It’s that time of the year again. School’s back in session and while most of us are looking in the rear view mirror watching our glory days fade into the horizon, a lucky few are still living on cloud nine without a care in the world. To the wunderkinds that still have so much potential, so much to live for, and the naivety that a adequately-paying job is waiting for them on the other side, I say this to you:
As the cold grey walls of my cubicle paint a panoramic landscape only favorable to House Stark and the Night’s Watch, my thoughts venture a hundred miles away to a beautiful, lush prairie. Nestled at the intersection of Utopia and Shangri-La, warmed by the rays of Apollo himself and, in turn, cooled by the shades of the Hanging Gardens, Bridgeforth Stadium rises like a temple to the gods of James Madison Football lore. Names like Rascati and LeZotte, Jordan and Landers, (and let’s not forget Scott Norwood) echo in the hallways, their names etched into the very foundations of the monument built in their namesake.
It’s become a true testament to how far we’ve come. But no matter how much the Dukes continue to invest into the program, the big brother down the road will always beat its chest and proclaim gridiron dominance. And not in a salt-of-the-earth kind of way where superior play and outmatched athleticism are given their days in the court of pigskin objectivity. Instead, it’s delivered with an overzealous sting that’s baptized in hubris and consummated within 15 seconds of interacting with any alum. With few local rivals to squash the inevitable annual pre-season hype, spending any amount of time with a Hokie in August or September is simply intolerable.
So without further ado, football fans, here are the five reasons why your college football team (especially JMU) is more tolerable than Virginia Tech.
1) You Own More Than Two Different Colors of T-Shirts – Now, I want to preface this by saying that orange is above and beyond my favorite color. In fact, I just bought an obnoxious pair of Brooks PureConnects in bright orange and it’s arguably been the greatest purchase of my life already. It dates back to my undying love for Michelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. ‘Cause, ya know, he’s a party dude.
But have you opened a drawer in a Virginia Tech alum’s dresser? It’s like along with general education requisite courses, all students are required to have a month’s worth of brand apparel. I literally know people that keep a Maroon Effect shirt in a glass case with “Break in Case of Emergency” printed on the exterior, ready to smash in the event that laundry day is postponed until later in the week.
The key to wearing your school’s garb, like everything, is moderation. Everyday can’t be your day to wear a child’s November art project gone awry.
2) Your Team Has Actually Won Something – Before 21-16 (we’ll get into that later), the apex of my sports fandom life was December 17, 2004. Blind to the lineage of JMU football irrelevance, I fell ass-backwards into a national championship season that rocketed the Dukes to arguably the top of my fandom list. Hitting the ground running with a ring was admittedly lucky. It gave strength and validity to talks about jumping to the upper echelon of college football. Wearing a #11 (Rascat-tat-tat) jersey wasn’t out of irony, but admiration.
Virginia Tech on the other hand has won this many championships.
With a cupcake schedule year in and year out, you would think that this team could at least tempt their fan base with a title run at some point this millenium. Instead, fans are disappointed year in and year out and inexplicably turn a blind eye to the precedence of losing.
JMU? We’re chipping away at our second title. So while your school draws defensive schemes against the triple option of a college mainly comprised of kids that ranked 48th out of the 50 states for SAT scores, ours will soak in the pleasures of a warm summer day.
3) You Can Carry a Conversation About Something Besides Football – Late last year, as Virginia Tech had pissed away another golden opportunity to have a National Championship bid handed to them on a silver platter, I was witness to an event that was equal parts cringe-worthy and pathetic. It made this guy look like a casanova. Admittedly, I missed the opener, but judging by the way the rest of the conversation transgressed beyond the boundaries of societal norms, I’m taking the artistic liberty to fill in the icebreaker:
Girl: Hey, you’re kinda cute.
Guy: Did it hurt?
Guy: When Sean Glennon dropped you into David Clowney’s hands?
If your PUA Opener Question can’t escape the 360” x 160” dimensions of the Lane Stadium, chances are you’re a lifelong AFC (Note: most Tech fans will look at that term and think it’s the NFL conference Eddie Royal plays in)
4) Michael/Marcus Vick Didn’t Go to Your School – This feels like a little bit of a cheap shot; there are bad apples at every school. And I’d ordinarily feel bad about making this the second most important reason (we go in inverse order here at the Friday Five) that your college football team is automatically better than Virginia Tech. But the Vick family is solely responsible for putting Tech on the map.
Ok here comes the flood of commenters – “Rudy, you’re such a fake ass bitch! Bruce Smith went to the school a full decade before Vick, blah blah blah I’m going hunting this weekend and drinking Steel Reserve.” Go ahead and look at the seasons between when Smith left (1984) and when Vick was a full time starter (1999). With all apologies to the 1998 Gator Bowl Runner-Ups who received a 42-3 trouncing from North Carolina, it’s nothing to write home about.
Until Tech can lure in a recruit that actually has NFL potential and makes a name for himself (Eddie Royal [my complete boy btw] excluded), the dark cloud of the Vick family will always be amongst the omnipresent stratus coating of the Blacksburg sky.
5) You Didn’t Lose to JMU – If you went to pretty much any school in the FCS, this one doesn’t apply to you. Because we’ve wiped the floor in every conceivable fashion with all those teams at one point or another.
But for Virginia Tech? Au contraire.
I’ve spent the better part of eight years defending JMU football from a fusillade of demeaning attacks – that we’re a glorified high school football team, that we play schools like Appalachian State even though Appalachian isn’t a state, that more people show up for a Virginia Tech spring game than a JMU home game. But rather than spending another day wasting my breath on a trite argument, on September 11, 2010, our team finally did the talking.
Despite Mickey Matthews best efforts to instill his ultra-conservative “Steve Miller” game plan across all aspects of the playbook, our team thought twice about the take-the-money-and-run strategy. And, donned in his fresh off the presses maroon and orange freshmen move-in shirt, my own brother stood just a few rows in front of me in what would be a crude initiation into the fraternity of Virginia Tech football fandom. It was pure nirvana and its impact rippled far and wide.
To say that a five point win over our I-81 rivals was just another win would be a severe understatement . It was more than a cathartic outpour of pent up frustration. It was public acknowledgement of a program that, albeit slowly, has become a talking point in the Virginia football community. JMU, along with other local FCS programs such as the University of Virginia, Richmond, and William and Mary are beginning to challenge the establishment.
So where are we now, two years later? In all honesty, stuck in idle. What should have been a deep championship run in 2011 ended just miles away from a William H. Macy crime scene. Our closest regional rivals, including programs with significantly less experience and funding, are planning their jumps to the big leagues. But, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to correct the course.
On September 15th, we’re matched up against an over-ranked, semi-local, quasi-rival in a stadium that’s accustomed to unfulfilled expectations. We have a moment to define the future of the program, to prove that the Tech win wasn’t a fluke, and to inspire a region to embrace the alternative. As a 2008 graduate, and one of many who flocked to the DC area after graduation, I find it simply unacceptable if less than 25,000 Dukes fans show up to FedEx Field. If you’re on the fence, you’re missing your chance to represent your alma mater in perhaps its biggest showcase to date.
Is it easy to be a Dukes fan? Hardly. It requires intense research on websites built for Netscape Navigator to find scouting reports about the Week 1 D-III opponent (thought the good folks at www.jmusportsblog.com are an exception to the norm). It requires watching local cable channels to find the announcers from Amatuer Hour at the Bridgeforth Stadium Press Box struggle through basic play-by-play. It requires putting up with mind-boggling play-calling, limited merchandise access outside of Rockingham County, and matchups against unknown opponents.
It’s not easy, but hey, at least we’re not Tech.
As we head into a fresh football season, with an immaculate record open to endless possibilities, I leave you with the video below. Happy Friday