Silence is Not Golden, and Other Thoughts
by Jim Alderson, 7/13/04

As usual, my buddy the Hoo Lawyer had a suggestion. We were engaged in an activity we often do on Friday afternoons, watering at a local tavern. We were discussing, as usual, the states of our respective schools’ football teams. The Hoo Lawyer adopted a facial expression that indicated to me that those few cells still operating in that gin-soaked brain of his were as furiously at work attempting to formulate a semi-intelligent response to the verbal riposte I had just delivered, demonstrating again why his decision to confine his legal practice to the area of real estate and never, ever, get anywhere near a court room was a wise one.

Draining the last of his cocktail and calling for yet another, he said to me, “You know what Tech needs?”

Realizing that I was in yet another episode of ‘Hoo Eye For The Hokie Guy’ and that he would tell me no matter my answer, I determined that the path of least resistance dictated the response of “What?” The answer was quick and to the point, at least, causing only a few drops of gin to be sprayed from his mouth onto my glasses as he informed me, “A law school.” He continued, however, and I bobbed and weaved like Ali in Manila to escape what became a steady stream as he expounded, informing me that law schools breed lawyers, and lawyers eventually become judges who just might look favorably upon recalcitrant athletes that hail from their alma mater.

He used as an example all of those Hoo football and basketball players who always seem to be the beneficiaries of serious judicial restraint, and the recent example of Willie Williams receiving the get-tough sentence of probation for violating probation. This Canes-friendly sentence was handed down by a judge who happened to be an alumnus of Miami and no doubt has seen his season tickets at the Orange Bowl upgraded. The Hoo Lawyer might have a point. Now that Tech’s ACC membership is out of the way, perhaps Dr. Steger can get right on it.

Of course, a better solution would be for Tech athletes to simply cease and desist from engaging in behavior that causes their names to adorn so many police blotters. That seems to be difficult, however, as last week’s arrest of Marcus Vick would indicate. Not for the first time do I ponder exactly what runs through the minds of young men. I could not figure it out as a father and still can’t. It is simply inconceivable to me that Marcus would be stupid enough to engage in the activity for which he is charged. If I was facing thirty days in the slammer I would be doing a number of things, most involving booking passage to the Cayman Islands. I can state with a high degree of certainty that I would not decide to cop some weed and go joyriding down I-64 in excess of 85 MPH. What was he thinking?

While it is difficult to ascertain the motivations for the behavior of Marcus, it is fairly easy to determine what he was not thinking about, and that is the impact that a pattern of self-destructive behavior is having on the football program at Virginia Tech. Marcus was vital to the planning for this year’s team that has suffered numerous losses to graduation and early NFL entry. As the coaching staff scrambles to redefine roles for the '04 Hokies, another casualty of Marcus’ foolish behavior would seem to be Cory Holt. Bryan Randall never had the luxury and benefit of a red-shirt year, and it now appears that Holt will not either. Marcus might be on a personal fast track to the Arena league, but his actions will produce negative repercussions for the Tech program through 2008, when it might have been reasonably expected Tech would have in Holt a fifth-year experienced senior quarterback. Marcus Vick is not doing himself or his teammates any favors. To place his own well-being at risk is one thing, but Marcus is also showing a profound disrespect for the Virginia Tech football program.

That disrespect has to be dealt with, and the ‘how’ has become a serious topic of message board conversation. There has been precious little in the way of guidance from Tech as a cone of silence has again descended over Jamerson. Aside from the contrived and goofy statements from the Athletic Director saying he would not reveal the terms of the punishments handed down to Marcus, Mike Imoh and Brendan Hill for their previous transgressions unless he did, which happened shortly after news broke of Marcus’ latest arrest, there has been precious little public comment from Tech and none from the man in charge of the football team, Frank Beamer.

While algroh has never met a media outlet he didn’t like and will prattle on for hours about most anything, as he did following the arrest of wide receiver Ottawa Anderson, Frank Beamer demonstrates what looks like a profound distrust of the media. About all you ever hear publicly from Frank are inane and generic comments such as how he can find very few differences between the JMU football team and the '72 Dolphins. In crisis situations such as this, Frank heads straight to ground and virtually disappears. It would seem there could be some middle ground found between this attitude and that of algroh. The Virginia Tech fans whose increasingly larger checks are financing the football program have a right to some comments from the guy who is paid a lot of money to run the team.

Last Thursday and Friday WDBJ-TV in Roanoke ran a series on its local sports segments on the spate of arrests that have plagued both Tech and the Hoos. Among those interviewed were Seth Greenberg, algroh, Debbie Ryan and Craig Littlepage. Billy Hite spoke for Tech football, as Channel 7’s Steve Mason informed us that Frank Beamer had refused an interview request or any comment whatsoever. Those of us who have passionate feelings about Tech football are owed a little more than that, Frank.

The question arises as to what to do about Marcus Vick. That is the decision for the Athletic Director and Frank Beamer. In the past Frank has shown a tolerance for player misbehavior that at times has been positively Bobby Bowden-like. I have no idea what will happen with Marcus Vick, or even if he desires to continue to be a member of the Virginia Tech football program. I would think that, given past actions as a guide, Frank would be inclined to allow him to remain on the team. If so, it would seem that it is imperative that some way be found to get Marcus to screw his head on straight.

I have no idea whether money is the root of all evil, but I certainly would not be averse to determining how sudden wealth might change my behavior. In the case of Marcus Vick it would seem that the largesse provided by brother Mike has not had a positive effect. I do not personally know Marcus, or Mike for that matter. The mental image for me of Mike Vick is that dazzling smile that is proving so attractive to television marketers. It is a rarity for Mike not to be wearing that smile. I’m not sure I have ever seen it on the face of Marcus. There would seem to be some indications that despite the material benefits, he is not entirely happy being Marcus Vick and carrying that famous name.

Armchair amateur psychoanalysis aside, it would seem that if Marcus Vick is to remain in the Tech program there have to be some changes made. I wonder if a good start would not be the money? Mike has at least in part been enabling Marcus. Perhaps it is time for the cash flow to be cut off - no more Escalade, no more apartment, no more monthly allowance, no more fake IDs. Maybe if the conditions of the environment of Marcus were to become more in line with those experienced by Mike when he was at Tech, perhaps his actions would, too.

And so another arrest has rocked Tech football. Tech fans are forced to divert time from what should be the exciting anticipation of our first ACC season to that of more player transgressions. I suppose we could follow the advice of the Hoo Lawyer and look to start a law school in the hopes of more lenient sentences. I would rather that Tech not contribute to the country’s oversupply of lawyers because Tech would not need to. Even as rumors swirl, please make the latest arrest of Marcus Vick the last one both for him and anybody else associated with Tech football for a good long time.

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