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There is nothing Hokie about these football fans


September 30, 2007
The Advertiser-Tribune
Have you ever had a day where you experienced such a good time that you wanted to tell everyone about it? Well, I did, and I’m going to.

I must apologize to the bowling fans who have been waiting patiently for the golf season to end. I guess you will have to wait another week. Then again this column will not be about golf either.

No, this story is about people, very nice people who made quite an impression on my wife and myself.

Our daughter warned us about the Virginia Tech fans. She encountered them two years ago as the Ohio University Marching 110 made its one away-game trip to Blacksburg, Va.

On the way to the buses after the game, the band received so many compliments, they decided to do an impromptu postgame show. The Tech fans stayed, cheered loudly, and my daughter left with a warm feeling.

So we had an inkling of what to expect, but in no way were we prepared for the reception we got.

After parking our car we started for the football stadium. We were walking up some steps when we passed some students. One of the young men turned and said, “Welcome to Blacksburg.” We responded with, “thank you.”

I had no idea that I was going to utter those words all day long. Here is a sampling of the comments we heard from total strangers who observed that we were wearing Ohio University shirts.

“Welcome to Virginia Tech. We hope you enjoy your stay. We’re glad you came. Welcome to Blacksburg. Thanks for coming. Good luck to you.” Over and over again we heard these comments, and all we could do was shake our heads in amazement and say, “thank you.”

On our way to the stadium we stopped at the memorial for the 32 people killed in a shooting on campus last spring. People filed quietly by the granite markers upon which the names of the victims were etched.

If anybody had a reason to question the goodness of people, it would be the Virginia Tech community. Instead their practice of being kind and respectful to people seems to have increased.

Prior to the game a former Hokie player went to midfield with a microphone. He implored the fans to have pride in their team and to show respect for their opponents and officials. These people live these values.

I was in the basketball arena that sits next to the football stadium when a Virginia Tech fan came up to me. He said, “Welcome to Blacksburg. I’m glad you came, and I mean that sincerely.”

Like I needed for him to add that last part!

The Marching 110 performed two songs at halftime and received a nice ovation from the fans. The Hokie band, the Marching Virginians, played a few numbers including the Hokey Pokey. People in the stands stood and danced along with the band. It was a sight to see.

At the conclusion of the game, wife and I made our way down to the area occupied by OU’s band. We chatted with our daughter and some of her friends.

It was nice to see compliments sent toward Beth, Ted, Zach, Chad, Leah, Christa and Jonny-boy. Many of these kids were at our house in July helping Ashley celebrate her 21st birthday. The kudos they received were very well deserved.

We were prepared for a postgame show and followed the band out of the stadium. Apparently we weren’t the only ones.

Sitting on a hill overlooking a grassy area were hundreds of Virginia Tech fans. When we approached one gentleman, he saw our 110 shirts and (imagine this) welcomed us to Virginia Tech. He then told us that this was going to be the highlight of his day.

“They caught us off guard two years ago,” he said. “We had no idea they were so good. This year, we are ready for them.” The man and his family staked out their seats for the postgame show as soon as the game ended.

Our buttons were bursting with pride as the Marching 110 sprang into action. The many Virginia Tech fans that stuck around to watch and listen were smiling, dancing to the music and cheering wildly.

At the conclusion of the performance, the OU band members started walking by in twos and threes heading to the buses. The Hokie fans stayed and applauded as the entire 200-plus members passed by.

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. I’ve never seen fans act this way, and that’s really too bad. More schools and their fans should have this attitude. It would bring a smile to many faces.

As we headed for the car, we again ran into Virginia Tech supporters, and it was more of the same. “Awesome band. Thanks for being here. Have a safe trip home.”

Virginia Tech’s nickname is a little unusual to say the least. Apparently, someone used the term Hokie many years ago when they were known as the Gobblers. The term stuck but the turkey remained as the mascot.

As we left Blacksburg and headed for Roanoke, we noticed along the side of the road three wild turkeys. Anita and I looked at each other and smiled. It was as if the community wanted to say goodbye one more time.

What else would you expect?

To the people of Virginia Tech from one very impressed Ohio family, let me just say one more time — Thank you!

Al Stephenson is the A-T bowling columnist



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