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It's Groundhog Day For "Why Didn't Steph Go To VT?"

Every spring, when Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors make it to the finals and he hits all sorts of ridiculous shots, it becomes Groundhog Day for Virginia Tech fans.

As in the day when people ask “why didn’t Virginia Tech give Curry a scholarship when his Dad was a legend there?”

Over and over again.

If you don’t know the story, allow me to tell it one more time. Steph, while in high school, was a bit undersized versus how he is now. He grew up like the child of anyone whose Dad was a big Virginia Tech fan, and Dell Curry brought his family back to the campus often to see Virginia Tech football and basketball games. Not surprisingly, Steph grew up around a lot of orange and maroon. Also not surprising: he grew up with a basketball in his hands, and started to become quite good in high school.

As the recruiting process was starting his junior year, Steph came to Blacksburg for a workout. Legend has it that the Hokies’ two senior guards and two best defensive players on the team – Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon – easily defended him to the point that Steph couldn’t even get his shot off. Head coach Seth Greenberg, the story goes, decided upon seeing this that he might not be an ACC-caliber player, which was the same opinion as all the other ACC schools because none offered Steph a scholarship.

But Steph was part of a family that was Hokie royalty. So again, as the story goes, Greenberg invited Steph to walk on, with the promise of a four-year scholarship after red-shirting that walk-on year. Greenberg has said at the time he had no available scholarships to give due to some early commitments that were made that season. Given that, it sounded like a very fair situation for a player many deemed an “iffy” prospect at the time.

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I Really Don't Like The 1st 4 Games Of VT's Football Schedule

Today, Virginia Tech announced the exact times of its first four football games. And I until I looked at them, I never quite realized how much I don’t like the Hokies’ 2018 schedule.

If you will look to your left in the first column, there’s a block that says “On Deck” where I type in all the schedules of the area teams and sports I’m interested in: The Redskins, Nationals, Caps, Wizards, NASCAR, Virginia Tech football, Virginia Tech basketball, and the football schedules of the three main Ashburn schools including Stone Bridge, Broad Run and Briar Woods. That column shows you by day what’s coming up in the next few days, or if you want to see a specific team, or the entire month, you can just go to the menu and click on “Calendar.”

It’s an entirely self-serving exercise that allows me to check the site every morning, see what’s on the schedule, and know whether it’s going to be a good sports TV day/night, or whether it’s a good day for yard work, grocery shopping or running errands. The calendar program allows me to import items in mass, which I do for the bigger ones that are from 82 to 162 games. But since they include ads and a bunch of other junk I don’t necessarily want, I hand key in the smaller ones like football and college basketball schedules.

It was while doing this that I realized Virginia Tech’s schedule starts out fine, with a nationally televised Labor Day game against Florida State. But then the next three are potential “trap” games, and could set a direction for not only the season, but Justin Fuente’s coaching tenure at Virginia Tech.

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Don't Laugh, You're Probably Just As Superstitious Too

It just occurred to me that I may have to stop writing stuff for this site for another week or two.

It's because I am extremely superstitious when it comes to sports (don’t laugh, you know you are too). Around mid-April, the Caps were down 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs, every time I mentioned them something bad happened to them, and I stopped. They rebounded, won the series with Columbus, then Pittsburgh, then Tampa Bay.

So Friday, believing the curse was over, I started posting regularly again.

Then the Caps lost Monday night.

I realize the actions of one old man in Ashburn Farm should not have any effect on the play of a dozen or more professional athletes from all over the world who are doing battle 2,000 miles away. But sports fans are not always given to rational thought.

And I’m not alone in this regard.

I, for example, know whether my favorite team won or lost when I was wearing just about every shirt or jersey I own. If I eat a particular meal and one of my teams has a big win, I eat the same meal before the next big game. If I get up and go in the kitchen for a particular soft drink or snack and I come back and my team has hit a home run, scored a touchdown, gotten a goal, etc….I go back and get another when that teams needs a big play.

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4

These Are Not Autographs You Will See For Sale On Ebay

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Mitchell Gold, and in it I mention that I ended up getting a chair autographed by both Mitchell AND his dog. Some found that a little unusual.

“That’s not the only thing unusual about my Dad,” would be my daughter’s response.

But I will grant you that I do look at the whole autograph deal a little different than most. I have some sports memorabilia – an autographed picture of Julius Erving in a Virginia Squires jersey, a throwback Redskins helmet (the gold one with the big “R”) signed by Sonny Jurgensen, and a Virginia Tech helmet signed by Frank Beamer and Michael Vick.

The first one I ever pursued was Erving. I grew up in Norfolk watching the brief tenure of pro basketball in the area, and Erving was amazing. At the same time, Jurgensen was the quarterback for the Redskins, and at the age of 13, I thought he was the best quarterback of all time (still do, for that matter).

But it was Erving who soured me on any further sports hero worship. Later in life in the late 1990s, a great friend and business partner knew one of the then-minority owners of the Orlando Magic, and Erving worked for the team at the time. My friend and I were in Orlando, so he arranged for us to get tickets to the Magic game that night and meet my childhood idol.

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Recent Comments
Super User

Best QB of all time????

I personally think it's Joe Montana, but Sonny?? On the Eagles all-time list alone, he's behind Randall Cunningham (Plastic Man p... Read More
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 16:33
Dave Scarangella

I think you've had one cheeses...

Sonny could read defenses and find open receivers better than anyone in his prime and did it on a bad team. To say he's only the s... Read More
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 17:06
Super User

He's not better than Randall.....

or Van Brocklin who won a championship---or McNabb...... could he have done what Nick Foles did???? He couldn't have done the Phi... Read More
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 20:04
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In Analyzing Yesterday's News, A Few McChicken Nuggets...

There is no love lost between Virginia Tech and Michigan when it comes to football, and yesterday’s decision by Michigan to opt out of games with the Hokies in 2020 and 2021 will only add to the rancor. After all, the folks in Blacksburg have long had a nickname for the Wolverines: “McChicken”.

This all started many years ago when Virginia Tech started climbing the mountain of gaining national respect in football. Back-to-back appearances in the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl in 1995-96 certainly helped, then a quarterback by the name of Vick pushed them over the top when the Hokies played in the National Championship game.

But during that time, Virginia Tech tried to schedule bigger names, as they have (and still do to a degree) been accused of playing weak non-conference opponents. One team they tried to schedule, and according to various reports repeatedly said they weren’t interested, was Michigan. They WOULD schedule Virginia, but not Virginia Tech. Thus the “McChicken” nickname.

The animosity got worse in 2012 when the teams played in the Sugar Bowl. A late pass to Hokie WR Danny Coale that would have won the game was ruled incomplete despite just about every replay angle showing he caught it (my seats in the Superdome were right in front of the play and I thought the game was over). “Danny Coale caugh the ball” is now a rallying cry for the Hokies; I had the misfortune of flying home after the game seated next to a Michigan fan who was far from gracious, regaling me with stories of just how superior Michigan was to the world.

So Michigan is not exactly on the Virginia Tech Christmas Card list. Mine, either.

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1

I Can't Say Thanks Enough For What Frank Beamer Has Done

To truly appreciate what Frank Beamer has done for Virginia Tech, allow me to share some of my earliest memories of being a Hokie.

The year was 1973, my senior year of high school. The check was in the mail to the admissions office, and I was going to be spending the next 4 years in Blacksburg. I picked up the Sunday Virginian Pilot in Norfolk (my hometown) and there was a story on Virginia Tech losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. By a score of 77-6.

That’s no typo. 77-6. Laughingstock wasn’t a strong enough word for how the Hokie football program looked back then.

My four years at Virginia Tech would be the four years of Jimmy Sharpe. The wishbone worked in the second year, as the Hokies won 8 games, but didn’t get a bowl bid. Things then fell apart as the team would go 6-5 and then 3-7-1. Sharpe would be fired. A football player would die in the dorms the day after a game in 1977, and Virginia Tech was in the national news for all the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile, teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference were the envy of all of us. "Why not Virginia Tech?" many of us thought, but the perception was simply we were not good enough. In 1977, an expansion committee actually sent a group to Blacksburg to examine the possibility, but they stayed all of about 45 minutes. Their minds were made up before they ever got there.

The Hokies were small potatoes.

Bill Dooley improved things slightly as the next coach, but he did it with a clock in his window that was a replica of a UNC football helmet. He didn’t particularly like Virginia Tech traditions, he wasn’t a Hokie, he was never going to be a Hokie, and he sure wasn’t going to stay around for a long time. Then he too was asked to leave.

Enter Frank. He was a Hokie and a gentleman. He showed respect to everyone, whether it was the press, fans who stopped him at the airport, donors or somebody out in the hall way. He was humble Fancy Gap Frank, and he set out to fix what was wrong. His only major failing was his loyalty to friends, and after a number of disappointing seasons, then athletic director Dave Braine essentially told him to fire some of his friends and bring in better coaches, or he would be shown the door. Frank did what needed to be done.

The next year, the bowl streak started, which was a big deal for those of us who had a couple of Peach Bowls to show for the last 20 years of being a fan. In 1995, Jim Druckenmiller and company made it all the way to the Sugar Bowl, but ESPN’s Lee Corso consistently said the Hokies had no chance against Texas. We weren’t a brand name and had no place in even being in the bowl. Texas fans bemoaned the notion they had to play a no-name like Virginia Tech. The game had the worst slot of all the major bowl games: New Year’s Eve at 8 PM.

Then, after trailing 10-0, Frank and the Hokies beat Texas 28-10. Corso even had to apologize the next day and admit the Hokies were for real. My daughter was 8 months old, and I thought how cool it would be if she one day went to Virginia Tech when they were considered a big-time program.

Back then you couldn’t buy Virginia Tech merchandise such as jackets, coats, etc. in regular stores. The Hokies were not a brand name, so you could buy Oklahoma, Nebraska..even UVA stuff at sporting goods stores. But anything VT was either in the bookstore or nowhere. When the Hokies came back and made the Orange Bowl the next year, jackets by Starter with the unique “square root of 1” VT logo started showing up. Maybe, many of us thought, we’re about to belong.

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Here Is How I Hope The Frank Beamer Story Ends...

One week from today, I hope to be hearing of a press conference in Blacksburg, where Frank Beamer announces his retirement at the end of the season.

It’s not that I don’t like Frank. Quite the opposite, I think Frank is a legend who has taken Virginia Tech football to heights unimaginable. The two images I will always have when I think of Frank are the Sports Illustrated cover that said “We Belong” and standing on Bourbon Street the night before the 2000 National Championship game in New Orleans watching 40,000 Hokies adorned in maroon and orange.

Those two images showed the Virginia Tech program I have watched since the early 70s had mushroomed into college football royalty. In our wildest dreams, none of us thought that could ever happen. And it’s all because of Frank.

As such, I have looked forward to the day I could stand, cheer and give ovation after ovation at the final home game Frank coaches. He deserves to hear the love, support and respect he’s earned for what he’s done. Unfortunately in sports, that rarely happens as the decision to no longer coach – either due to health or performance – comes after that final season and there is no adequate way to say thank you.

Frank’s farewell has been coming for some time. The program is in a 4-year skid, sliding from playing in the national title game and being a regular occupant of the top 10, to a barely ranked team, to a team not ranked at all fighting to just have a winning record and keep the streak of making a bowl every year since 1993 alive.

That streak will end this year as the team is 3-5 and will not win its remaining 4 games. The Hokies play this week at Boston College, a venue they have historically struggled at; go to Atlanta to play a Georgia Tech team that is sky high after an upset of Florida State Saturday; come back home for 6-1 UNC, then finish on the road at UVA. Going 2-2 would be a best-case scenario, 1-3 is more likely, and 0-4 is certainly possible.

Nothing good lasts forever, and it has been the hope – and fear – that things do not end badly when it is time for Frank to retire. To quote an old movie line, however, “things usually do end badly…or they wouldn’t end.”

More importantly, Frank – who just turned 69 – doesn’t look or sound good health-wise. He couldn’t be on the sidelines for last year’s bowl game because of a medical procedure and if you listen to his postgame interviews on the radio, he just doesn’t sound 100 percent healthy. I’m no doctor, but I’ve heard Frank for decades, and something isn’t quite right.

All this reminds me of Bear Bryant in his final year at Alabama, and illustrates exactly what my biggest fear is. Bryant – who turned 69 in September of that year (Frank turned 69 in October) – decided toward the end of the 1982 season that the sixth-place finish in the SEC wasn’t good enough. He was quoted as saying, "This is my school, my alma mater. I love it and I love my players. But in my opinion, they deserved better coaching than they have been getting from me this year."

Bryant too had health issues, having suffered through a mini-stroke and heart problems the previous year that affected him to the point he occasionally slurred his speech when being interviewed. Only four weeks after he coached his final game in the Liberty Bowl, Bryant died.

I don’t want to see that happen to Frank. I want to see a full crowd in Lane Stadium for the game against North Carolina with the sidelines packed with all of his old players. I want to see him carried off the field by all of them win, lose or draw. I want to be there for if nothing else, to say thank you for the memories of a lifetime. Then I want to enjoy seeing pictures of him living the good life with his grandchildren while being a great ambassador for the university in any way he chooses.

In a way, I wish Frank had done this last season. He had beaten the eventual national champion, beaten in-state rival UVA in the final game of the regular season to make a bowl, then won that bowl game against a pretty good Cincinnati team. All despite struggling all year to barely have a winning record.

In any event, I have two tickets on the 30 for the Nov. 21 game with UNC in Blacksburg. I will be there to cheer on Frank one more time, because whether any of us know it officially or not, it probably will be his last game in Lane Stadium as head coach.

It would just be great if an announcement could be made beforehand so we could all celebrate the moment. And say thanks…for some great, great football memories.

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