It's the Journey, Not the Destination
by Will Stewart,, 9/5/96

"Old Hokies and New Hokies, Part 2"

I received an email from a gentleman the other day who was a little upset with my August 5th opinion piece, The Difference Between Old Hokies and New Hokies. It seems that in reading the piece, he interpreted my listing of all of those painful “non-accomplishments” in Hokie sports history as criticism of that time period and of the teams that participated in them.

Not at all - I didn’t intend to present the “non-accomplishments” as criticism of those past teams. The only thing I ever criticize is lack of effort, and none of the Hokie teams in the past can be accused of a lack of effort. Everybody wants to win, and certainly those teams were trying their best to do exactly that. The Sugar Bowl champs of last year aren’t any better in spirit than the guys who went 2-8-1 in 1992, and I didn’t intend to make it sound like that.

But in the course of reading this gentleman’s email, I realized that he has a remarkable perspective on Hokie sports, one that we would all do well to emulate. I wanted to share his viewpoint with you in the hopes that you’ll learn as much from his email as I did. Because this is a man who knows what’s important and how to look at life, and in particular, how to look at Hokie sports.

He Was Telling Me That I Missed the Point

The Hokie who sent me the email asked that his letter not be printed, and it was a long one, so I won’t print the whole thing here. But I think that by printing bits and pieces of it, I can convey his points and pass them on to you. The man’s name was Tom, and he told me that his journey with Tech sports began in 1958, which I’ll assume means he was a freshman that year.

Tom made it very apparent early on in the email that he wasn’t happy with the way I had referred to the Hokies’ past as “decades of despair.” He even got off a good line early in the letter, when he said, “You have defined this as an opinion and not a fact, and this is good, because gathering of facts can change opinions.”

Ouch, is my nose bleeding? Because I just got tagged.

The remainder of his letter was a lot less combative, and in his own way, Tom proceeded to take me to school and remind me of some things I think we can all be reminded of. He made a couple of particularly insightful statements that when examined, relay the point of what his letter was about:

Tom said, “I sensed that you are looking for a destination and focusing on when and where you want to end up, rather than the journey.” Shortly after that, he said, “You spoke of going over the top. Does this mean there is a benchmark one reaches in sports? Where does one go after they go over the top?”

Both of those statements are very good points, and I’ll return to them in a minute. Just remember them, for now.

Tom’s Memories of Tech

Like most of you who emailed me in response to that “Old Hokies/New Hokies” column, Tom then proceeded to list for me some of his memories of Virginia Tech sports. Tom goes back to the days of Miles Stadium and the War Memorial gym and here are the things he remembers:

  • Watching Carroll Dale, who would later star at tight end for the championship Green Bay Packer teams of the 1960’s.
  • Watching Alger Pugh play football for the Hokies in Victory Stadium in Roanoke.
  • Sitting on the grass at Miles Stadium in Blacksburg.
  • The tradition of playing the VMI football game on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Skipping the evening meal to get a seat for the basketball games in the War Memorial gymnasium; watching Chris Smith and Ayersman play.
  • Watching the Hokies play basketball against Jerry West in the 1960 Southern Conference tournament.
  • After being in the Marines Corps for three years, returning to Blacksburg to see Tech play Alabama in Lane Stadium. It was the first time Tom had seen Tech play in Lane Stadium, and he got caught in a traffic jam on I-81 on Christiansburg mountain as 40,000 Hokie fans jammed the highway.
  • The defenses of the 60’s and the offenses of the 70’s.
  • The days when the men wore coats and ties and the ladies wore high heels to football games.
  • Reminiscing with old VMI friends about the Tech / VMI football rivalry.

Notice anything about that list of memories? I did. It’s completely devoid of scores and the words “win” and “lose.” When Tom remembers four decades of Tech sports, he doesn’t think about what happened. He thinks about what it was like. Because to him, that’s what’s important about all this.

It’s the journey, not the destination.

And Here’s Why the Journey’s Important

So what happens, now that we’ve won the Sugar Bowl? Are we “over the top”? Do we quit now? Of course not. We set the goal a little higher and shoot for it again. If we hit that mark, well, we’ll move it yet again and go for something better.

You can always do better. Doing better is part of the satisfaction we get out of life, but in the end, it’s the effort and the striving that make it all worthwhile, not what we accomplish. As they say, win or lose, it’s the “trying” that reveals our true character to us. And it’s the things we experience along the way that shape our lives and memories. Tom, you see, knows that.

In this day and age, when we’re obsessed with rankings and scores and measuring our performance against the next guy’s benchmark, we tend to forget to look around us as we go through life, and treasure what we have and the things we’ve experienced.

Tom obviously has some very special memories of attending sports events at Virginia Tech, like all of us do. So Tom, if you feel that I trivialized your treasured memories of Tech sports by characterizing those times as decades of “non-accomplishment,” then for that, I apologize. I know how I would feel if someone told me the ‘80’s were a “decade of despair” for Virginia Tech. I’d say “Hey! What about Bruce Smith? What about Dell Curry and Bimbo Coles? What about the Peach Bowl?!?!” In setting me straight, Tom reminded me and everyone who reads Hokie Central what’s important.

I repeat: it's the journey, not the destination.

So the next time you remember the Sugar Bowl, try not to think of the score, and the way the Hokies pasted Texas. Remember instead how awed you were when you came up the tunnel in the Superdome for the first time and saw how HUGE it is. Remember the delirious faces of 30,000 of your closest friends as we all cheered on the team that had brought us so much fun during the year. Remember what it was like seeing Mike Bianchin, Tech’s hulking offensive tackle, cry like a baby after the game, and seeing J.C. Price hoist the lunch pail over his head. And remember what it was like when it was over, and you couldn’t wait eight months for it to start all over again.

Remember not what it was like to win, but what it was like to share it with your friends later. That’s what’s important. I think we all know that at heart, but Tom just needed to remind me of it.

Thanks for your letter, Tom. It’s letters like yours that make all the time I spend on Hokie Central worthwhile.


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