Not a Bad Way to Spend a Saturday
by Jim Alderson, 4/28/04

The major rite of spring, at least for Tech fans, has gone into the books. Tech won. Specifically, the White team prevailed in what was not, and never is, a display of football that will have ESPN Classic clamoring for a tape. The Tech spring game is an extension of spring practice and is not a time when the staff pays much attention to game preparedness, and it shows. Things will be conducted in a little different manner come August when Southern Cal is looming on the horizon. As pointed out in a story in the Lynchburg paper, beating me to it and causing me to change this, the spring game is about the tailgating. Thirty-thousand or so Tech fans once again demonstrated they donít need an actual football game to get together and tailgate, just a reasonable facsimile. As for the tailgate, it was a good one and I have the empty aspirin bottle to prove it. More on that in a bit.

The main point I took from observing the game is that we had best prepare for another year of a quarterback controversy. Letís hope the staff handles it a bit better than they did last year. Marcus Vick looked very much like someone ready to take over the position that is still nominally occupied by Bryan Randall. By most accounts, Bryan did not have the best of practices. I am of the opinion, and Kevin Rogers indicated in print that he agrees, that the rigors of basketball took something out of Bryan. He is probably a tired athlete; he would certainly have reason to be. In any event, most are aware of what Bryan can accomplish, which is quite a bit.

Marcus is still mostly about potential, although the tantalizing glimpses of just how vast that potential might be have left large numbers of Tech fans hungering for more. There will be some interesting decisions that will have to be made this August. There is also the little matter of a court date in a couple of weeks. Letís hope that if the Montgomery County judicial system has a say in the Tech quarterback depth chart, it is the last time for a very long time.

As stated earlier, last Saturday was mostly about the tailgates and there were a couple of doozies. It was good to stop by the TSL gathering and renew some old acquaintances and make some new ones. It is also always good to mingle with my adoring public, in this case over a thousand subscribers who only pony up the TSL dues in order to read my columns and completely ignore the rest of the site. Would you believe it, over a thousand? Would you believe a few hundred who actually read the articles? How about a couple of guys who have nothing better to do at work? In any event it was good seeing you all.

My customary tailgating position is at the Clubhouse and there things were hopping. Among my tailgating companions, two have become grandfathers since we last gathered for the BC game. Chip Young and Clota Gerhardt celebrated the additions to their respective Hokie families of Miles Archer Henne and Daniel Alexander Hudson. Realizing I would be there, Clota had sensibly loaded up on cigars and was not shy when it came to passing them out. Chip, perhaps because Miles had cut it close by waiting until 11 p.m. Wednesday night to make his appearance, barely giving Chip time to tear himself away from beaming at his grandson at the Roanoke Community Hospital and grab a few hours sleep before heading to Tech, neglected to bring any. I do not tolerate excuses and will expect this gaffe to be rectified on the 28th of August. Young Daniel is a few weeks older than Miles and made his tailgate debut accompanied by his parents, Aunt Rebecca and a couple of very proud grandparents. I suspect this will not be Danielís last tailgate if Grandpa Clota has anything to with it, and he will.

Unfortunately, at this tailgate, along with celebrating new Hokies, we also had cause to dwell on the other end of the circle of life. Our tailgate was enhanced by the participation of whom the message board knows as Russian Hokie and those of us fortunate enough to consider him a friend know as Ivan Morozov. Ivan has a sense of humor that aligns closely with mine, and I tend to get along well with people such as that. He also is in possession of a world view that is drawn from a perspective that is very different from my own. I always consider it a privilege when he allows me to pick his brain and broaden my horizons.

Since I will be referring to him the next time I see him as Doc Ivan, let me offer my congratulations on the successful defense of his doctoral dissertation. I long ago determined that a doctorate was well beyond my intellectual capabilities, an opinion shared by all of my professors, and have an enormous amount of respect for those who have them. In addition to his sterling academic credentials, Ivan has other items of interest on his resume.

There are a few in my tailgating crowd that have served this country in the military. Ivan also served his. Larry Ramsey, the keeper of the Clubhouse that gives us tailgating boys a place to hang out, was a combat officer in the United States Army during the first Gulf War. Ivan served the Red Army in Afghanistan at a time when his uniform was not a popular one in that country. Both Larry and Ivan have been in close proximity to people who desired to do them great harm, and I also have an enormous amount of respect for people who have done that.

We have a ritual called Communion that is the last thing engaged in before we head to the stadium. It involves consuming a shot of Wild Turkey while shouting platitudes to Virginia Tech and Hokie football. It says much about the strong character of Ivan that he proposed a toast to Pat Tillman, the former NFL football player recently killed in Afghanistan while serving as a US Army Ranger. I am sure that both Larry and Ivan have friends and comrades who are no longer around, and the passing of Pat Tillman and everyone else who has made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan struck a chord.

As I watched Larry and Ivan clink glasses it crossed my mind that good portions of the training of them both would have involved preparation for combat against the otherís army. It is our very good fortune that they met not as adversaries but as friends and now fellow alumni sharing a fondness for Tech football and brown liquor. It is amazing what Virginia Tech can accomplish.

This country is involved in a war and there are people, many of them Hokies, far away from tranquil southwestern Virginia engaged in a very grim business so that the rest of us might continue to gather on Chicken Hill and enjoy the diversion that is provided by Tech football. Pat Tillman was not the first to die in the conflict and he wonít be the last. They all are deserving of our remembrance and our respect.

Of course, as is often our habit, once the seal came off the bottle of Wild Turkey it was Katie-bar-the-door. This led to a situation that found me consuming a Bloody Mary, more than a couple of beers and what turned out to be three shots of Turkey before heading into Lane and sitting under a broiling hot sun, then returning to the tailgate where Ivan decided to eliminate the middle man of a shot glass as too cumbersome and time-consuming and take his Wild Turkey straight from the bottle, demonstrating that not only is he smarter than I, he can drink me under the table. This contributed heavily to a Sunday spent glued to my recliner nursing a throbbing headache, chewing aspirin and vowing never to do that again, a stance that will be altered no later than 8/28/04.

We gathered last weekend for a tailgate. We enjoyed the usual good fellowship of good friends following Tech football and also were the beneficiaries of life lessons about birth, untimely death, sacrifice and the bonds created in making that sacrifice that can transcend national origins. We also got to watch a football game. All in all, not a bad way to spend a 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.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.


          

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