Orange Spirit

As I watch the mountains around Blacksburg turn to orange, and the Hokie Hordes gather for what they expect to be a destruction of Wake Forest at their Homecoming Game today, I am reminded of the game I attended at Lane Stadium a couple of weeks ago.

It was Orange Spirit Day. The Virginia Tech colors are maroon and burnt orange. VT University Relations says that the former is the primary color, while the latter is to be used as an accent.

VT burnt orange

My friend Jeff invited me to attend the game I went to. He has season tickets.

I scoured the Goodwill looking for orange to wear to the game, but the best I could find was University of Virginia orange. Of course, that wouldn’t do!

Jeff told me in an Email that in his view the whole Orange Spirit thing was just an excuse to sell sportswear. Jeff and I share many things, including cynicism. Thus, I stopped worrying about fitting in.

Blacskburg is a nuthouse on game day, so I knew I had to park afar and walk. So I parked near my department’s building, which is off-campus.

As I walked on to the VT grounds I began to see the Hordes gather. It began to look like a river of orange.

The Hokie Hordes head toward Lane Stadium

I met Jeff at a designated point and we went to the stands. While “stands” is really an oxymoron because people sit in them, they truly describe what happens at a VT game. The people never sit down.

In fact, the pre-adolescent in front of me the whole game not only stood, he also kept holding his arms aloft, which made for a difficult view of the proceedings.

The crowd was in an anxious mood because the usually victorious Hokies had been enduring an early-season losing streak. Their opponent on this day was East Carolina, which was reputed to have a  high-powered offense. Considering the VT defense to date was considered young and vulnerable, there was a certain testy mood in the air.

I had heard about the Hokie Spirit, though, and I wanted to experience it first hand. I had seen some of it apart from Lane Stadium in the past. Earlier this year I had attended a candelight ceremony commemorating those students killed in the well-publicized shooting from a few years back. In addition, I had been wandering around campus one early morn and saw the Corp of Cadets doing calestinics.

However, I was looking forward to hearing and seeing 40,000 plus Hokie fanatics in one place cheering on their football team. I wasn’t disappointed.

Most of the game the crown was loud and boisterous. When they fell behind EC early, they were a little quiet, though. In fact, Jeff asked me what I thought of the spirit at one point around halftime.

I told him it was pretty special, even though they were similar to most throngs when their team fell behind. He replied that Lane Stadium  was a tough place for an oppnent to play, especially at night

My friend Jeff, decked out in Che Guevara-style VT gear, consorting with the enemy at halftime.

At halftime I was reminded of my marching band days. VT’s Marching Virginians came on the field and did their thing.

Halftime shows haven’t changed much over the years. They are full of schmalts and most people don’t pay attention to them.

When I was enduring 10-hour days during preseason at the University of Maryland preparing to march in their band, I realized I was wasting my time. Heck, all I was going to get was one credit hour toward degree. It wasn”t worth blisters and possible sunstroke, so I quit.

The Marching Virginians reminded me of my brief merry go round in the University of Maryland marching band.

As the Hokies began to catch up and then pull away from the Pirates, who were trying to make off with the VT soul, the  burning oranges came to life. Offensive touchdowns and a pick-six made their day.

It was a great day. Indeed, I truly became part of the Orange Spirit because after hours in the hot sun, I had inherited my own orange tint. (Jeff had offered my sunscreen, but I had turned him down, noting my natural olive tone which wasn’t subject to burnt orange. Silly me.)

Jeff and his spouse left before I did, so I just hung aroung and enjoyed the orange glow emanating from the Hokie fans departing the stadium, relishing their team’s rebound from losing.

Happy Hokies exit the stadium

As I left, I walked by the campus Duck Pond, a calming influence after all the hoopla. I made a wrong turn on the way across campus and ended up walking a long time, which also cooled my jets.

I’m not a Gobbler at heart: my spirit belongs to the Terps of Maryland.  However, The turtles could learn something from the turkeys I live and work around, however. I don’t recall the Terrapin fans having as much fun and excitement at their games as the Hokies do at theirs.

“The Orange and Maroon you see,
That’s fighting on to victory;
Our strife will not be long this day,
For glory lies within this fray.”

(From the Virginia Tech Alma Mater)


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