Stand and Deliver
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 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.
Ive 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 youre not a true Hokie fan to begin with."
I personally feel that its each and every Hokies 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 theyve had enough, and their toleration level has been crossed.
Thats fine if you feel that way. Im not going to pass judgment on you, because as I said, its up to each individual to decide how they feel. Some people are simply backing off because they dont want to be associated with such behavior. In the same way that they wouldnt want to hang around with a person who drinks too much, curses too much, or gets into too many fights, they dont want to root for a football team that gets into too much trouble.
For me, its different. Ill 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 didnt 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 hadnt 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 didnt want to fire the coach or condemn all of the players for what a few were doing. Its just that my excitement level was down, and I thought Id been disappointed one too many times to keep going right now.
But you see, I cant quit. Ive 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 cant. Ive 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 coachs job ... and we did everything together.
Tough Times in Blacksburg - and How to Deal With Them
And now were getting torn apart. Were getting split up into groups who want to do this and that, and were arguing about what the best way is to stop these things that are going on. Were hearing it from all corners - from the press, from fans of other teams, and from our own fans (believe me, Ive been hearing it). In the midst of all this, weve 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: its 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. Its 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 theres 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. Theyre alarmed to the point that theyre shooting first and asking questions later, suspending players from the team who havent even had their day in court yet. They want to stop the bleeding as much as we do, to the point where theyre 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." Its 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. Hes 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 theyre taking steps to do something about it, steps that include not just punitive measures, but education and support measures, as well. Sure, thats closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out, but at least theyre taking action.
And thats good enough for me. Ill keep donating money and buying season tickets, because its my opinion that if we all bail out now, the athletic department wont have the support and the resources that theyll 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, dont come back. Stay away. I will not criticize your decision, because it is your decision, but dont 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 youve got to be willing to take your lumps when its time to. If you want to be a part of the good times, youve got to be willing to be a part of the bad times, too. If you dont agree and you cant handle it, then thats fine. Take a walk and dont turn around.
I know that will anger and offend a few of the people who have sent me emails in the last week, but thats 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.