From the sidelines
By Marty Gordon
Saturday’s home opener for Virginia Tech was quiet and lackluster. There was no jumping at the start of the game. There was no roar of the crowd except from canned noise over the public address speakers.
There was no tailgating in the parking lots surrounding Lane Stadium. For the most part, it was a desolate “ghost town.”
COVID-19 has changed the way college football Saturdays we typically have grown accustomed to in Blacksburg and the New River Valley now look.
Restaurants had empty parking lots, and hotels had vacancy signs. It just wasn’t right.
For the first time in 20 years, I did not make the climb up the stairs to the Lane press box. I, too, had to change my way of doing things, covering the game in a whole different way. I watched it on television.
Again, it wasn’t the same.
Typically, the epicenter of Virginia Tech football, attendance in Lane Stadium was limited to 1,000 people due to restrictions to help fight the spread of COVID-19. As a result, Virginia Tech Athletics quickly assembled a flurry of safe ways to keep Hokie traditions alive and students, alums and fans engaged throughout the game.
Prior to the game, hundreds of Hokies from around the globe chimed in during a virtual roll call and viewed the Hokies Walk Through on Facebook Live while more than 9,000 used some feature of the Hokie Sports mobile app during the 7 and 8 p.m. hours.
The app provided a variety of trivia and contests, as well as the chance for fans to receive a push notification, accompanied by lights and a playing of “Enter Sandman” as the football team entered the field in real time.
The Highty-Tighties and Color Guard performed the national anthem and “Tech Triumph”; via videotape at the beginning of the game. Skipper was fired at the end of quarters and for every Hokie score. The Marching Virginians, Virginia Tech Spirit Squads and the HokieBird live-streamed various performances from nearby English Field throughout the night.
This is just the new way of doing things thanks to COVID.
The strain was seen on the sidelines as there were as many as 20 players missing. There was also no Justin Hamilton, who had to wait one more week to make his debut as the team’s new defensive coordinator.
This year will be one of firsts that we never saw coming. I just hope college football fans can adjust to it all. In this case, we have to.
Every week will be something new. Every week, there will be a change in the lineup. The “next man up” mentality will play a major role in the outcome of this season.
Coaches will be strained to come up with a game plan, and the final outcome might come as a surprise for all of us.
This new space is just a blip in what we have been fighting for the past six months. I just hope we can weather the storm, keeping the student-athletes and staff safe through it all.
Thank you Virginia Tech football, for giving us a little bit of a distraction through it all.
We will adjust. We will move on. We will survive. I will learn to take notes from my living room couch.