Stand and Deliver
by Will Stewart,, 12/23/96

The letters that I posted to the Mailbag the other day have drawn a second wave of correspondence in reply. This second set of emails have taken on a different tone than the first wave, which is expected, because while the first emails were about the rape arrests, the second set of emails is about the first set of emails.

I’ve sifted through another 10 or so letters, and most of them were expressing alarm at some of the negative comments from other Hokie fans. Specifically, the message is this: "if the troubles the team has gone through this year have prompted you to drop your support of them, then fine. Go away, because you’re not a true Hokie fan to begin with."

I personally feel that it’s each and every Hokie’s individual decision as to whether or not they want to continue to support the team by donating money, buying season tickets, going to the games, and traveling to bowls. Some people feel that the off-the-field problems are a direct insult to them as fans, and that players who get into trouble are reflecting poorly on themselves, the team, the university, and its fans and alumni. People who feel this way are bailing out because they’ve had enough, and their toleration level has been crossed.

That’s fine if you feel that way. I’m not going to pass judgment on you, because as I said, it’s up to each individual to decide how they feel. Some people are simply backing off because they don’t want to be associated with such behavior. In the same way that they wouldn’t want to hang around with a person who drinks too much, curses too much, or gets into too many fights, they don’t want to root for a football team that gets into too much trouble.

For me, it’s different. I’ll admit that when I first heard of the latest trouble, I almost gave up. I almost tried to cancel my Orange Bowl plans and just stay home, because I didn’t think I could continue to be enthusiastic enough about Hokie football to justify paying that much money to go to the game. I realized that the reason I hadn’t been more excited about the victories over ECU, Miami, WVU, and Virginia was that in my mind, the off-the-field problems had been tainting a great season on the field. I didn’t want to fire the coach or condemn all of the players for what a few were doing. It’s just that my excitement level was down, and I thought I’d been disappointed one too many times to keep going right now.

But you see, I can’t quit. I’ve been a Hokie fan for over twenty years now, since I was about ten years old. The orange and maroon is in my blood to stay, for better or for worse, pardon the expression. Even if I wanted to quit loving the Hokies, I can’t. I’ve had twenty years of good and bad times, and they were all times where Hokie fans celebrated victories together, mourned losses together, bemoaned a lack of national respect together, and occasionally called for a coach’s job ... and we did everything together.

Tough Times in Blacksburg - and How to Deal With Them

And now we’re getting torn apart. We’re getting split up into groups who want to do this and that, and we’re arguing about what the best way is to stop these things that are going on. We’re hearing it from all corners - from the press, from fans of other teams, and from our own fans (believe me, I’ve been hearing it). In the midst of all this, we’ve completely forgotten that in about a week, the Hokies are playing the Huskers in the Orange Bowl.

So for me, the decision, and the advice, is this: it’s time to dig in. Time to present a unified front to all of the outsiders who are blasting us and calling us a renegade program. It’s time to get behind the team, behind the players and the coaches, and help them get through this.

I watch the news and read the articles, and although there’s been too much for me to share all of it with you, the bottom line is this: the Tech administration and coaching staff are distraught and horrified that this stuff is going on. They’re alarmed to the point that they’re shooting first and asking questions later, suspending players from the team who haven’t even had their day in court yet. They want to stop the bleeding as much as we do, to the point where they’re risking lawsuits from players by taking a tough stance.

The athletic department has started working on a plan to deal with players (of all sports, not just football) who are charged with crimes. The plan will be submitted to the board of visitors in February, and it will contain sanctions to deal with various offenses.

For his part, Beamer has taken off the kid gloves he has worn for so long, having finally learned his lesson, and he said, "Whatever is discussed there, it will not be as strong as what I will do with members of our team." It’s been a long, hard year for the coach, one which saw him nearly break down in tears after his press conference the other day, as he talked about “all the good kids” in the Tech program. He’s a man who feels betrayed by people he thought he could trust, and he has come to realize that he needs to start treating those people a different way. 85 young men will suffer because of the actions of less than a quarter of them, but Beamer now knows it has to be that way.

So the administration and the coaching staff care. They care a lot. And they’re taking steps to do something about it, steps that include not just punitive measures, but education and support measures, as well. Sure, that’s closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out, but at least they’re taking action.

And that’s good enough for me. I’ll keep donating money and buying season tickets, because it’s my opinion that if we all bail out now, the athletic department won’t have the support and the resources that they’ll need to carry this through.

And to Hokie fans who want to quit, who no longer want to support this team, then I have one thing to say: if you go, don’t come back. Stay away. I will not criticize your decision, because it is your decision, but don’t be a hypocrite by coming back and cheering for the Hokies again in one or two years. If you want to support the team and celebrate the Big East championships, the 1986 Peach Bowl win, the 1993 Independence Bowl win, and the 1995 Sugar Bowl win, then you’ve got to be willing to take your lumps when it’s time to. If you want to be a part of the good times, you’ve got to be willing to be a part of the bad times, too. If you don’t agree and you can’t handle it, then that’s fine. Take a walk and don’t turn around.

I know that will anger and offend a few of the people who have sent me emails in the last week, but that’s all right. I support your right to feel the way you do. But I feel the way I do, and because Hokie Central is my web site and this is "My Opinion," ... there you have it.


TSL Columnists Archives

TSL Home