by Bill Glose, 10/4/01
My cableís fixed now, so I can watch football games at home once again. That wasnít true for the UConn game, when I was forced to watch the game at my girlfriendís house. After the football-filled Saturday at her house, she gained a better understanding of my fanaticism. That isnít to say she understood why Iím that way, but at least she has a better definition of Ďthat way.í
After the game, she said, "Youíve got a problem," announcing it in a gentle, pitying manner. "You need help," she continued, and I looked around, expecting to see a group of my friends entering the room for a good old-fashioned intercession. She said more, but once I saw no one else to back her, I shifted into Ďmm, hmm,í mode and none of it stuck with me.
She decompressed on Sunday and was finally able to laugh about it by Monday. Dawn is a court bailiff, so she told the judge about my Hokiemania, and he felt the need to belt out a few Tech jokes. Heís a Washington & Lee graduate, so he dispelled my theory that only Hoos suffer from Hokie envy. One of his jokes was actually pretty funny (Why do so many Hokies wear orange? Because they can go to the game on Saturday, go hunting Sunday, and pick up trash on the side of the road Monday without ever changing). I held my tongue, figuring it was best not to upset the long arm of the law. Besides, being from W&L, the judge is probably excited with the news that a lot of their grads are going on to college now.
On Tuesday, one of my good friends explained my condition to her. "Bill graduated from Tech over ten years ago," he started out. "Yet, he still refers to their accomplishments in the first person. We are playing West Virginia this weekend. We are going to clean their clock. We, we, we."
Iíd never thought of it before, but he was right. Though Iíve been a member of many organizations, I refer to each of them as them after moving on. They did this or they did that. Except with Virginia Tech. That will always be home, and I will always consider myself a part of it. Not because a scroll of paper says I spent four years of my life there Ė okay, so it was more like five-and-a-half Ė but because of the everlasting memories and bonds that were forged while there.
Dawn and I both nodded, and a grin slowly crossed my face. She didnít know it at the time, but I had decided to give her the thrill of a lifetime. For her to fully understand, she would have to experience Hokie-ness for herself. I was taking her on a road trip to Blacksburg.
Like a kid waking to catch Santa Claus on Christmas morning, I was up long before sunrise. Iíd packed the car the night before, but I still double-checked to make sure everything was ready. I arrived at Dawnís house with a smile on my face and a Hokie T-shirt in my hand. I told her the night before that I would bring something for her to wear, but she hadnít taken me seriously. She squinted at me through sleepy eyes and mumbled something like, whassafor?
"Today will be nothing but maroon," I said. "Youíll see." She took the shirt, and after ironing it (seriously!) and getting her stuff together, we were on our way. We were a little behind my schedule, but since Iíd padded our time by about 5 hours, we still looked good, hitting the road at 2 in the morning.
September 8 was a foggy day, but it burnt off long before we started climbing the mountains. Living in the flatlands of Hampton Roads, Iím always excited by these trips. The scenery has a mystical aura. Vibrant bushes and rock outcroppings dot the landscape while cows and sheep graze on the lush land. In a sea of green grass, white flowers bloom on trees and yellow daisies form inviting beds. The hues are splendid, but, as I told Dawn earlier, the color of the day is maroon. The last hundred miles of our trip, squadrons of Hokie flags, magnets, and stickers surrounded us as faithful legions joined our trek.
After I had decided to take Dawn to the game, I girded myself for the scalpers. However, Fred (HokieBoy) hooked me up on TSL's Ticket Exchange board and charged me face value. We met in Lot 5, and he further endeared himself to us by asking us to join his pre-game tailgate. We passed on the grilled offerings, but had some snacks and an excellent fruit cocktail (wink, wink). We were having a great time with Fred, his wife, and their friends, but we had to leave so Dawn could get the full campus tour.
I felt like I was showing her the house I had grown up in, pointing out notches on the kitchen doorway representing my height at various years. Simply seeing The Balcony, Backstreets Pizza, and Brodie Hall gave me chills. Each landmark evoked memories, and I felt supercharged, running words together as I tried to explain their significance. Dawn ambled along, taking in as much as she could, every so often telling me to slow down. I told her about sleeping out for tickets to see the Hurryin' Hokies in the Cassell, about the entire stadium screaming "Buuuuuruuuce!" whenever the god of sacks made a great play, about the great snowball fights between the Cadets and civilians, and about running through the steam tunnels in winter.
We wound our way through campus, and Dawn was impressed with the architecture, the Hokiestone, and the atmosphere. I was amazed at all the new buildings. Where Prairie quad used to be open, it was now crowded with new dorms. Wow, I thought, that many more Hokies. We arrived at the drill field just in time to see the Corps marching off, and I was pleased to see a strong contingent of cadets. We made our way through upper quad, around the academic buildings, and settled in at the Duck Pond for a breather. "Iím starting to understand," Dawn said.
But, she only understood half of it Ė the beauty of the campus. But, the people are what makes us family. Weíd already experienced HokieBoyís hospitality, now it was time to dive into the Lane Stadium crowd. We followed the flow of people, found our seats, and then the mayhem began.
The Hokie-Vision intro showed clips of players preparing for the game Ė short shots of them putting on pads, gloves, face paint. When they were ready for battle, it showed them lining up and then cut to a live shot of the tunnel. Then, they burst onto Worsham field and the crowd erupted. Dawnís eyes got wide as she looked about. "Itís like the Roman Coliseum," she exclaimed. The Western Michigan players might have shared that opinion after being fed to the Hokies.
She followed my lead, cheering when I did. On exceptional plays, Iíd grab her by the shoulders and shake her about like a rag doll. She learned quickly to avoid the death-rattle by putting her hands up for a high five, and by the end of the game her hands were raw.
During the game, the points that thrilled Dawn the most didnít have to do with the play-calling. Her lasting memories came from watching the Tubas lead the stadium in the Hokie Pokie, from the gobbler call screeching over the loud speaker, and from waving at the visitors in the gameís closing minutes (na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye). She was also impressed with the demeanor of our players after the game as they hung around and signed autographs for fans. I leaned over the wall to congratulate the team and got Jarrett Ferguson and Kevin Jones to sign my program. I gave up my spot to a girl who wanted to meet Lee Suggs. Lee shook her hand and she turned back to her dad, saying, "Wow. Iím never going to wash this hand again!"
When we made our trip back east, Dawn was a changed woman. She, too, had a Blacksburg handprint that will never wash off. She understands a little bit more of what it means to be a Hokie. Itís why we watch the games and follow every little thing the players do, why we tune in to the Hokie Hotline, and scan the TSL message board daily. Itís why we say Ďweí when referring to Tech.
Itís what makes Virginia Tech home.
Bill Glose is the editor of the literary journal, Virginia Adversaria. His fiction has been accepted for publication in four countries and he was recently named the winner of the 2001 F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest. One of his stories is currently online at Short Stories Magazine (http://www.shortstoriesmagazine.com/fall.htm).