And now the Hoos. The Virginia Tech football team, having
ended its ten-game preliminary season sporting an 8-2 record, its usual national
ranking, and a November confidence not seen around these parts in a while, now
moves into two games with its two biggest rivals. First up is the Hoos. Needless
to say, there will be a little more than usual bragging rights on the line.
It was said before this first season in which Tech and the
Hoos will square off as ACC rivals that both being in the same conference would
ratchet up an already spirited rivalry. It sure didnít take long for that to
happen. This first clash between the two as league foes finds a little more on
the line than merely possession of the Commonwealth Cup. The winner of this game
will be guaranteed at least a share of the ACC championship. There will be bowl
ramifications ranging from the Sugar to whatever corporation has hung its name
on that Orlando bowl that used to be referred to as the Tangerine. Tech is the
only ACC team with a shot at winning the title outright, no mean feat for a
squad that was relegated by the media to also-ran status prior to the season.
With so much spice added to the normal run-of-the-mill enthusiasm attached to
this in-state rivalry, it should be quite a game. Letís hope that's all that
I assume that by now even those who spent the days
following Techís rout of Maryland lounging around an island in the South
Pacific or in the biosphere have not managed to reach such a state of
incommunicado that media reports of events over the weekend havenít filtered
in. From the melee in Detroit to the brawl at Clemson, this was not exactly the
brightest moment for organized sport.
Consequences of the fight at Clemson have certainly
clarified the bowl picture for the ACC, narrowing down the choices for the Tire
Bowl. The affray on the floor of Tiger Stadium had been building throughout the
game. South Carolina and Clemson are, like Tech and the Hoos, two state schools
that donít like each other very much. Take the usual emotion of any contest
between the two rivals, and throw in that it was the last regular-season game
for outgoing Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz, and conditions were ripe for
extra-curricular activity. Indications are that the crew of SEC officials had
done little in the way of attempting to control the game, and scuffles flared up
throughout, finally boiling over into the late-game fracas. Passions will be
running at least as high this Saturday in Lane Stadium. Hopefully, there will be
no repeat of the fight at Clemson, or of the one engaged in by Tech and Hoo
players at the end of the game in 1989 which cost Frank Beamer a tooth as he
attempted to separate combatants.
I feel certain both coaching staffs will mention to their
teams this week the necessity of playing under control. Hopefully the Tech
coaches will make it a point of emphasis. Chances are good that ACC supervisors
of officials will instruct Saturdayís officiating crew to take a very hard
line towards any emotional flare-ups that might cause things to get out of hand.
There will likely be very little official tolerance for Techís annoying habit
of committing silly personal foul penalties. The last thing Tech will need in
what is likely to be a very close game is to surrender bushels of field position
in penalties or to have a key player ejected from the game. Keep your wits about
you, Tech, as we certainly do not need to be responsible for the ACC not meeting
its required number of bowl teams.
happened in Detroit was far worse, unless you were a Clemson fan who had
already bought bowl tickets. It involved fans. It is a natural impulse to
write the whole episode off as just more antics of immature NBA players. Ron
Artest has a history that strongly hints at emotional instability. He had no
business whatsoever charging into the Palace stands and richly deserved the
draconian suspension handed down by NBA Commissioner David Stern, who suspended
Artest for the remainder of the season, without pay (73 games and $5.5 million).
Chances are, however, that Artest would have had to find some other place and
event to display his latest bit of mental unsteadiness had not some idiot fan
decided to waste a perfectly good beer by dumping it on the player. The
situation might not have escalated into one of sportís worst spectacles had
there not been moronic fans on hand who decided to attempt to turn the whole
thing into a professional wrestling pay-per-view extravaganza. Nobody was
without blame last Friday night in Detroit, including those fans who were not
content to merely observe the action but instead elected to become part of it.
At the top of that list are those who came onto the floor.
While a fan should, when purchasing a ticket to an
athletic event, be entitled to the reasonable expectation that he can watch the
game without having to concern himself with whether some crazed player is
suddenly going to come charging into the bleachers and begin launching
haymakers, those fans who venture onto a court or playing field immediately
forfeit that right. It was with amusement and satisfaction that I observed that
overweight fan, whose alcohol-induced flight of fancy somehow convinced him that
he could tangle with a superbly-conditioned athlete, go sprawling to the floor.
It served him right.
Tech fans are no strangers to aberrant fan behavior. There
are many Hokies, including this one, who have vowed never again to set foot
inside Mountaineer Field. Those disturbing images of last yearís fan riot
following the Tech-WVU game remain all too vivid and are reason enough to never
again schedule them in anything. Those WVU fans on the field deserved the mace
in the eyes, as does most anyone else who ventures from the stands onto a
It has become quite fashionable these days in college
athletics for fans, primarily students, to, at the final gun, act as those their
team had never before won an athletic contest and charge onto the basketball
court or football field to engage in celebrations ranging from Carolina students
trying to figure out how to bring down goal posts following their last-second
win over Miami to last yearís carnage at Morgantown. No good is going to come
We live in an age where entirely too many people feel
entitled to engage in whatever behavior they desire with no consequences to
whatever actions might pop into their empty heads. This misplaced sense of
entitlement now manifests itself in fans feeling that the purchase of a ticket
allows them the right to dump beer and throw whatever - popcorn, batteries,
empty liquor bottles, etc. - at players. It also has resulted in fans running
onto the field and court at the end of games like lemmings, all the while
claiming that it is their Ďright.í It ainít.
Virginia Tech fans have become recognized as some of the
best in the business. Lane Stadium is one of the great venues in sports. The
electric atmosphere inside Lane last Thursday night had much to do with rattling
Maryland. Other schools marvel at the passion, dedication and enthusiasm
routinely shown by Tech fans. Techís first trip around the ACC has shown that
there are few, if any, fan environments that can match Techís. They sure
cannot at Groves Stadium, Bobby Dodd Stadium, or Kenan Stadium. Tech fans have
demonstrated that they can wildly support the Hokies and do it while respecting
the game, the stadium and the opponent. There have been no scenes in Lane
remotely resembling what happened in Detroit or last year at WVU. Hopefully, it
will stay that way.
Saturdayís game against the Hoos is a big one. Emotions
will be high because there is a lot on the line. This Virginia Tech football
team is in a position to become a special one. Lane needs to be at a fever pitch
and I suspect it will be, providing the team the outstanding fan support it has
come to expect, one that, no matter how much they try to rip off our traditions
in Hooville, algroh can still only dream of. Letís rock the house. And, if the
fortunes of football smile on us with a victory, or if they donít, remember:
we have been there before.