Game Time ... Again
by Jim Alderson, 9/21/01

Last Monday I turned in a column to Will. I thought it was a good one, but then I usually do. It poked a little fun at fellow TSL columnist Bill Glose, anointing him TSL Poet Laureate, and took some shots at the internecine warfare that I had perceived to have consumed the TSLMB. That column sure seems pretty silly now.

What a difference a day makes. Roughly twenty-four hours after mailing the piece, I received the news that madmen had perpetrated the devastating attack upon this country. All of a sudden football did not seem quite so important anymore. Instead of speculating on the weekend’s games, winners and losers, we were forced to come to grips with an opponent far more sinister than any we will see in Lane Stadium. Perspective has changed.

As Americans scrambled for news of the tragedy, a surprising source of information developed, the TSL Message Board. With usual news Web sites jammed, the board developed into a prime source of information for many Hokies and others. Particularly compelling were the first person accounts from those directly involved or very near to the targets. We learned to our shock and horror that this board had taken casualties, borne by what under different circumstances would be considered an opponent. Hopefully, Michael Mott has gained some small measure of solace from the outpouring of sympathy from the TSLMB. 

Different people react in different ways to tragic circumstances, and posts on the TSLMB ran the gamut of emotions from sorrow to rage. Some reacted as I tend to in most situations, with humor. I find it an effective defense mechanism. To each his or her own. The forum provided by TSL gave all an opportunity to grieve, vent, or otherwise express themselves as they saw fit. It was a powerful statement as to what both message boards and the entire Internet can be.

Events quickly intruded on the football schedule, and a debate sprang up on the propriety of playing the games. Many felt that it was inappropriate and a respectful extended period of time was needed. Others, including me, desired for the diversion football would have provided from the mind-numbing reality and felt they should have been played. That debate is over, and we move on.

Hopefully, games can and will be played this weekend. Tech, one of the few teams not to have their game schedule interrupted, goes to Rutgers to take on the team closest to the World Trade Center attacks. In what will be a very emotional game, the Hokies will look to resume its march towards an outstanding season. It will be good to again have football to focus on.

It won’t be the same, however. Things have changed, and football no longer seems quite as important as it did following the Western Michigan game, which seems to have been played a long, long time ago. I made plans to attend the VT/Rutgers game back in the summer and will still go, but I have a feeling flying into LaGuardia is not going to exactly put me, or any of the other Hokies making the trip, into a solid football frame of mind. I have never been one for public displays of grief, considering it an intensely private emotion, but I have a feeling that will be put to a stern test Friday.

Americans are moving on and attempting to return some sense of normalcy to their lives. College football will play a big role this weekend, giving an outlet for all emotions and demonstrating that even during periods of national catastrophe we can and do rise above it and go on. We will root for our team and cheer their success, but it will be with the knowledge that winning and losing in football is not quite as important as it was before September 11. We have been given a harsh reminder that college football is not life and death. Life and death is life and death.

Jim Alderson, who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports.  While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.


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