The Untipped Cash Cow
by Jim Alderson, 4/15/03

We now move to the middle of April. Winter is behind us, Tech has a basketball coach, teams residing a bit higher up the basketball food chain than Tech have completed the annual ritual known as March Madness -- with Kansas falling to Syracuse by a much smaller margin than the RUTS the Coalition inflicted on the Republican Guard -- the snows of December, January, February, March and even early April have yielded to the usual April showers, fairly serious ‘showering’ that have produced some unusual flooding, and I am already enjoying spring onions and radishes from my garden, appetizers for the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers I am steadily planting. Yep, it is Spring, and that means attention and fancy has turned to only one thing. Well, two things, actually.

The principal attraction, next to that provided by the incomparable Tech coeds, is this Saturday as the Tech football team completes a month of practice and presents itself in the annual Spring Game. Thousands of fans will flock to Lane Stadium for a glimpse of our fall heroes. It has turned into a spring fling of, if not exactly mid-October proportions, the next best thing. Tailgates will go down, coolers opened and grills set up for earnest Hokies to grill anything and everything that walks, flies, swims, crawls, moos, oinks, cackles or gobbles. This particular rite of spring has become a big thing around Tech, with its ability to cause fans from around the state and area to drop what they are doing and race to Southwest Virginia ranking only behind the six, seven or eight home real football games that are played.

It gives us a glimpse of the season to come, whets our appetites and sustains us through the long nineteen weeks of Dead Zone ahead. There are few events that can cause so many middle-aged and otherwise respectable men to stand around outside and drink, but the Spring Game does the trick. It is a joyous celebration of football [much more so than, say, the economic pain caused by the recent renewal of season tickets], giving Hokies the chance to meet, mingle, opine, speculate, eat like pigs, reflect, hope, predict, drink like fish, wonder, marvel, connect, tailgate and generally have a great time. In fact, there is only one thing wrong with the Spring Game and that is the Spring Game itself. For the most part, it stinks.

Coaches hate spring games. To get an idea of the importance Frank Beamer places on Tech’s, check out the 12-minute quarters with running clocks, the deference with which quarterbacks are treated, the plain vanilla offenses -- even by Tech standards -- that seem designed to show nothing to opposing coaches who might be lurking around Lane Stadium, and the genial attitude adopted by Frank as he leans against a goal post during the so-called action, a posture quite a bit different from the intense one he displays during games.

In Hooville, George eventually tired of the whole thing and gave it up, and it’s hard to say that the Bordeaux Festivus conjured up by algroh is much improvement, what with its staged contests such as ‘Pick the Wind’ and the prizes given to the fan who can get out of the stadium the fastest at halftime. Coaches like practice; I have no doubt that if it were up to them, they would do away with the seasons altogether and spend their time running drills. The economics of big-time college football would make that a bit tricky, however, so we have football seasons, and as the Spring Game at Tech evolves into a pretty big deal, it has become an important economic contributor to the Blacksburg economy. If there is one thing Frank Beamer and the Athletic Director understand, it is the value of a million dollars, or several million. I have a way to greatly increase the amounts of green flowing both to the Maroon and the coffers of area merchants: Why not play an actual game?

Imagine if Tech and the Hoos were teeing it up again this Saturday. Imagine 65,000 paying market value. Imagine ESPN and a national telecast, which would certainly be an improvement over the Deuce’s standard fare these days, large guys pulling busses. The month of April could be spent watching televised contests between big rivals, such as Florida-Florida State, Texas- Texas A&M and Alabama-Auburn. In-state rivals that don’t play during the season could get together in the Spring; how about WVU and Marshall? Spring practices could be scattered such that the first games would be played the first Saturday after the Final Four and continue for a month of college football. It would be huge, and would enable colleges to tap into a new vein of cash, paying for a lot of field hockey teams. It probably also will never happen.

One can imagine the response in Hooville to the notion of continuing history by losing to Tech yet again. Following anti-game protests on the Lawn, Craig Littlepage would no doubt veto the game. With no assistance from the Hoos, Perhaps Tech and teams desiring to play could schedule down. I would much rather see Tech go against JMU in April rather than September. The game is played in large part to provide a financial infusion for the budget of the Dukes, so do it following spring practice. This would also no doubt provoke a strong negative reaction in Hooville, with Littlepage attempting to stop any game at all, and demanding that further time be spent studying the situation. The Hoos would do everything they could to stop it, and then fervently hope for a JMU victory. After Tech had smashed the Dukes, of course, they would then reverse themselves and decide that a Spring Game isn’t such a bad idea after all.

There will be no game this weekend against another opponent, only one between two squads of Hokies. I will be there enjoying the day, but I sure would like to see Tech play somebody else. See you Saturday.

Jim Alderson, who first made his mark with 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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