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I have to admit, I’m getting tired of all the negative Virginia Tech stories. I understand they need to be written, and I’ve written several myself. But it’s a rainy Wednesday that’s probably going to turn into a rainy Thursday, so I’m ready to read something positive.
As noted in a previous post, I was digging through the basement for some old newspaper clips involving Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall last night. Having found what I was looking for, I returned to the basement this morning to put them away. In the box I was returning these artifacts to was the program you see to the right.
Which sparked one of the greatest Hokie memories I’ll ever have.
That game back in 1995 wasn’t one filled with joy and anticipation. My wife and I had sat out in the rain the previous week against Cincinnati, a miserable contest where Virginia Tech didn’t even score. They were 0-2 after losing to Boston College in the opener, and there were even grumbles in the car driving to Lane Stadium that we may have wasted a bunch of money for these season tickets if they were going to continue playing like this.
As history will note, the Hokies bounced back in this game, beat Miami, and would not lose the rest of the season, winning 10 straight and culminating in a program-defining win over Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
But that’s not what made the day special.
As I noted in a different story the other day, the world was not only given the likes of Chase Elliot in 1995, but also received a beautiful baby girl born to a single mother in Eastern North Carolina. She would later become our daughter, but it was not without some legal issues that made for more than a few sleepless nights for my wife and I. We had hired a lawyer to help us get through all these issues, and as we were driving from High Point, NC to Blacksburg, my Leroy Jethro Gibbs-style Motorola Startac flip phone rang.
We were on I-77 closing in on the North Carolina/Virginia line, and it was the attorney. She had good news, explaining that the last of the paperwork had been completed Friday, and everything was in order so that Monday morning, we could go get our new daughter and bring her home with us.
As we verbally celebrated in the car, it dawned on us that this would be the last time we ever went anywhere where it was just the two of us. We would be parents in 48 hours, we were quite happy, and watching the Hokies hold on to win that game was just icing on the cake.
The rest of the year kept getting better, as on New Year’s Eve, I watched the Hokies beat Texas in the Sugar Bowl with a tiny infant wearing a “my first Virginia Tech” sweatshirt on my lap, sleeping through it all. As the clock struck midnight, I went out on my deck, lit up a cigar, and looked up at the stars and the sky while thanking the Almighty for blessings far beyond what any person could reasonably ask.
But even that’s not the best part of the story.
The little girl would grow up, graduate high school and apply for colleges. She would end up a Hokie, and during her freshman year mentioned that many in the dorm on game days seemed to have football games blaring on the radio throughout the halls. As she knew of my previous time as a sportswriter, she asked if I knew this guy named Bill Roth.
Yes, I told her, I did. And not all that long after, Bill posted on his web page what he judged as his 10 greatest radio calls. The mp3 files were all linked so if you missed any of them, you could listen. One of them was the final minute of that Miami game, where the defense saved the day.
When she came home for Christmas break, I told her the story of how her Mom and I were in the stands watching the game, and I was listening to Bill call the game live on the radio headset I always wore to games. Then we got out a laptop, and history came full circle as we listened and relived the moment together. It was very cool.
But that’s still not the best part.
I later emailed Bill and relayed the story, thinking it would make him smile. I had talked to Bill before via email and due to some business with a local radio station I had been working with, but I’d never met him, so I never expected a response. Immediately, however, I got an email back. Bill loved the story, then provided his cell phone number and every bit of information you could ever need to contact him.
“If she ever runs into any problems here where she needs help,” Bill wrote, “you tell her to call me.”
Bill had copied the story to his broadcasting buddy, Mike Burnop, and about 5 minutes later, another email came, this time from Mike with basically the same message.
If you’re a Dad who has just sent your only child away to be a freshman at a University several hundred miles away, you understand just how much something like this means. I barely knew either. But they’re now family to me for life. Our only bond before was that we were Hokies.
So yeah, there are issues with our football team, just like there were back in 1995. I’ve even seen some people post about how now is not a great time to be a Hokie.
I’ll never think that’s true. Because wins and losses come and go, I’ve learned over the years.
But memories of selfless deeds by great Hokies like Bill and Mike?
They last forever.