My Version of Spring Practice
By Jim Alderson, 5/3/00

Well, Spring Game Saturday certainly was fun. Not so much the actual game, mind you, as once again we saw very little in the way of quality football. Neither, I might add, did the more than a few assistant coaches of our opponents that I suspect were scattered around Lane.

The Spring Game is evolving into a campus and town-wide social event, with the hour or so there was actually something akin to football being played on Worsham Field used as an excuse to come running from all over the commonwealth and beyond. After the game we hit the University Bookstore's Volume Two and the plethora of automobiles bearing decals from places other than Blacksburg, as well as the long lines queued up at cash registers that were going non-stop gave tangible evidence as to what the last Saturday in April is about at Tech, with further verification to be found in that large tab my group ran up at Gobblertown later that afternoon. I am sure the various Chambers of Commerce involved thank us for our support.

The Spring Game is supposedly about observing the team under game conditions. Perhaps, and George O'Leary probably at this very moment is sending through his new graduate assistant a message to Frank suggesting that Vick wear a yellow jersey on August 27. That jersey seems to be the only thing that has stopped him.

The Spring Game is also about tailgate practice. Will's tailgate affords those of us who understand that practice makes perfect the opportunity to get in tailgating time under game day conditions. Many of us were chomping at the bit, some more than others. I'm still wondering how Atlee and his lovely bride managed to leave Richmond at roughly the same time I did Danville and arrive at the HC tailgate before me. Since I never, ever speed except for those times when I do (and this was one of those times) I can only assume that there are vehicles barreling across the Great Salt Flats at lower velocities than Atlee was clocking as he charged through Central and Southwestern Virginia.

I must confess to making a freshman mistake. The red meat comes before the brown liquor, not six hours later as was the case Saturday. This gaffe, on a par with that BC cornerback biting on the Davis fake before observing Andre blow past on his way to the end zone, was a Spring Game mistake that will be corrected by August 27 when our first tailgating team is in place, replete with grills and smokers and a wide variety of animals who have sacrificed all for the noble purpose of our pre-game feed. Seven points was nothing compared to the headache I experienced while being chauffeured back up Interstate 81 and down routes 220 and 58. "Big Head Alert" indeed.

That headache came from the inherent conflict resulting from my polices of no brown liquor before noon and never turning down anything that is offered, including all of the flavors of Wild Turkey that were thrust at me from seemingly every direction by Hokie friends. Maintaining a convivial atmosphere won again, and that honey-flavored WT was good stuff. Needless to say, I had a great time seeing old friends again and meeting new ones and drinking their liquor. One can do much worse than to spend time with Russian Hokie sipping his Wild Turkey while discussing Tech football, vodka, the Red Army (I want one of those jackets) and the Khyber Pass.

There was little to be gleaned from the woeful performance of the offense at the game. We know what that offense can do, which is light up a scoreboard like the Mill Mountain Star. We now also are aware that under pretend game conditions with players divided between two teams and wearing three different colors of jersey they will stink like a Franklin paper mill.

All of our guys will be wearing maroon at the Georgia Tech game, and they will do fine. My concern was the defense, which has more personnel changes than the Kremlin after Gorby. What I saw was a lot of young talent. We are going to enjoy over this and hopefully the next few seasons watching guys named Taylor, Houseright, Pugh, Austin, Hardee, Whitaker, Adibi and all the rest.

Bud Foster and his staff have serious talent and speed with which to work. These guys are going to be good. My guess is good enough to win a bunch of games, but they will probably be too young and contain too many new faces to emerge whole from a schedule that will have every opponent placing large bulls-eyes on their backs and contains dangerous road trips to minefields like East Carolina, Boston College, Syracuse and Miami.

Adibi will be great, but you do not replace a senior All-American who raked in numerous defensive awards with a freshman, no matter how talented, and not experience some early drop-off in performance. But, it is going to take a supreme effort to beat them, and we are going to experience some terrific Thursdays, Saturdays and a Sunday watching them get better.

In any event, Spring Game Saturday was loads of fun, which is what it's all about. We can now hunker down and endure what I refer to as the Dead Zone of sports, made even deader for me as I now refuse to make my annual Summer pilgrimage to that sacred baseball shrine Camden Yards as long as that jerk Peter Angelos keeps wrecking the only reason to even play baseball, the Baltimore Orioles.

We will go through the dog days marking off dates on our calendars like a Red Onion inmate thinking that August 27 will never arrive. The Spring Game gave us a taste of football and I for one enjoyed it.

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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