*Bear with me here; I'm not sure if this is just me trying to come to terms with Sunday's kick in the nuts.
As football fans we are subjected to the phrase "window of opportunity" perhaps more than we should be. It's one of the intangibles of the game; we know it is there, yet we don't know when it will - methaphorically - close. It just happens. As fans, there is little we can do to stop this metaphorical window shutting, with the exception of continuing to be fans.
I have been a San Francisco 49ers fan for all of my self-aware life. Blame the Dallas Cowboys (sorry RiVAHokie). When I was younger, the 49ers seemingly always won the NFC West, or at the very least, were able to claim the highest Wild Card slot in the playoffs. Football at Candlestick/3-COM/Monster Park in January was a given. Granted, the 49ers only advanced to the NFC Championship Game once since their victory in Super Bowl XXiX, but there was always the expectation of contending for a Lombardi Trophy.
By the time I was out of high-school and on my way down 81 to begin a new life in Blacksburg, the window of opportunity for the 49ers had closed. With the exception of one completely undeserved Wild Card Rally against the Giants in 2002, the next decade was a barren wasteland of botched management, horrendous drafting (Giovanni Carmazzi, Rashawn Woods, Mike Rumph anyone?), and worse coaching (Dennis Erickson, MIke Nolan, Mike Singletary). The team that I just naturally assumed would post 11-13 wins each season struggled to win a third of that. For almost a decade, they were the worst team in what was widely considered the NFL's worst division (nevermind the fact the NFC West placed a participant in the championship game 5 times since 1998).
That's what made this season so damn refreshing. The 49ers figured out how to win close games, and unlike the majority of the last decade, the team didn't beat themselves. That's what made Sunday's classic a bitter pill to swallow.
So what does this have to do with the Hokies?
Virginia Tech, like the 49ers of the late 80s and 90s, has reached that point as a program that there are annual expectations for a conference champinship. Some years, us fans have - realistically or not - higher expectations. The culture has been that way since the 1999 heartbreaker to Peter Warrick's swift feet, but really took off once we joined the ACC. My freshman year was the first of our current 10-win season streak.
Which brings us back full circle: the "window of opportunity". I don't expect it to close next season, or the season after that. Maybe it won't happen until Frank Beamer hangs it up. But, eventually it will happen. That's what makes losses like this years Sugar Bowl so painful; there is no guarantee that we will continue to play in - let alone win - in high profile bowl games.
I don't know why, but I have high hopes for Logan Thomas. I'm not saying he will fill that empty trophy case, but, like Tyrod Taylor before him, there is that feeling of knowing that the team is in good hands. Call it whatever you want: faith, talent, the "it" factor, whatever. Logan has it. And it's exciting. I am comfortable saying our window will stay open for as long as he is on campus.
A couple of months ago, I met up with some classmates from '08 in Hoboken. Amidst our usual shenanigans - Teen Wolf quotes, karaoke, banana costumes in Penn Station - we were able to sit down at a bar, grab some grub, and watched the first LSU-BAMA game. I don't remember which one of us brought it up, but we all recognized how fucking lucky we were to be associated with the winningest college football program in the last decade. It was meant to be rhetorical, but I said, "I will have no idea what to do with myself if we lost to UVA. Bound to happen eventually, right?"
We all started laughing uncontrollably. Seriously. I laughed so hard I gave myself the hiccups. Preposterous! That window will never close.