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Frank Beamer's Trying to Kill Me
by Bill Glose, 8/18/00

Many summers ago I worked in a nursing home. The pay wasn't great, but I thought it would provide a chance to gain some insight for a book I was writing, "Through My Eyes: A Look Back at Virginia." I figured I could bond with the residents, hear their stories first hand, and sell a touching, heart-rending look at our past to a big publishing house. Surely, fame and fortune awaited me. Unfortunately, the stories I got were less than inspiring, consisting mainly of tales about trekking five miles to school every day, through the snow, uphill both ways.

There was one very noteworthy resident, though - Billy Bob Boington. He was by far the most interesting individual there, as well as the oldest. Billy Bob was well over 200 years old and had fought in five separate wars dating back to the Civil War. No matter how much I prodded though, he wasn't willing to share interesting tidbits from the past. We chatted, but the only tears he jerked from me came when he'd stab my toe with his walker. The one thing he did impart on me was a list of his complaints - a looooong list.

Finally giving up on the book idea, I took home with me something much more valuable - the secret to long life. Despite doctors extolling the benefits of cheerful and healthy living, this experience proved the opposite to be true. Billy Bob swallowed more grease in a single sitting than I could consume in a week. No, Billy Bob's longevity came not from dietary concern, it came from the power of lamentation.

Sure, that might sound silly. But think about it. Think about all the unbearable codgers you know and how they just seem to hang on forever. Well, Billy Bob had discontentment down to a science. Being a Hokie fan, I've had plenty to complain about in past years, and I figured I, too, might last forever.

The preseason, in particular, is made for worrying. Every year, Hokie fans worry about respect, Cavalier fans worry about pergolas, and Cane fans worry how long their backness will last into the season. I've gone through entire summers bemoaning the fact that Virginia Tech football couldn't get the respect they rightfully deserve. And with every bitter yelp, I knew I was adding years to my life. At least, until that troublemaker, Frank Beamer, came along.

In the good 'ol days, rants about the Hokies could keep a person occupied right up until the kickoff of the opening game. Full membership snubs, preseason poll absence, and a virtual media blackout. At the beginning of the 90's, I complained about the Hokies' special teams unit. Then Beamer turned the Hokies into the best special teams unit of the decade. I complained about the "powers that be" snubbing Tech by leaving the Hokies out of the bowl picture, and then the Hokies romp through seven straight postseason games. Finally, I settled in on the Blacksburg Bandwagon - the one filled with no-respecting Rodney Dangerfields. And what happens? Entering this season it is impossible to find a sporting publication without Michael Vick and the Hokies on the cover!

If I was going to have any chance of making it into a second century of living, I had to find a new fault. Reading through the preseason articles, I found that the potential downfall of this year's Hokies was the defense. Hmmm, that seemed even hard for me to believe. I mean, Bud Foster hadn't been abducted by aliens and Mike Gentry was still shaping players into granite. But, it was something. I searched for reasons to worry about the missing links. No, I'm not talking about Creation versus Evolution (wouldn't Will just LOVE me if I started up that discussion?). What I'm actually talking about are the vacancies left in the VT defense.

Since my friends are the type to bat down any of my disparaging comments with something as trivial as facts and statistics, I knew I'd have to research this a little better if I was going to belt out some serious rejuvenating whining. Last year's monster crew departed en masse, but I didn't know enough about this year's defenders to state my case.

To prove how overwhelmed the Hokies are going to be on defense this year, I compared them to last year's defense at the same time. I looked into their 1998 stats to see how they had performed the year prior to last year's spectacular season. 1999's starting linebackers amassed 201 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and 14 tackles for loss (TFL). The 2000 version? Last year they piled up 163 tackles, 4 sacks, and 7 TFLs. Ah, that was a start, but it wasn't enough for me to get into full worry mode. Two of the linebackers are returning starters, one of them named to the preseason All-Big East team. The other is a finally healthy Jake Houseright who, after being sidelined last season with nagging injuries, appears poised for a breakout year. Shoot!

Ok, how about the corners? There's no way this year's crew can match up with last year. I mean, last year's corners are both in the NFL now. Going into the '99 season though, those two NFL corners had 65 tackles from the previous year. This year's version had 67 tackles from last season. And fast doesn't even begin to describe them. Austin clocked a 4.26 40 and Whitaker wasn't far behind with a 4.49. Drat!

What about the other defensive backs? A short look proved them to be much improved over last year. The Rover position is manned by Cory Bird, the same starter who should be improved over last year's great performance. Going into the '99 season, the Hokies were starting Sorensen at Safety even though he had played primarily at quarterback the previous year. He entered with only 4 tackles from the previous year. Willie Pile enters with 12 tackles from last year and wearing the crown of 'most improved defensive player.' Incoming All-American JUCO transfer, Kevin McCadam, will most likely back him up and has been raising eyebrows ever since stepping on the field. Double drat!

Well, one area I can complain about without rebuttal has to be the front four. I mean, the Hokies graduated the entire defensive line. They must be in total disarray! How can they put together a successful unit without returning a single starter from last year? What's that, you say? One of this year's starting Defensive Tackles actually did start last year, and the other earned preseason national honors from Lindy's. To make matters even worse, there's another All-American JUCO transfer, Channing Reed, to bulk up the line. Gulp. What about the Defensive Ends? Surely the Hokies will be hurting there. Oh, that's right. I forgot about the quick and talented Nathaniel Adibi, the next great End at Tech. And Cols Colas has been wreaking havoc in practice this fall on the other end, challenging Lamar Cobb for the starting nod. Rats!

Well, if I can't fret over the defense, I guess it's time for me to start worrying about the kicking game. After all, we lost all our starters from last year. What's that you say? Mollerup made 5 of 7 field goals in the last scrimmage and Burns averaged 51 yards on three punts? You're kidding, right? C'mon now, I've got to have something to worry about. If Beamer keeps this up, my days are numbered. I might have to change teams and join Bill Cosby in Veteran stadium.

What's that? You've got a subject I can whine about until the season starts? Ahh, parking...the never-ending debate saves the day!


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