This afternoon, Duke — one of college football’s biggest punchlines over the last decade — defeated my beloved Virginia Tech Hokies, 13-10, dropping Tech’s record to 6-2 (3-1 in the ACC), and elevating Duke’s to 6-2 (2-2 in the ACC).
In my youth, this would be an opportune occasion to throw shit all over my house and scream and curse that Virginia Tech has somehow wronged me, personally, and that I could never possibly be interested in watching another fucking college football game again in my life.
But then, the following week, I’d be back at it, in the same spot, watching my team and rooting for them to win just as hard.
Logically speaking, if I’ve learned anything in the last 15 years or so watching my favorite sports teams, it’s that, in spite of my tantrums and irrational emotions, I’m going to like them just as much regardless of the result. A couple years ago Virginia Tech opened the season with a lopsided loss to Alabama — who eventually won the national championship — and again the next week to James Madison University, a Division 1-AA football school. That was the worst loss I can remember since I started cheering for Virginia Tech back in 1999, when Michael Vick was their quarterback. And Virginia Tech won the ACC that season, so that loss to JMU means very little in retrospect.
Today, whether it was Duke or some football juggernaut like Alabama, I don’t feel much of anything. But maybe that’s just the scotch running through me. Objectively, I realize Virginia Tech just isn’t all that great of a football team; they’re built on an exceptional defense, but the offense sucks dick. I imagine I would feel differently if I truly felt they were a National Championship contender, but this is college football and parity is the name of the game. Even Duke can win, and a 6-2 Duke team is nothing to sneeze at.
It’s also the reason I’m not going to be particularly surprised when my favorite NFL team — the Chiefs — loses their first game. They are essentially built on the same foundation as Virginia Tech: They have two highly above-average cornerbacks, which allows the front seven to be as aggressive as they want to be, a solid pass rush, a stout defensive tackle… and virtually no offense to speak of. In football, the old cliché is that “offense wins games, defense wins championships,” but when there is no offense, when the quarterback can’t move the chains on 3rd down, then it’s basically “defense wins games, defense takes the offense as far as the offense can manage.”
If that’s a championship, great. But I’m certainly not betting on it, even if Kansas City has pretty favorable 12-to-1 odds at the moment of winning the Super Bowl.
In my head right now, I still can’t get over the fact that it had to be Duke to beat us. What the fuck. I’m trying to convince myself it’s only one game, and all that jazz, but shit. Really? Duke?
When I was a little boy, Duke was my First. My first favorite sports team. I was, like, 5 years old. But it wasn’t their football team I fell in love with, it was basketball. I remember when I went to school at Virginia Tech, I was home in Southern California on my Thanksgiving break — which is when Duke played VT in Blacksburg — so I missed the game.
But when basketball season was going on, Duke came to Virginia Tech at the end of February (or beginning of March; I can’t remember), and I remember being a nuisance to all my friends to try and get my hands on those tickets. Since it was the biggest game of the year for VT basketball, I had a helluva time, especially since scalpers wanted like $150 for one ticket, and I didn’t have that sort of capital to shed back then.
I recall my great plan was to feign being a Virginia Tech student — which I was — all decked out in orange and maroon, but to secretly root for Duke the whole time I was at the game. No one would have actually noticed I was a Duke fan, so it would have been solid deception on my part.
But it never happened, because I didn’t receive a ticket during the lottery selection process for students, and I couldn’t get my friends to give up the tickets they had. I ended up watching the game in my dorm room all by myself, and Duke won, so I didn’t have any real complaints. It was just the fact that I had never had the chance to see Duke play on the west coast, and that all my friends were assholes for not letting me fulfill one of my childhood dreams. Oh well; another time.
In a longwinded sort of way, I’m not mad Virginia Tech lost. I just don’t know why it had to be Duke.