So you love football? I mean REALLY LOVE FOOTBALL. You love other sports but there is just something about a Fall Blacksburg day that makes your blood flow more freely and your spirits brighten. You live for the crowd, your favorite spot in the stands, greeting other folks around you in the stands (some familiar, some new). You can't wait until Game Day. You get up at 4:00 AM to pack the tailgate chest, make sure the dining fly is tied down, and the propane tank is actually full. You have to be THERE. Even if the only view that you have is the jumbotron, and the only sound that you hear is the earphone spillage from the Jeremy from Mechanicsville sitting in front of you. He listens to the loudest Death Metal... but never misses even the faintest strain of the first cords of "Enter Sandman". Does the smell of smoked turkey legs and kettle corn swirling up from the south east corner of the stands make you feel like Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now"? "It smells like VICTORY!" If you would rather be outside in a cold rain, poorly covered in a cheap plastic bright orange poncho than warm and comfortable in a coffee shop on Draper without so much as a TV you could be hardcore.
Are you an away fan? You spend every spare minute the Hokies play in the man-cave or family room glued to the TV. You pay for the best cable package. You have a PC connected to your spare HDMI port, and ESPN3 is your home page on that computer. Do you watch every game available, and have the local Hokie Sports channel memorized on the car radio so that if you run low on chips or salsa you can know exactly when the game is about to restart? Do you record the game on the DVR just so you can go through each play in super-slo-mo just to get a better picture of what could have been done better? Do you watch at least two, if not three games at a time, hopping between the channels at the commercial breaks hoping to pick up the action on the other channel, but you are always coming back to the Hokies, and bitterly disappointed if you miss even a snap? Have you figured out how to get your Picture in Picture function working so that you can watch two games simultaneously, because even if your father-in-law's team is playing on ABC, you have to catch the Hokies on ESPNU? If you do, then you may be hardcore.
Do you actually read the media guides? Do you check the rosters? Do you actually know each player's number? Do you know that this line combination is going to run? Do you recognize coverages and blitz packages in Coach Foster's defense? Can you name the coaches on the sideline, and does the Hokie Bird still give you a good giggle when the bit is kicking the big inflatable football? Do you get to your feet just before the end of the third quarter, and actually stretch in preparation for the Hokey Pokey? (Even some Wake Tubists want in!) Does an entire 20 yard line of tubas dancing in a circle make you smile? Does the boom of the Skipper not only NOT surprise you, but you miss it if it's late? Do you wish that instead of the lame score and reviews that the half time show would be either the Highty-Tighties or the Marching Virginians doing their performances? Do you know all four official Virginia Tech Cheers? (Yes there are four!) Do you know the words to "Tech Triumph" and do you get the urge to wave your hat in time to the music?
Do you show up in Blacksburg in the second week of April to watch the Spring Maroon/White game, and take notes to see what tendencies next season's team will have? Do you make it a point to go to open scrimmages just to look at what's happening on the sidelines? Do you look for missing people, or new folks? Does it thrill you to walk down the tunnel into Lane Stadium and touch the Hokie stone as you clear the threshold? Can you hear the crowd and the beat of Sandman, even if there isn't a soul in the stands and the lawnmower is clipping the turf? If you can, then you may be hardcore.
This week is the run up for the Camping World Independence Bowl. It's considered a third tier bowl game, and we are facing an opponent in the Tulsa Golden Hurricane that has the same record, and many of the same struggles that we have had. We are about to run down a tunnel into unknown territory. Everyone knows what's at stake, here. We win we have a +1 season and Frank Beamer leaves on the same note on which he finally arrived 23 bowl games ago. But more than just Frank we are also auditioning for Justin Fuente. The players are out to show him what and who they are, and we Hokie Fans are going to have to show him how HARDCORE we are.
I think Coach Fuente feels like he has joined a winner. We need to welcome him to Hokie Nation by making him KNOW that he made the right choice and we ARE winners.
Time to be GREAT one last time for Frank and for the First time for Coach Fuente!