Friday, October 27, 2006

"That Olde Tyme Feeling"

or, "A Night In Maroon", in which our intrepid chronicler of all things trivial and pedantic in sports discusses the best Hokie win in two years, in prose form.

The game began, as most games do, with the tailgate, that ancient ritual stemming from the Middle Ages when spectators of jousting competitions would gather together beforehand in order to eat fire-roasted meats and drink mead before proceeding to the arena in which they would watch one knight brain another with a pointy stick.

Tailgates have come a long way since then (how those people managed to enjoy themselves without "Cottoneyed Joe" blaring in the background is difficult to comprehend) but the essential idea remains the same. One addition to the modern tailgate that would have been unthinkable in the year 1253 - Jello shots. According to wikipedia, jello is not, despite popular misconception, created from horse hooves and bull horns. It is actually derived from boiled cattle bones and pig skins. Well that's a weight off of my mind. In any case, these particular jello shots are encased in plastic ketchup containers (for easy transport both to the venue and away from the venue ie. into the stadium). They are, it should be said, fairly disgusting - someone on the recipe end has gotten their wires totally crossed, either accidentally or on purpose, and made the alcohol taste not only noticeable but overwhelming, which sort of defeats the purpose of the jello shot (being an alcohol vector meant for gigantic vaginas who don't actually like drinking alcohol, like me). In classic jello fashion, they come in three flavors - green, red and orange. The green ones are filled with Southern Comfort, so us squares avoid them like the plague. By the time the tailgate was packed up I had downed about 4 of these alcohol bombs and had a pocket filled with 3 more. Two were consumed on the way to the stadium, the third safely stored in my pocket for consumption while standing at my seat. Hokies don't sit in their seats. Hokies don't stand in front of their seats. Hokies stand on their seats, a concept which very clearly demonstrates the pitfalls of, and futility in arguing with, group behavior. While consuming my last jello shot along with my compatriots we were asked by the girls in front of us where we had obtained said jello shots, in response to which I replied that they were giving them out at the gate. This witticism, naturally, left me giggling like a schoolgirl - most likely, these ladies turned away in disgust, but I was too busy enjoying my own drollery to notice. Plus I was half in the bag - did I mention that those jello shots had a lot of alcohol in them? Well, I'll mention it again.

The Hokies, despite my fears, did not unveil the mismatched sleeve look against the Tigers, and one can only hope that that style has quietly been mothballed. They went with a style I have never seen them in - fully maroon. Now some may complain about this, and I understand that, but I for one thought they looked pretty damn good. The orange over white socks breaks up the monotony of the color scheme, and some players were wearing long white sleeved shirts under their jerseys which also helped add some color contrast. I would not be sorry to see this combo again.

The game began in classic 2006 Hokie fashion - with Clemson driving down the field to score a touchdown to make the score 7-0. Shockingly though, this was followed by a long Hokie drive which also resulted in a TD, and tied the score at 7.

A quick aside if I might, on a common gameday ritual - lifting a person up and bench pressing them a number of times which reflect the current home team score. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this ritual - if you are a lady (although, considering the rare-but-all-too-real phenomenon of groping anything that can't fight back by certain less-developed members of the male half of the species, you would think most women would think twice). However, if you are a male, and you ask your friends to lift you up, you are a tool of the highest order (a circular saw?). This is unacceptable behavior that would be punished, in my America, by nothing less than surgical castration. Don't worry, you won't need 'em, trust me.

In any case, the next four Clemson possessions resulted in punt, punt, punt, fumble. Nevermind the fact that the Hokies only managed a single field goal in the intervening period of time - this was a good Clemson offense that wasn't getting anything going against the Hokies. The score was 10-7 going into halftime, with most of us feeling cautiously optimistic.

The halftime show was a welcome departure from the usual entertainment (the Marching Virginian bandgeeks forming unrecognizable geometric shapes and occasionally dancing, poorly, in ways that only the sort of person who defines themself by their status amongst other social outcasts who think playing "Iron Man" on traditional marching band instruments is the height of cool can do). The Highty-Tighties (the Corps of Cadets marching band) took the field and played, I don't know, a bunch of stuff by John Phillip Sousa. I can never hear the band anyway, but I'm pretty sure that's what they said it was. Now the truth may be that the Highty-Tighties are composed of the same sort of band geeks that the civilian band is, but they're also trained to kill, so they're automatically cooler, or at the very least less likely to be made fun of by a person who has been described as "ass-kickable".

The second half began with a 3-and-out by the Hokies, a familiar motif. But the subsequent Clemson drive would prove to be the backbreaker for the Tigers - 2 stops near the line of scrimmage and then a pass that found the waiting arms of Hokie linebacker Xavier Adibi. The Hokies had the ball on the Clemson 35, the crowd was in a frenzy, and 5 straight Branden Ore rushes put the ball in the endzone and the Hokies in complete control of the momentum.

Clemson desperately needed a big play to take the home crowd out of the game, if only temporarily, but they never managed it. Will Procter was an unmitigated disaster during the second half, completing 4 of 14 passes and leading the Tigers to a single first down. By the time the Hokies scored their final touchdown, with 2:07 left in the 3rd quarter, the Clemson fans had already begun to file out.

It seemed like a good time for a dinner break (all that alcohol was starting to sit poorly, so what better way to fix that than a heaping supply of cholesterol wrapped in rendered fat and, hopefully, some meat). Of course there was only one reasonable choice on a night like last night - the signature food of Lane Stadium (and, really, Blacksburg in general); a giant smoked turkey leg.

As one of the people I was with commented, it seems at least a little strange that our signature food has us, essentially, eating our mascot. I doubt Clemson serves tiger steaks at their home games. Or that Florida State serves up the dismembered, grilled corpses of Injuns for the consumption of their fans. But at Tech, we gnaw on the smoked remains of the Hokie bird. Which is, it should be said, mighty tasty. However, there is no way you can look cool when you are ripping chunks of bird flesh with your teeth. You invariably end up feeling, and most likely smelling, like Henry VIII, and while that may seem cool to the sort of guy who likes to grope coeds being hoisted up after the Hokies score, it's not so cool to the rest of us. In fact, I'd say it puts the idea of eating meat in its proper place - as something that's kind of horrifying. I read a book a couple years ago about Robert Falcon Scott's doomed trip to the South Pole, and one of the things I remember vividly from the book is the almost perverse pleasure the members of the expedition take in the new and unique animals they ate. Or 'et, as they say. Penguins, seals, albatross - if it could be caught and clubbed to death, they 'et it. Now that expedition did a lot of scientific work in Antarctica (as opposed to Roald Amundsen's, which basically dashed to the Pole and dashed back) but they also left the corpses of native animals behind because, god love 'em, a penguin is a tasty looking son of a bitch. And gnawing on the bone of a turkey, it's hard to honestly say that I (or any other meat eater) is really any better than some early-20th century explorer whose mindset when they see a fascinating new sort of creature is, "Let's eat it!" Anyway, I nursed the leg for much of the 4th quarter, and the Hokies finished off the Tigers in what looked like an easier fashion than me and my leg, trying to pick meat from tendon.

The Hokies never got rattled. They fed off the crowd in ways that vintage, good Hokie teams used to do. The running game and the defense carried the day, partially because they have do, but mostly because that is the formula for success that the Hokies have usually relied on. Even when Michael Vick was taking the snaps, the passing game was used sparingly, mostly for big gains that either brought the crowd noise to a fever pitch (at home) or quieted them down (on the road). To say that this was the best Hokie win of the year is not only incredibly obvious, but also an understatement. This win suggests that, yes, there is some life left in this team after all. Miami looms, but right now that almost seems like a good thing.


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