I am quite amused by all of the hype surrounding the Sugar Bowl. More than a little of it seems foolish, the main reason I have elected not to contribute to it. I suppose a lot of it is necessary, as I am reliably informed that prior to this season there were millions of people out there in the college football hinterlands, i.e., areas other than Blacksburg, unaware until now of the special nature of the football program at Tech. It may seem astounding to us that an entire population could be so ill informed, but it seems to have been the case. The steady media drumbeat for Tech is serving a useful purpose in that regard, but, for the most part, it is telling me virtually nothing of which I was not already aware.
I have spent many Autumn Saturdays sitting in Lane Stadium and was already on to the fact that something special in the way of a football program was being constructed at Tech, and many of you have too. While it seems to have come as a shock to many members of the media, some of whom have reacted as their ancestors did following the 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, I had watched as this team showed steady improvement through the Nineties. I may not have forecast the harmonic convergence that would enable us to be exactly where we are at this precise moment, but I and a lot of other Hokies knew we were getting fairly close.
Is the attention span of much of the national media so short that they have forgotten that we played in the Sugar Bowl as recently as four years ago, and the Orange the year after that? Some of these media types seem to be acting as if we have only this year made the jump from Division I-AA. Granted, we have made some rather remarkable strides this decade and until now were never mentioned in the same breath as Tennessee, Nebraska and Penn State [we still aren't being mentioned in the same breath this year either, snicker], but jeez, Tech has run a fair to middling mid-major program for a good long time.
Does the name Bruce Smith ring a bell? How about Don Strock? Carroll Dale? That we have indeed taken the next step that so many other programs talk about but never seem to accomplish is very real news, but anybody following college football on a regular basis [for media members, that means doing your job] knew that we were a program on the rise and this was the logical next step. In fact, thousands of us have first-hand knowledge that Tech has played in six bowl games in a row, and the lucky ones will make it seven.
The media should have tagged along. If they had gone to last year's Music City Bowl, they would have seen two very good teams get together for what should have been called the Launching Pad Bowl, since both this year would be conference champions [offhand, I can't think of any other 1998 bowl that had that] and the one from the media-friendly SEC was on the short end of a 38-7 thrashing. We were the team playing Alabama, guys, and we were pretty good.
From what I read, see and hear way too much, if I didn't know better I would get the impression Frank Beamer had just crawled out of a Fancy Gap coal mine and only now begun his football coaching career. Most of us already knew that he is something special and has overcome some rather trying circumstances at Tech to build a big winner. This shouldn't be news to the national media, but it is. They should also become cognizant of what we too already know, that Beamer has already had a major impact on the way his fellow coaches treat their Special Teams, and is in the process of changing the way they view defensive ends, too. If the major media would have actually come to Tech a few times [again, that "doing your job" thing] and observed the program instead of just following GameDay around, they could have had what seems to be a real scoop long before now.
The television coverage is another laugher. For how many years did we hear the same old mantras of 'small media market' and 'remote location' repeated over and over? The Roanoke Airport and I-81 seem to have moved considerably closer to the mainstream, and the ratings for our prime time ESPN games seem to have proven that Virginia Tech football has appeal far beyond a handful of televisions in Southwest Virginia.
There are tens of thousands of us who were well aware of how to get to Lane Stadium. It now seems that the networks have discovered that Blacksburg, Virginia is no more out of the loop than College Station, Auburn, or University Park. Welcome aboard, folks.
Now that the path to Blacksburg seems a bit more beaten, I suspect that our new media friends will find their way back during the next and successive seasons, as well. We have crashed the Big Time in their eyes, and they should be advised that we plan on staying there. But of course, we Hokies already knew about us, which is why so many of us, as we watch the media spectacle surrounding our University and football team, respond with, Well Duh.
Jim Alderson, best known for his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.
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