on ESPN, was the behavior of the Maryland fans. I know it’s cool to be fired up about your team, and I have to hand it to Maryland for selling out Byrd Stadium and having a go at being loud, but on numerous occasions tonight, the Maryland students made it clear what kind of fans they are. For one thing, with our tickets being student guest tickets, we had to sit in the student section. Our group arrived early and sat towards the back of the section, while we kept an eye on where some more Hokie fans were going to be sitting. We hadn’t been there five minutes when some drunk guys got right behind us and started cursing us loudly, in many uncreative ways, begging us to turn around so they could scream in our faces. After a while, we realized that the game would not be any fun at all if we didn’t find some Tech people to sit with, so we eventually made our way around to a section behind the Terps’ band, where a few Tech fans with student guest tickets had started carving out their own student section.
Things were fine there for the most part, and we made a good showing of putting a little piece of Lane Stadium inside College Park, but the game was still marred by a few stupid actions on the part of Maryland students. A couple of minutes into the game, one Terrapin doused a Tech fan in front of him by throwing his drink down a few steps. The drink continued to sail down another couple of rows, splashing onto a Maryland mother and one of her kids sitting next to her. Sometime in the third quarter, a one-sided shoving matches erupted in the mass of black that was the student section, as tiny pinpoints of orange and maroon got shoved backwards and forwards, unable to do anything to retaliate because they would probably be mobbed. Those who couldn’t reach the Tech fans threw whatever they could find at them, or got out their cameras to take pictures of the spectacle, as if it was something to cheer about. Security, for its part, sat and watched it happen for a good five minutes before police finally escorted three of the instigators out of the stadium, while a good part of the rest of the student section cheered for them as heroes.
This doesn’t include Maryland’s uncreative cheers against us, including things like the entire section pointing to whatever Tech fans they could find sitting near them, pointing, and in unison identifying them as a certain part of human anatomy. I haven’t even yet mentioned secondhand horror stories about people ripping Tech shirts from their owners and urinating on them in the bathrooms. I haven’t talked about the guy who drunkenly stumbled down to our row and asked to see our tickets, to see if we could prove that we were actually supposed to be sitting there, before wedging his way in to stand between our fans. And then there were the things I was expecting to see: countless signs making fun of Marcus Vick and his legal troubles of previous years, hidden alcohol, and lots of middle fingers.
I will say that we did manage to find a few polite Maryland fans: the family in front of us (even though they didn’t seem to know much about football), a couple of students behind us who merely yelled for their team when the time was right and cracked jokes about the rest of their school’s behavior with us (and gladly took our group picture), and the girl in our original spot in the student section who helped us find out where some more friendly general-admission seats might be. Stephen also managed to get on ESPN toward the end of the game when a sign near us saying “Hokies Crush Terps Again” was aired. I was only two people away from him, so I almost did. And, despite the hostility of the first half, by the time the third quarter was over, our team had placed the period on the score and the alcohol had started wearing off of the Terps, so things calmed down.
My final reflection: I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to College Park again for a game, but I do love away games, for the sheer fact of how nearly universally-respectable, fun, classy, and knowledgable Tech people are. We may have our share of nasty fans, too, but I don’t think Virginia Tech or Lane Stadium has ever had the mob mentality that was displayed tonight.
As for the University of Maryland, shame on you.
EDIT: Josh over at BehindTheNet has also posted his thoughts about Maryland fan behavior, which was apparently equally bad all across the board.

And So It Begins

The clouds above us pepper the impossibly blue sky with splashes of cotton. Cars pour in from every corner of the land, their fans and their doors and roofs decorated in a sea of orange and maroon. As we walk closer, the breeze brings in the smell of freshly fallen leaves and grilled meat. Children throw and play back and forth, dodging between the folding chairs and tables piled high with food. A group laughs, holding their drinks high. A radio or two reaches our ears, some music commingled with commentators trying to predict what’s soon going to happen. The sound of distant drums floats across the air – war drums waiting to be deployed onto the field. The sun casually hangs above us, not too high, not too low, and not too hot.
It’s a perfect day for football.
And that’s a good thing, because…
…it’s Gameday.
Go Hokies!