Well, that was fun. Virginia Tech’s 2009 football season ended where it had begun, in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome against an SEC team. From this Hokie point of view, the results were considerably more satisfying. As always is the case, the trip was great fun.
Things got underway last Tuesday morning. I was summoned from the shower by a ringing phone and informed by the guy with whom I have journeyed what seems like tens of thousands of miles this season on football trips that he had left Roanoke two hours earlier than anticipated and would be arriving in Danville in what turned out to be twenty minutes. It ain’t too often that traveling companions have to wait on me.
We arrived in Atlanta in mid-afternoon and quickly settled into our usual game routine, hanging out with the folks at the Clubhouse Tailgate. Much fun seemed to be had by all. The good times were only slightly tempered by the cold Chicken Bowl weather. Every morning I would spring from my hotel bed and watch and listen as a smiling weather person would inform me that it would be a splendid day in Atlanta, sunny with a high near 50. Then I would venture out and spend time in a damp environment where the thermometer struggled to crack 40. I have become accustomed to the weather folks in Virginia being right at least some of the time. Of course, temperatures of around 40 would seem positively temperate compared to what was patiently waiting for seemingly the exact moment I arrived home. Man, it is cold! But I digress.
On my second day in, I did notice that unused second queen bed in my hotel room and that lodgers seemed to be stacked into the Clubhouse like sardines and graciously offered accommodations the second night to an ex-Russian. He seemed to find the quarters more satisfactory than what could be obtained in Mother Russia.
He also discovered, as we stood outside sipping brown liquor and smoking the fruits of Fidel’s island paradise that there were other Hokies in the hotel who were overjoyed at meeting the famous Russian Hokie, although they didn’t seem to have the slightest idea of my identity. Some BHA’s are better than others, as I discovered at the game when I found myself seated in close proximity to a Hokie from Scottsdale, Arizona. As is always the case when I have the good fortune of meeting people who read these posts, he was a fine gentleman with whom I enjoyed conversing, as was the Hokie whose driving home lunchtime hunger pangs seemed to have arrived at the exact moment as had ours, near Clemson, South Carolina. The economic impact of the Chicken Bowl, estimated at $33 million by the Atlanta paper, was spread all over the southeast.
Arizona had been a hop, skip and a jump compared to the distances traveled by some of the others with whom I came in contact in Atlanta. When an Ethiopian taxi driver can ferry me around and recommend an attractive young lady from Thailand, I have my room cleaned by a bevy of Mexican young ladies, do business at a market run by a gentleman from India, have breakfast at an establishment expertly owned and operated by Koreans and later tailgate with people who either they themselves or recent ancestors hailed from Russia, Germany, and Bangladesh, it pops into my head that perhaps college football is the great melting pot. Although I did not bother to check resident status, I’m guessing that all were now American citizens, or not far from obtaining citizenship. I do not consider this a bad thing. All were providing services instead of demanding them; the latter was the case with Atlanta’s famous bums, including the one who happened by affecting blindness unless he was not, which was when he was looking both ways at intersections or pointing us out with his cane.
Our second day in Atlanta the Clubhouse Tailgate was overrun by five television crews who found the Clubhouse Compound an intriguing storyline. They included all three from the Roanoke/Lynchburg market, as well as one each from Knoxville and Atlanta. While I received precious little face time, due in part to the words uttered by the WSET folks of, “We have already interviewed you,” they discovered that we were not strangers to media coverage and were perhaps the only tailgate they encountered with its own media relations guy. They only had to wait a short time as the Senior Hokie checked his on-camera make-up between takes.
We had come to Atlanta for the Chicken Bowl. I’m guessing that by now most everybody has learned the score. After a dicey First Half, Tech rolled in the second, laying to rest all of the chatter about Frank’s record in domes in general and the Georgia one in particular and his difficulties in defeating teams from the SEC. It was fairly amusing to spend the latter parts of the game observing the fans of the Vols racing full-tilt for the exits, being chased from the arena by the chants of ‘ACC’ coming from the Tech ones. I hadn’t seen SEC fans scatter like that since the 1998 Music City bowl. By halftime, the Tennessee band was through playing that annoying ‘Rocky Top.’
Most of the pre-game speculation had claimed that neither side would have great success running the ball and victory would go to the team that could generate a decent attack through the air. That was partially-correct. While Bud’s defense kept the Vols’ Montario Hardesty bottled up most of the night and planted UT QB Jonathan Crompton into the turf 6 times, Ryan Williams found the going very good and Tyrod hit open receivers all over the field. Throw in a couple of Tennessee turnovers and it added up to a 37-14 Tech win. The Hokies have tried it both ways in these 17 straight bowls under Frank- winning is definitely better.
Win or lose, bowl trips are always great fun, as are any other football journeys. Of the 13 games Tech has played this year, the Chicken Bowl marked the 13th time I had personally-viewed the Hokies. I had not seen all Tech games in quite a few seasons. While Atlanta is not exactly uncharted waters after 3 trips this season, I do find my brief flings with the big city to be satisfying. This one was especially gratifying because, after all, Tech won.