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A Trip to Virginia Tech

A packed Lane Stadium gives the Hokies a profound home field advantage.

Since I was announcing the Boston College-Virginia Tech game for the student radio station, I had the privilege of traveling to Virginia Tech with the BC team and going through most the pregame routine. Unfortunately, I also was burdened with the task of announcing the worst performance of a Boston College athletics team by far in my three year stay. Let me summarize this into sections for my 36 hour odyssey into the deep South:

Friday, 1:00-4:00: Everyone meets outside Alumni Field Gate E in an organized Chinese Fire Drill type fashion. There are four buses, with the players, coaches, and managers getting the first three and the final bus consisting of media, video guys, cheerleaders, people who accidentally staggered onto the bus thinking it would take them to Comm. Ave, and equipment managers. The buses take all of us to Mescam Airstrip and our charter flight (a Miami Air International plane) awaits on the runway. I have never heard of MAI (eerily similar to MIA) in my life and this does not inspire any confidence. Can BC charter the Madden cruiser?

Friday, 4:00-6:00: The plane ride is packed with everyone given assigned seating by the athletic department. The players in the front, then the coaches, then the cheerleaders, then the Boston media, then the equipment managers/people waiting for Comm. Ave bus, then my partner and I. We sat in the very last row next to two sturdy built policemen. I’m starting to know what a groupie feels like. A palpable excitement can be felt in the air as the players are loose (catcalling the lady in the safety video to start the flight, putting their arms in the air when the plane takes off, etc.) and the back of the plane is abuzz on our chances to take down the fifth ranked team in the country in one of the craziest places in America.

I remember talking to LT Anthony Castonzo a year ago about his craziest football experience so far. He immediately thought of the Virginia Tech game at Lane Stadium where Boston College pulled off the improbable 14-10 comeback win. He only recalls getting pounded on by Tech DE Chris Ellis in a rainstorm while hearing the loudest noise of his life. He wasn’t wrong on the noise part of that prediction as I soon found out.

MAI decided to play the new Terminator movie with Christian Bale with no one knowing the movie made a fitting analogy to what would go on at noon the next day. Everyone seemed engrossed by the indiscriminate violence and the flight went swimmingly until at the end, when the pilot did his best impression of Nicholas Cage landing on the Vegas Strip.

Friday, 6:00-Midnight: Everyone heads off plane, herded to buses amidst unbelievable rustic scenery with rolling hills and forests everywhere. My favorite sign on the trip: Dixie Country’s Liquor Store/ Dixie Country Campgrounds. What a hybrid. Once we got to the Sheraton Roanoke, the players filtered off to dinner and then position meetings while everyone else had a look into the Virginia lifestyle. A cursory look around Roanoke left plenty to be desired and my partner, Ronan, and I decided on Pizza Hut and playoff baseball. After watching Alex Rodriguez do his best impression of Mr. October, we agreed that this must be a bad omen and decided to get some rest with an 8 am wake up call.

Saturday, 8:00-10:00: After admirably ignoring the wakeup call for a good half an hour, I drag myself back to the buses. As we head into Blacksburg, more and more Virginia Tech decals can be seen on every car, pickups (plenty of them), RVs, and bikes. Ronan makes the good point that the Hokies are like a hybrid of a college and professional team that everyone in the area takes pride in. The trip takes longer than expected, over an hour of driving in the wilderness. As the buses pull into Lane Stadium, everyone’s jaw drops at the thousands of tailgates surrounding the stadium. Throughout the slow crawl through the tailgates, you can just see the top of Lane stick out on the skyline. It looks like a mix between the Field of Dreams and a skyscraper from I Am Legend. The game is slated to start at twelve, but most of the fans are already there giving the one finger salute to our buses while wearing burnt brown or orange as we head right to the bottom of the stadium.

Saturday, 10:00-12:00: We all filter out of the buses and head to the field. Ronan and I walk on to the field knowing the obscure rule that you can go wherever you want in Virginia if you have a suit on. After a few Kodak moments, we realize we have to climb a couple hundred steps to get from field level to the top of the press box. This takes nearly 20 minutes and finally we get to our booth with terrific accommodations. It takes me an hour to recover so I read the press guide and other stat sheets while the stadium slowly starts to fill up. By 11:40, the entire stadium is packed and I hear the loudest chant of my entire life (up to that moment) on a simple pregame “We are Hokies.” I can best describe it as turning on the TV late at night very quietly as not to wake up anyone and then it blasting at 100 volume. Ten minutes later the Virginia Tech comes out to “Enter Sandman” while carrying the American flag and every Boston College fan in my box were looking on in shock and awe. BC better come out swinging or its going to be a long day.

Saturday, 12:00-3:00: It was a long day. I wanted to say a safe word after the first three drives. Check out the recap or some observations if your pain threshhold is high enough.

Saturday, 3:00-6:00: With my head now throbbing after the large blowout and deafening homecoming crowds, I try to find the buses. I proceed to wander around the President’s Box, press conferences, and field like a lost child until I finally realize they are probably where they dropped us off. Alas. After falling to sleep and trying to take a power nap while the team showers up, I catch a glimpse of Virginia Tech fans running up to someone. It takes me about ten seconds to realize that they are all shaking hands with none other than Mark Herzlich, whom Virginia Tech presented a check of 9,500 to benefit Ewing’s Sarcoma. Men were bringing their sons up and telling them to shake his hand while some women gave him hugs and well wishes. You could see Mark was very taken aback by the response he got and for about 15 minutes before the buses left he continued to thank all the well wishers.  A very cool moment that really put the entire trip back into perspective.

Saturday, 6:00-8:30: A very subdued bus and plane trip can best be described as silent. Despite it being Saturday night, not much emotion can be seen as everyone tries to get some sleep or zone out to their music. After another crash landing in Boston, everyone piles up into their respective buses and heads to Chestnut Hill. In the player’s bus, senior captain and MLB Mike McLaughlin calls a player’s only meeting when the bus arrives. I could see the players with a little more hop to their step as they walk into Yawkey Place, but my time with the team is over. I drag myself back to my apartment thinking about our ACC chances after a win against NC State this week.

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One comment for “A Trip to Virginia Tech”

  1. Terrific read! I’m heading to Alabama for the LSU game next weekend and reading this just got me even more excited!

    Posted by Matt Marcantonio | October 31, 2009, 1:07 am

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