Maybe it’s because it’s Columbus Day. Or maybe it’s because last week, just to refresh my memory, I went back and watched the entire first season of The Sopranos.
But in seeing a lot of different reactions to Virginia Tech’s 32-29 loss to Notre Dame Saturday night, I find myself coming back to the same expression in regards to the football program.
It’s the life we’ve chosen.
I’m not going to stand here and try to make you believe all is well in Blacksburg. There were plenty of things I questioned in watching the game, not the least of which is why this coaching staff can’t figure out how to put a decent goal-line offense together. After getting embarrassed against West Virginia with more trips inside the 10 than the entire sports media made trips through the buffet line in the press box, you’d think they’d make that a priority, given how few points they scored after those trips.
Good teams score when they get inside the 5-yard line. They have packages ranging from every tight end on the roster on the field, to maybe a running specialist in a wildcat format, or special plays they only run when get close to the endzone. The team takes pride in being able to impose their will on an opponent in such scenarios, and they practice these situations over and over again because they believe their effectiveness when called upon can make the difference between winning and losing.
I mean, the Hokies had a first and goal at the 1-yard line early in the second quarter, and three plays later, they were still there, having to settle for a 19-yard-line field goal by John Parker Romo with 10:35 left in the first half. If my math is correct, a touchdown and extra point gets you 4 more points, which is not an insignificant amount when you end up losing by 3 points.
There were other decisions made in the second half that if I was so inclined, I could go into great detail on why I’m not sure they were the best ones ever made. But Sunday morning, as I was thinking about all this, I kept coming back to “what does it matter?”
For every moment of questioning, there were three times as many moments where young guys were giving all they had to somehow pull off an upset. Braxton Burmeister looked like the reincarnation of Michael Brewer, who years ago took the field in the second half with half a shoulder working because he knew it was the only way his team would beat UVA.
Burmeister did the same, knowing the next big hit could probably end his college career, fearlessly running through the defense for the go-ahead touchdown from 19 yards out with under 4 minutes to go. When the team needed it, the defense came up with big plays, including Jermaine Waller’s pick 6 from 26 yards out at the end of the third quarter that put the Hokies up 22-21.
Lane Stadium was electric, players gave everything they had, and despite all that, it all came apart in the last 4 minutes. In my 50 years of watching the Hokies, it’s happened more times than I care to admit, but it happened again. And as I always do, I turned off the TV, took a leave of absence from social media, then contemplated what terrible things I must have done in an earlier life to warrant such tormenting karma.
It is what it is. But by Sunday morning, I was over it, and had another Virginia Tech golf shirt on while reading messages and texts from a wide variety of Hokie friends. Many were talking about how they were done with Virginia Tech football until things change, and my response to all of them was “liar!” While I did not make any effort to change their minds, I did point out that we have spent far too long pulling for this program, we care too much about the young people who kill themselves in practice to prepare for these games, and we’ve got too much invested in the 200-odd sweatshirts, hats and jackets with a maroon and orange “square root of 1” logo on it.
Do I wish they had won? Yes. Would I like to see some changes? Yes. Will I ever give up on them?
No. I have too much time invested in them. I’m also an eternal optimist that the next game, they will do better.
For better or worse, I’m a Hokie. So are all my friends. It's who we are. We're not going anywhere.
It’s the life we’ve chosen.
You're oh so right, Dave. The college & pro teams we pull for have our number. No matter the score or bonehead coaching calls, here we come again.