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.