Bumped to the front. Leaving the stadium I mumbled I was done with neutral site games, but I know I'll be at the next BCS game, and in Atlanta next year. I think Vince sums up how a lot of HokieNation feels in his piece. --Joe
Over the last 13 years I have travelled with the Hokies to 10 neutral site games: 5 bowl games and 5 regular season games. All ten times the Hokies came away with loss. That's 3 Sugar Bowls (Florida State, Auburn, Michigan), 1 Orange Bowl (Kansas), and 1 Chick-fil-A Bowl (Georgia). That's also 3 trips to FedEx Field (Southern Cal, Boise State, Cincinnati), 1 trip to Charlotte (East Carolina), and 1 trip to Atlanta (Alabama).
After the Alabama loss in 2009, I semi-jokingly made claims that I'd never to go to a neutral site game again. At that point Tech was 0-7 at neutral site games I attended, so I figured I must be bad luck. However, the environment in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kick-off game was incredible, and it was well worth the trip despite the loss. Fast forward one year, and there I am - entering FedEx Field for the second time to see the Hokies play there. After a solid afternoon of tailgating, and with the optimism that Tech would break the string of neutral site losses in my presence against a notable foe, I was fired up. The loss to Boise State was one of the most crushing defeats I have ever experienced. Just before leaving my seat after the game, I threw my hat on the floor in disgust and left it there. After that game, I swore up and down that I'd never go to a neutral site game again.
When I received my bowl game ticket order form the Virginia Tech Ticket Office later that season and again in 2011, I stuck to my guns and trashed it. However, my stance had softened ever so slightly. While I told people that I wasn't going to a neutral site game again, there was one notable exception: the Sugar Bowl. There is something special about New Orleans, and that's why I showed up in French Quarter to kick off the new year. That's why I stepped foot in the Superdome for the 2012 Sugar Bowl. Again, I was optimistic that this would be the time that my neutral site streak would final end. Well, we all know how that ended.
At this point you're probably wondering why in the hell I showed up at FedEx Field this past Saturday.
Because of you - you're the reason why I showed up.
You, my fellow Hokies. You, the folks I've met through Twitter and through this site. You, my friends who live in the DC Metro area.
To be honest, I really didn't give much of a damn about going to the game. I've been to FedEx before, and I have experienced the disaster that it is. I've seen some good football there, and I've had my football-heart broken there as well. I really was not interested in attending the game. What I was interested in was catching up with a good friend of mine who lives in Alexandria, and catching up with as many fine Hokies as I could. I knew tickets would be cheap (I ended up paying $20 for my ticket - which was probably too much), so actually witnessing the game in person was secondary. And, in spite of the loss, the trip was worth it. Outside of the 60 minutes of football played versus Cincinnati, I had a pretty fun weekend.
But let's think about this for a second. I have been watching Hokie football since the fall of 1997 (my freshman year at Tech). I am a fan in every sense of the word: a maroon VT rug sits in my foyer, a piece of Hokie Stone sits in my front yard, I have had season tickets through the Hokie Club since for the last 8 seasons, and I frequently go back for basketball games in addition to football games. If you asked my friends who is the most dedicated Hokie they know - they'd probably say it was me. The fact that going to the game didn't really interest me should speak volumes.
I'm not dumb enough to think that my presence at these games impacts the outcome. It is not superstition that drives my indifference to actually attending these events. The fact that we lose them is what feeds my apathy towards them. Since I've been following Virginia Tech football as a faithful fan (1997-present), the Hokies are 6-9 in bowl games, 3-2 in ACC Championship Games, and 0-5 in neutral site regular season games. That's a combined 9-16 at neutral fields.
For a program that wants to include itself among the college football elite, a 0.360 winning percentage at neutral sites over the last 15 years is downright abysmal.
I have said it before, but I'll say it again: Virginia Tech has been the best good football program in the FBS. We've been at the top of the tier just below the elite programs. It's not a terrible place to be, but I feel that it has bred complacency. We've had countless 10-win seasons, which is an affirmation that what we're doing is successful. But the trends are there. We really haven't had a marquee win in a while, yet we have had some losses that have been marquee wins for others.
I don't know what's next for us, but I do know something has to change in order for the Hokies to finally win a coveted national championship. If we keep doing what we're doing, we're going to win most of our games, lose games we should not, and win some ACC Championships. For a program that has an empty trophy case for the crystal football, that cannot be accepted as good enough. I fear that it's going to require a bad season in order for the necessary changes to come about. Beamer and company are OK with the status quo because it's largely been successful (8 straight 10-win seasons and a really long bowl streak), but it is obvious to me that the status quo will not get them what we desire: a national championship.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying I want a regime change. What I do want is a team that is well prepared, plays smash mouth football, and is capable of beating the best-of-the-best.
In the meantime, I'll continue to make my trips to Lane, I'll probably go to Atlanta next year to watch us lose to Bama, and I'll definitely make road trips that are affordable and fun. However, you will not see me at a bowl game for a while.
Unless it is in New Orleans.