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Dinner With Frank
By Jim Alderson, 8/2/00

I journeyed to Richmond last Thursday for the 2000 Richmond Hokie Club Football Kick-Off Dinner. Appreciation is given to those who invited me, Clement Carter and the Richmond Society of TECHnology (chuckle), a terrific group of folks devoted to the technology that enables them to read Hokie Central.

I strolled into the Richmond Marriott, the site of the bash, and the very first person I laid eyes on was none other than the Coach, Frank Beamer. He seemed to have just arrived from the Big East Media Day and was in the process of checking in, and was in fact carrying his own luggage. You would think that a guy who went 11-0 and played for the MNC would not have to lug around his own bags. I bet Bobby Bowden has an underling to handle that sort of thing.

I had come to Richmond not only to cadge a free meal, but also to cop an exclusive Hokie Central interview with our favorite coach. This did not seem to be the opportune time, however, as the strain of what was a very long day was clearly showing on Frank’s face. While he brightened and was friendly as I introduced myself (I neglected to mention I was involved with HC), I decided, in the brief time we chatted, that discretion was the better part of valor and elected not to pursue my interview.

I was an hour or so early for the big event (the dinner and meeting, not my interview) and, as generally happens when I find myself in a hotel with time on my hands, headed straight for the bar. I had only been there a few minutes when whom should walk in but Frank and his bride Cheryl. Here was my chance. Alas, the Coach seemed not to recall our brief conversation of only a few minutes before and ignored me as the two of them settled down for a few minutes of quiet time with friends. So much for that.

Five o'clock arrived, and I moved across the Marriott lobby to the area where the event would be held. The combination of the magical words ‘Hokies’ and ‘Social Hour’ had produced a mob scene akin to the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. If Tech is serious about getting people to attend basketball games, they should sell beer. The lobby of the Cassell would look like this, as 800 Hokies stood shoulder to shoulder occupying every last square foot of the reception area. It also occurred to me that about the only way opposing coaches could stop Michael Vick would be to throw cocktail parties on the playing field and invite Tech fans. The crush of people would render Michael Vick’s celebrated running ability impossible.

I elbowed my way to one of the portable bars doing a brisk business and purchased an adult beverage. I hadn’t moved more than a few feet when I ran into Atlee Hokie. If you ever want to meet Atlee (or me) at a Tech function, head to where the alcohol is dispensed; he will be close by (as will I). Much to the annoyance of some acquaintances, I possess the ability and desire to talk Tech sports for hours on end. This is not a problem with Atlee, and we chatted at length about our favorite subject. Duty called, however, and I moved on in search of the Coach.

I found him in a corner of the reception area, surrounded by television cameras and lights giving interviews to other people. Drat, the traditional media again. I decided that a dim view would probably be taken of my pushing through the horde of reporters and demanding an exclusive interview, and another chance slipped away. Besides, it was time for dinner.

The meal was actually pretty good; obviously the kitchen staff at the Richmond Marriott has experience at throwing together enough food to feed 800. It is not a task I would care to undertake. With a full stomach, I settled back to enjoy the proceedings.

Outgoing Richmond Hokie Club President Morris Skein is a more active alumnus than I have ever been, as he presided over a meeting that included quite a few awards and testimonials to the high quality of his work. It has never once crossed my mind to devote what was obviously a great amount of time and energy to Tech. He is to be commended.

The first speaker was Virginia Tech President Dr. Charles Steger. My seat enabled me to look past the tables where former presidents William Lavery and Paul Torgersen were seated to the podium. As I watched and listened to Dr. Steger’s fine speech, full of positive thinking and self-deprecating humor (he mentioned that Dr. Torgersen decided that things were going well and turned over the presidency to him at the beginning of the Fourth Quarter of the Sugar Bowl), it occurred to me, observing the past, present and future of Tech administration, that our University would continue to be in very capable hands.

Athletic Director Jim Weaver bounded next to the podium. This is a man that simply radiates enthusiasm. He was described as the ‘best athletics director in the business’, and I certainly am in agreement. Bill Roth mentioned that what many Hokies regarded as a wish list, affiliation in an all-sports conference, a Lane Stadium expansion, etc., Mr. Weaver had on his desk as a ‘to do’ list. What a job he has done, and the power of the positive thinking he brought to the gathering convinces me that nothing is beyond his and our grasp.

He spoke at length on the upcoming stadium addition, and presented the renderings that have made their way to Hokie Central. The configuration of the new grandstand is going to guarantee that when those seats are filled with screaming Hokies, that end of the field will be an absolute pit, and opposing teams will dread getting any where near it.

Bill Roth introduced tapes on our great season and coach, and produced thundering applause when he brought to the head table the players who had accompanied Frank to the BE media shindig, three seniors and our sophomore quarterback. The prolonged and standing ovation provided a diversion that could have enabled me to pursue my interview with Frank, but I discarded the notion after considering that crawling along the floor to the head table and suddenly popping up at Frank’s side requesting an exclusive interview would very likely get me bounced onto Fourth Street on my ear. Oh, well.

Frank Beamer was the last, and featured, speaker. It was a terrific speech given by a man who has probably grown very tired these last few months of making them. He was among friends, however, and gave a humorous and satisfying talk. Somehow I doubt that at all of those coaching awards dinners, or even at the preceding Big East Media Day, he cracked Hoo jokes. We ate it up.

Suddenly, Frank’s speech, and the event, was over. I missed my last chance for that exclusive interview, as the Coach was no where to be found, probably heading to his room for a well-earned good night’s sleep, for he had to do it all over again the next day in Roanoke. There will be other opportunities, however, and your faithful correspondent will be alert for them. There was one thing that I did bring out of this celebration of Tech football, however. I left Richmond and headed to Virginia Beach for a couple of days. The temptation was very strong, however, not to head east on I-64, but to drive in the opposite direction straight to God’s Country and begin tailgating for the Georgia Tech game. I am ready for some football.

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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