Set up ten pins tonight, we’re going bowling

Tonight is the night. The Hokies play Auburn tonight in the Sugar Bowl. I’m more excited for this game than I have been for any football game in the last five years. I won’t regale bore anyone with the details of tonight’s game because it’s not necessary. And I’d probably suffer an aneurysm if I get any more excited about this game. Go Hokies!

So instead I offer a glimpse back to five years ago. No game will ever hold the same level of unbridled enthusiasm that I felt for the 2000 Sugar Bowl. Virginia Tech rose from the obscurity of my undergraduate years of the early ’90’s to national prominence in the BCS National Championship game against the spawn of Satan Florida State. We had Michael Vick. We had Frank Beamer, the master of Special Teams play. (We still have him, but stick with my creative license.) We had Bud Foster, the defensive genius. (Ditto, which is not a person but a reference to my last side note.) The Seminoles had 783-year-old Chris Wienke, a stupid tomahawk chop, and Peter Warrick getting the team a 90% discount on flights to New Orleans. The victory and our first national championship in the new Hokie Dynasty were a lock.

Like every epic mythical adventure, destiny conspired to land me smack in the middle of it all. I flew to New Orleans on the morning of the game with a return ticket for the next morning. I planned to spend fifteen of my twenty hours in New Orleans on Bourbon Street either counting down the end of my B.N.C. Hokie Time (Before National Championship) or celebrating the first exciting moments of P.N.C. Hokie Time (Post National Championship) because I refused to let my inability to find a hotel room deter me from seeing the biggest game in Virginia Tech history. I believed.

I was forsaken. Instead of that dream, I walked around Bourbon Street in the freezing cold, journeyed on a quest for one vegetarian dish, watched us fall far behind Florida State, screamed myself hoarse as we fought back to take the lead at the end of the third quarter, deflated as the comeback fell short, wandered Bourbon Street in a haze of depression, discovered that many Florida State fans are sore winners assholes, dozed in McDonald’s, caught a cab to the airport at 2am, slept on the cold floor of New Orleans International Airport, contracted bronchitis, and spent the next five days suffering the pain of violent coughing. All of it added up to the single greatest sporting event of my life. To quote Garth Brooks, “I could have missed the pain, But I’d have had to miss the dance”.

Leading up to the 2000 Sugar Bowl, Virginia Tech had to beat Boston College to finish the regular season 11-0. That game started out with a freezing, driving rain storm and ended with the Hokies standing victorious and hordes of fans throwing sugar cubes indiscriminately in the air as the crowd (55,000 strong) danced and cheered in unison as the scoreboard reported Oklahoma’s squeaker win that guaranteed Virginia Tech a spot in the National Championship. This picture from the fourth quarter of that game shows that there can be a storm before the calm.

I'm in this picture, however small I may be.

My passion for Virginia Tech isn’t forged in football trophies or other fleeting awards. Like most college students, I experienced Virginia Tech in my early adulthood, when I hadn’t fully formed my understanding of who I was and where I fit in the world. I arrived in Blacksburg unaware of what lay before me, other than an external view that I was slightly inferior because I had to attend Virginia Tech and not the University of Virginia. I bought into the feeling that I needed to defend Virginia Tech against its external image. Over the years, through maturation and the values embodied by Virginia Tech, I learned to set that aside. Virginia Tech instilled in me a respect for the community of Hokies that exists worldwide. (I’ve encountered fellow Hokies as far away as Krakow, Poland.) We may be a little crazy, but Hokies love being Hokies. The outside world doesn’t understand us because we’re a strong community and indiscriminately rabid supporters of Virginia Tech. Few universities foster the same attitude. I believed then, I believe now, and regardless of tonight’s outcome, I will still believe tomorrow. I never want to be anything other than a Hokie.

Now that I’ve gone all weepy and precious, join with me in wishing for nothing but a good, old-fashioned ass-whooping of the Tigers… Go Hokies!

3 thoughts on “Set up ten pins tonight, we’re going bowling”

  1. The Hokie spirit is, indeed, contagious and unbelievable. Today at school, I passed students wearing Hokie garb. They noticed my lanyards and we exchanged “Go Hokies!” and a smile. It’s great to see kids being indoctrinated at an early age with something that doesn’t stand for closed-mindedness, hatred, intolerance or injustice.
    Go Hokies!

  2. This is what I see …
    ‘the spawn of Satan Florida State.’
    ‘Florida State fans are sore winners assholes,’
    Go Hokies!!!
    (I want you to know … I should be rooting for Auburn … they’re SEC, I’m SEC … but alas, this year, I’ll make an exception!)

  3. One typo exists in your entry. It should have read:
    “…that I was slightly inferior because I had to attend Virginia Tech and not the” College of William and Mary.

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