Don't Worry, Be Happy
by Bill Glose, 8/21/02

DATELINE: August 21, 2002; Blacksburg, VA.

Amid a recent flurry of mishaps surrounding the Virginia Tech football team, the Northern Army of Terrified Tremblers (NATTs) mounted a coup on the Tribe of Sport-Loving Men of Blacksburg (TSLMB). Roused from their usual state of apathy by the news that three Hokies were suspended and the rest of the team was battling the flu, they attacked the TSLMB with taunts, cackles, and cries that the sky was falling. Order was restored when the Permanently Amiable Tanked-up Tailgaters (PATTs) returned from Kroger with a fresh supply of Wild Turkey, which they used to douse the NATT’s flames of fear. A dark poisonous cloud rose from the pyre, posing a serious potential threat to the environment. However, tragedy was averted when it drifted north and settled over an Ultra Vapid Area (UVA) that was already void of all signs of life.

Okay, so maybe I blew a few things a little out of proportion. There was no coup, the TSLMB never melted down, and the cloud of darkness never left Charlottesville. But that’s my point. It’s easy to panic when a few bad things happen and make things seem worse than they really are. Sure, you can wallow in what-ifs, but to what end? To some, the glass will always be half-full, and to others it will always be half-empty. And, of course, to engineers the glass was built to twice its capacity. The thing to remember though, is that the team has faced adversity before, and responded in remarkable fashion.

During one of Tech’s darkest hours, the team achieved perhaps its most important victory of the Beamer era. In 1995, after opening the season with two home losses, including a humiliating 16-0 defeat to Cincinnati, Tech rebounded to beat Miami for the first time in history. Likewise, this year’s Hokies are using the recent troubles to unify the team. Billy Hardee commented, "We’ll be fine. Guys rise to the occasion. They’ve done it in the past, so let’s do it now."

Something else that raises the hackles on a lot of fans is the Hokies' position in preseason polls. And how did I react? When I read the opening polls, a smile crept across my face and I heard Bobby McFerrin echoing in my head, "Hey Mon…Don’t Worry, Be Happy." As his reggae doo-wop beat faded out, it was replaced by the roar of a newly expanded Lane Stadium and record-sized crowds.

No, I haven’t been smoking any ganja, and yes, I understand the importance of poll position. I know some fans are upset that the Hokies aren’t ranked higher—even so, I remain perfectly content with the team’s position. I figure preseason top twenty is low enough to keep the players hungry and high enough to make any post-season goals a possibility, unlike another team that shall remain nameless, but rhymes with Peee-Ewww-Veee-Ayyy.

The Hokies are sitting in a perfect spot. Being a teenager in the polls gives just enough national respect to the program, but keeps the team low enough on the radar to avoid muckrakers’ attention. While Texas and Colorado wage those battles this year, the Hokies can concentrate on the games and focus on the goals before them each week: one more challenger to face, one more opponent to conquer, and one more step to climb up in the polls.

Last year, the Hokies started out ranked in the top ten, but it was one of the more disappointing seasons in recent memory. The overall record was fine, but the expectations were so high that anything other than 62-0 blowouts on ESPN was a disappointment. The wins weren’t nearly as sweet, and the losses felt like personal tragedies. After victories, naysayers flooded the TSLMB with complaints that VT should have won by another two touchdowns. Even the team seemed different, as if they were playing to ‘not lose’ instead of playing to win. The whole year had the feel of a sub-par Star Wars sequel.

On the other hand, during my two favorite Hokie seasons (1995 and 1999), the team started out ranked in the middle of the pack. In ’99, the Hokies started out ranked #13 in the AP and #14 in the Coaches; in ’95, the Hokies started out even lower: #24 in the AP and unranked in the Coaches. Somehow, those humble beginnings made the season all the more enjoyable. Each week, I’d compile a list of the teams that needed to lose for the Hokies to advance, then cheer as each of them stumbled at the perfect time. Then, the Sunday after each victory, I’d rip open the paper to follow the team’s climb up in the polls.

Remember what those years were like? Crushing hits by George DelRicco…bone-jarring collisions by Ben Taylor; Vick darts thrown to a streaking Davis…Druck bombs to a juking Bryan Still; sacks by Cornell…sacks by Corey; and blocked kicks galore.

But perhaps the thing that set those teams apart the most was their spirit of teamwork. How fitting that the ’95 season saw the birth of the lunch pail D. That battered box summed up the work ethic of the team and served as a focal point for the team’s rise to prominence. Each player performed as a small part of a bigger machine, and the machine efficiently ground up opponents and spat them out on Worsham sod.

Those were hungry teams and those were fun years.

As for this year, the names may be different, but the formula remains the same—winning through teamwork. Though the first game has yet to be played this season, player commentary has been giving me that warm, cozy feeling I was missing last year. The whole team seems pumped and ready, and more importantly, each of them is displaying a team mentality.

Before his suspension, Ronyell Whitaker deflected praise toward his teammates. Though Whitaker was a third-team AP All-America selection last season, he said, "DeAngelo Hall, in my opinion, will be the greatest corner ever to play at Virginia Tech. Guarantee it." Commenting on the year’s first scrimmage, DE/DT Jim Davis raved about how the defense played against "probably what’s going to be the best offense in the Big East." Likewise, most of the offense calls the D one of the best in the nation.

But Kevin Jones summed it up best when asked how he felt about losing his share of the spotlight due to the return of Lee Suggs. "Him being back only betters our chance to win a national championship," Jones said. "Anything that will help us win will make me happy."

The same goes for me.

Now, close your eyes and admit it—you also hear McFerrin’s song, don’t you? The reggae doo-wop is irresistible, so why fight it? Hey Mon, don’t worry…be happy.

Bill Glose is the editor of the literary journal, Virginia Adversaria. His fiction has been accepted for publication in four countries and he was recently named the winner of the 2001 F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest.


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