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We Dug Coal Together, And I'm Glad We Did

I know I’ve been hammering this “small world” theme the last couple of days, but I experienced something yesterday morning that is on my mind, and makes me want to talk about it one more day.

I had dropped by a bulletin board for a website called Techsideline.com. I used to be a regular there for a couple of years, but lost interest two years ago. I had written this story Thursday, and since Cindy and Jean Farmer were probably well known to many there, I thought I would post the story for all to see.

There were replies to the story, which brought back more memories, which sparked more replies from me, which brought back more memories. After an hour or two, I realized I was having conversations with 15 to 20 people who I’d never met, whose real names I’ll never know, yet people who shared mutual friends with people I’ve known all my life. They even shared memories of some of the very things I remember warmly, and even one mentioned I was the Resident Advisor in his dorm.

Small world, indeed.

It kind of reminded me of the television show “Justified” (no, we didn’t shoot each other) that was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard two decades ago called “Fire In The Hole.” If you haven’t watched the series, it went on for years and was very enjoyable. It chronicled the exploits of Raylan Givens (the good guy) and Boyd Crowder (the bad guy).

The short story’s first sentence is “they had dug coal together as young men…” and the book launches into a fast-paced adventure where each tries to kill the other. Despite that, they still sort of remained friends, something that boggled the minds of every other character in the story and television show.

On the book’s last page, one character asks Raylan why that is. He answers with the final words of the story: “I thought I explained it to you. Boyd and I dug coal together.”

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Bob Martin

Another Coal Digger

We shared the same employer, attended VT at the same time although I lived further upstream in O'Shag, lived in SW VA specifically... Read More
Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:01
Dave Scarangella

Couldn't Have Said It Better, ...

Not to mention you seemed to be sitting right next to me in the Superdome on an early January night back in 2000... ... Read More
Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:11
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Some Stories Just Seem To Live On Forever

Thursday, I posted this story about what a small world it’s been for me in the universe that is Virginia Tech athletics.

It ended up being read by quite a few people, and I got several emails in response. They all had the same request: Post the pic of Cindy Farmer and Mike Young in high school.

Sorry, can’t do that.

On a closed subscription site, maybe that could happen. But we’re out in the open for everyone to see, and while I have no issue with someone grabbing a picture of my dog talking into a microphone, or a big ol’ sandwich I just made, a prom picture is a little more personal. There's no way I could control where that pic went, so I’m not posting it.

But I will post one pic related to that story. Over the years I’ve been needled by a few friends when I’ve told the story because I did not put together Cindy and her Mom Jean having the same last name. In my defense, I’d like to point out I thought Farmer was Cindy’s married name, not her maiden name, so the fact that those two had the same last name did not register.

That hasn’t stopped a few wise cracks about all that from time to time. Take back in 2014, when Virginia Tech was playing Cincinnati in the Military Bowl in nearby Annapolis.

Cindy and her oldest daughter came up from North Carolina for the game and they sat near me and my old friend Doug during what ended up being a 33-17 Virginia Tech win. They had taken a shuttle over to the Navy stadium before the game, and since their hotel was on our way back to Ashburn, I told them to forget the shuttle and I’d give them a ride.

Walking back to the parking lot to get the car, we passed the sign you see in the picture above. Of course one of us said “you related to that Farmer too?”

Some stories, you see, just seem to live on forever 😊

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I'm Pulling For Darryl Tapp To Make This Happen

I don’t participate in social media any more, but I have some young friends who do. One of them sent me a screen shot of something Virginia Tech Co-Defensive Line Coach Darryl Tapp tweeted yesterday, and on one hand, it made me happy Tapp was bringing awareness to a problem that’s been brewing for quite some time.

On the other hand, it made me somewhat wary, because he can’t do anything about the problem alone. The tweet kind of made it seem like he was.

Tapp’s a great guy originally from the Tidewater area, and he tweeted “To the former OG Hokies and my Hokie Brothers PLEASE HIT me up in my DMs. VT will FOREVER be YOUR HOME. WE WANT YOU BACK AND NEED YOU BACK. Sincerely, Not A Random Guy. This is your brother.” Then he finished it with 17 turkey emojis.

It made me smile, as I thought “finally.” It has always been my thought as a career sales guy that some of the recruiting issues in major places like Tidewater and Richmond have been because of a lack of work building the necessary relationships with coaches, former players and the people on the ground who can make or break you. It’s hard work, takes time, and does not give you any sort of instant gratification.

But that was Frank Beamer’s edge for many years. He had the same assistants for most of his 28 years and they worked certain geographic areas hard. Coaches knew the Hokie assistants because they were in the schools frequently, not just to scout a player, but to build a relationship for when there was a big time recruit down the road they hoped to steer to Blacksburg.

It’s what you have to do when you are not Alabama, Notre Dame, or some brand name that can come in, sweep you off your feet and get you to change your mind on the strength of one visit. You build trust, and instead of finding yourself selling a commodity where the highest bidder wins, you end up selling a program, an experience, a family to join.

Tapp seems to be realizing that with this tweet. But Darryl, my man, you’re not getting it done with a tweet, a text or an email. That’s not selling. That’s casting out 100 lines on the ocean and hoping some fish bites on a couple. Anyone can do that.

Now’s when the hard part starts.

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Guest — Joe Rogers

Please come back to twitter

We miss you
Wednesday, 13 January 2021 09:08
Guest — Steve Wade

Definitely

Does Tapp, or any other coaches, subscribe to your blog? (Rhetorical) And a former player, Davon Morgan possibly, tweeted a while... Read More
Wednesday, 13 January 2021 10:45
Dave Scarangella

As a marketing guy, these are ...

You plan events to make it easy for people to spend some time with you. I can't tell you how many company sponsored golf events I'... Read More
Wednesday, 13 January 2021 11:09
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It's Not Every Day I Mention Hokie Basketball AND The Bible

It’s not unusual for me to call out the name of The Almighty when watching Virginia Tech sports, particularly in the final minutes of a close game.

But it is unusual for me to be reminded of a Bible verse when watching Hokie basketball.

Last night, as Virginia Tech was routinely beating Duke in basketball (something I don’t ever recall typing before), I started noticing more and more not just how good some of the players are, but how they seem to be improving from game to game.

It’s the benefit, I believe, of a well-rounded group of players with depth, and a coach who teaches them, believes in them, and lets that make mistakes to learn from.

The Hokies have had good teams before, but even in the Buzz Williams era, it was 2 or 3 players, mostly wing players, who lived and died by the outside shot. Buzz never seemed to like big men in his offense, so he didn’t recruit them much, and when he got one or two, he didn’t play them much with the exception of Kerry Blackshear. Opposing teams knew who they had to stop, and it’s a lot easier to rattle a shooter from the 3-point line than stop a strong inside player 3 feet from the rim.

But not this team. They have a bucket full of big men, and it’s not just Keve Aluma. Justin Mutts can run the floor, block a shot and then hit a 3-pointer. David N’Guessan can too. Cordell Pemsl and John Ojiako are injured, but they have proven they can be just as physical in the middle. As a result, it’s not one big man on the team battling a tall, slow walk-on in practice. These guys are getting after each other and pushing each other every day.

As Proverbs 27, verse 17 notes, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

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There's A Lot A Certain School Could Learn From Watching Alabama

You could tell by the end of Alabama’s first touchdown-scoring offensive series, Ohio State was in trouble last night.

Alabama is going to lay 50 on these guys, I told my faithful dog Maggie, the WonderBeagle.

Since she had chosen to take Ohio State and the points, she immediately got down from my lap, and as you see in the picture to the right, kneeled down and prayed I was wrong.

Her prayers - and Ohio State’s -  were not answered.

Part of it was certainly the tremendous athletes Alabama has, but Ohio State had great athletes too. Yes, the Buckeyes also were missing a key player in injured running back Trey Sermon, but he wasn’t playing defense.

The part that caught my attention, however, was how Ohio State approached playing defense against this powerful offense. It looked pretty predictable, and made Alabama’s drives look relatively easy. ESPN, as it does in national championship games, provides multiple feeds for the game, including a “film room” with coaches, and they did not appear impressed.

Former Auburn coach and UNC defensive coordinator Gene Chizik noted Ohio State was playing so much one-high safety, Alabama’s offense could pretty much pick what they wanted to do. Liberty Coach Hugh Freeze, who knows a thing or two about offense and has actually beaten Alabama as a head coach, echoed that by saying you could see clearly what Ohio State’s defense was going to do when you came to the line of scrimmage.

Alabama’s hard enough to beat when you DO confuse the quarterback; letting him easily see what he’s facing is just inviting a boat race. It creates a situation where I kind of thought Alabama QB Mac Jones was just having a ho-hum night, making throws that were good, but nothing spectacular. Then you realize he threw for 464 yards and 5 touchdowns while completing 80 percent (36 of 45) of his passes.

Ho hum, indeed.

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Guest — Jack Slovic

Hello

Dave On point analysis- communication growth and stability critical to success Look forward to getting your long form commentary ... Read More
Tuesday, 12 January 2021 19:33
Dave Scarangella

Thanks, Jack!

Welcome to the site!
Tuesday, 12 January 2021 19:44
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Twenty One Years Later....

Twenty-one years ago today, I woke up in a rather modest hotel in Slidell, LA, packed up my things, and my friend Bob and I began the long drive back home to High Point, NC.

It was the morning after Virginia Tech had played Florida State for the National Championship, and the previous 24 hours had produced memories that at the time we knew would – and have – lasted a lifetime. But we were both silent and a bit sad.

We had come so close to watching Virginia Tech realize the pinnacle of college football. We both gone to VT from 1974 to 1978, so we had a clear appreciation of where the program had been and where it was that morning. We also knew that this specific moment in VT football history – at least what it meant to the two of us – was never going to happen again.

“You think,” Bob said as we crossed the Mississippi state line, “that there will come a time where all our fans are spoiled and anything less than this will be a disappointment?”

It was a fair question that we talked about for many miles. When the Hokies beat Texas in the Sugar Bowl four years earlier, I sat out on my deck a few minutes past midnight, light rain falling, smoking a Cuban cigar I had saved for a special occasion. I was a newly minted Dad, as my 8-month old daughter was sleeping inside, my alma mater made it all the way to a big name contest like the Sugar Bowl, and they didn’t just show up and act happy they were in the game. They fell behind, then stormed back and had actually WON.

Life was good. And I knew how lucky I - and every other Hokie who was as passionate about the team as I was – was to experience it. The days of 3-win seasons and never being mentioned on the national sports scene seemed over.

“Everything runs in cycles,” I answered Bob. “I guess it will depend on how long they’ve gotten used to experiencing this kind of winning.” I then pointed out we’d see pretty soon because anyone who was a freshman in 1995 was now either graduating or was about to. They’d seen two Sugar Bowls, an Orange Bowl, a Gator Bowl and a win over Alabama in a Music City Bowl.  An 8-win season – the high-water mark for us when we were students at VT - to them might be considered a disaster.

We both agreed that the way things were going, there were going to be a lot more years before that ever was going to be a problem. Heck, we came within a quarter of winning it all. Mike Vick was going to be back the next year along with a lot of other players. All the publicity was going to allow us to bring in even better recruits. If we could just have 2 or 3 more really good years, we might even get a chance to get our ultimate goal, which was to one day be in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“We’ll be back next year,” Bob said, and I agreed. We should.

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I'd Run Through A Brick Wall For Mike Young

I have to admit, I couldn’t help noticing several moments during Virginia Tech’s big upset of No. 3 Villanova last night and then not think about the contrast between the football and basketball programs.

Those moments illustrated a lesson I hope Virginia Tech’s athletic administration has learned.

The first came late in the game when the Hokies were rallying. Television cameras caught the Virginia Tech bench, where Coach Mike Young was briefing his players on what he wanted done during the timeout. The players were engaged, excited, listening. Young was full of energy, but controlled, as if teaching a class and both coach and player alike were excited about what they were learning.

The second came after the game. Young immediately took the blame for a key play that occurred in the final seconds. Keve Aluma was supposed to miss the second shot of a one-and-one; he tried, but it banked in, so Villanova had one last chance. There were 1.3 seconds left so the odds Villanova could pass the ball inbounds and make a shot were slim to none. The only chance was to run the baseline, slip one of your players in front of the defender while he’s watching the ball, and draw a charge.

That’s what happened to the Hokies’ Justyn Mutts. A foul was called, Villanova made both ends of the one-and-one and the game went into overtime. Asked about it after the game, Young was quick to say “I failed to coach my player [Mutts] on one of the oldest tricks in the book and it almost cost us."

This was not a case of Young using the press to confess his coaching sins to the world. Young is a sharp and experienced coach who is not only good at coaching X’s and O’s, but is just as good managing and motivating people. He knew people might criticize Mutts for that play, and he was having none of it. He immediately drew the arrow toward himself, deflected all criticism from the player and heaped it all on the coach.

Which is what great coaches do.

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Here We Are Again, Back At The Crossroads...

Well, here we are, back at the crossroads.

We knew we’d be back here one day. As we watched the rocket ship take off under Frank Beamer, enjoyed the streak of bowl games, the long streak of wins over Virginia, even the decades-long streak of not having a losing season, we knew nothing would last forever.

But last night it officially did. The end of the streak of not having a losing season ended two years ago. The 15-game streak over UVA ended last year. With a 45-10 loss to Clemson last night, there will be no bowl game. The 27-year run is over.

Every brick Frank put together to build the foundation of the football program is now gone.

That it has happened so fast is maddening. That it is Justin Fuente who has fired up the flux capacitor and taken this program back to where it was in the 1980s is stunning. After his first two seasons, he was doing so well fans were afraid he might leave. He won 19 games in those seasons, said all the right things, and executed the transition between Frank and his program flawlessly.

But last night’s game was a microcosm of what has happened since. You could see flashes of what a great coach Fuente could be in the first quarter; he employed personnel in different roles, showed different formations defenses couldn’t study on film, and made bolder calls on offense that for a moment, had Clemson back on its heels.

This fired up an already well-prepared team, as they realized the improbable could be possible. It was 10-10 late in the second quarter, and despite having to create their own energy in an empty stadium, the Hokies were showing a national television audience they weren’t going to roll over and fulfill the 23.5-point beating oddsmakers had predicted.

But Clemson then scored to make it 17-10 in the final minute. The Hokies got the ball back with relatively decent field position at the 32, one run got them to the 36, and another advanced the ball to the Clemson 43. For a second I thought there was a mistake, as my television showed the clock continuing to run through all that, with Khalil Herbert’s 21-yard run going out of bounds with only two seconds left in the half.

It was no mistake. Fuente told his offense to run out the clock despite having three timeouts left. Had he just used one, he probably could have kept running the ball and ended up in field goal range. As it was, they threw a Hail Mary that was caught at the one, and the half ended with no time on the clock.

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Doug Johnson

Somebody Needed To Say It, And...

You encapsulated, and expressed better the jumble of thoughts ricocheting inside my mind. After five years, there is no one else'... Read More
Sunday, 06 December 2020 14:08
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Biggest Issue With The Hokies Yesterday Wasn't On The Field

Lord knows, there were plenty of things in yesterday’s Virginia Tech-Pitt game to be unhappy with.

But for me, it wasn’t the predictable play calls, the missed tackles, the going for it on 4th and 4 and only getting 3, or losing by a wide margin to a team that had lost 4 of its last 5 and had 16 players out.

It was a single answer by Justin Fuente to a fair question by Richmond’s Mike Barber after the game.

The question involved the Hokie offense and the perception of a lack of imagination in play calling that has been voiced by many Hokie fans on social media. The team had gotten off to a great start offensively, averaging over 40 points a game and going 3-1 in their first four games.

But a wheel seemed to come off the high-scoring bus at Wake Forest, as Virginia Tech was held to only 16 points in a loss to the Deacons. The Hokies have now lost 4 of their last 5, and instead of averaging 40, they scored 16 against Wake, 24 against Miami and only 14 yesterday against Pitt.

During those games, there have been flashes of versatility and imagination that led to big plays. But when things got tight, the Hokies seemed to crawl back into their shell and run the same handful of plays they always run, specifically a quarterback keeper by Hendon Hooker.

Because of that, Barber asked the question many fans would like to know the answer to: With an open date coming up, which would allow for some changes to be made that would address some of the shortcomings shown during the current 3-game losing streak, would Fuente consider taking over play calling for the final two games of the regular season?

Fuente reacted with not only disgust, but almost contempt for Barber. “That’s the most ludicrous crap I’ve ever heard. Next question.”

I’ll take that as a no, coach.

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Even My Dog Knows Nothing Is Going To Change Right Now

As I do every Sunday morning, I got some hot coffee, then Maggie the WonderBeagle and I thrashed out the results of the previous day’s Virginia Tech football game. It was another loss, and I was trying to develop some level of outrage about how the state of the program has fallen so far since the glory days of the 90s and early 2000s.

I couldn’t.

It was at this point Maggie looked up from sniffing every leaf in the back yard and said “why would you? Do you really think anything’s going to change?”

Admittedly, the hound is right.

If you take yourself through what would happen if you made the change this morning, you see the foolishness of such a move. Unless you’ve got a name coach ready to come in tomorrow who can lead the program back to the 10-win seasons of yesterday, the first thing you’d have to do is name an interim coach for the rest of the season.

That alone says to fans we’re punting on the rest of the season, not to mention the question of which assistant would you elevate to the job temporarily. This isn’t your father’s program where if Frank Beamer left, Bud Foster could grab the helm and the program would keep on trucking. Indeed, one of the bigger issues on this team is the performance of some of the key assistants. You going to promote one of them?

Then there is the danger that the assistant does really well those last few games. With nothing to lose, many times the team plays better as they rally around their teammates. Then there’s pressure to let the interim stay as the head coach, the school does it for the sake of continuity, and you soon realize why that coach was an assistant and not a head whistle.

You certainly don’t save any money in that scenario, as you’re going to pay the head coach any way. If anything, it costs you more because you have to pay the assistant you promoted more. So you’ve spent money you don’t have just to make a change that doesn’t make the situation any better.

I’m not arguing you shouldn’t consider a change at the end of the season. But this is an unusual year where all players get a mulligan and can come back next year regardless of eligibility. And there is a possibility that head coach Justin Fuente might just “get it” before the end of the season. There were signs of that yesterday.

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Maybe The Problem Here Is A Matter Of Trust

It has taken me 8 games into the season to see it, but I think I now have a feeling why this program isn’t going anywhere.

It’s a decided lack of trust. Or for lack of a better word, fear.

Not just fear of dialing up a daring play when the game is on the line, although that certainly happened in the fourth quarter. The coaching staff actually put together an imaginative offensive game plan where early plays set up later plays and for three quarters, they ran it well. It wasn’t until the fourth period that they became like a turtle going back into its shell, afraid to do anything other than the basic core plays they run all the time.

But I’m talking about more than that.

One of the things you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been a long-time watcher of Virginia Tech football is that the most hated man in Blacksburg is always the offensive coordinator. Half of the profane words I have accumulated into my vocabulary were acquired sitting up high on the alumni side of Lane Stadium around the 20, listening to old-timers describe the job they thought Ricky Bustle was doing.

Fans weren’t much kinder to Gary Tranquil, Bryan Stinespring or Scot Loeffler, and under Justin Fuente, Brad Cornelsen is the man getting his time in the barrel.

Over the years, sometimes the brutal criticism has been warranted. Other times it has not.

But if you’ll look at the years when the Hokies’ performed well no matter who the OC was, I think there’s a trend that’s hard to ignore.

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