ON PIRATE SPORTS
From the Anchor Desk
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
By Brian Bailey
Opener was stirring for
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My trip to Blacksburg to cover
the East Carolina-Virginia Tech football game is one that I will never
I always look forward to the
start of the football season and I knew this particular opener would really
It didn’t start out all that
I arrived on campus at about
noon on Friday with the idea of doing a couple of interviews with some
students to get their feelings on the pregame ceremonies and the game
I received a somewhat cool
reception from several student groups as I stood between a couple of
buildings near the drill field on campus. Several students refused
interviews and were outright rude.
I was a little confused until
I talked with one student about a possible interview.
“You have to understand,” said
the student. “We’ve had hundreds of cameras on our campus since the
shootings. Everyday they were here. At first we understood, but they kept
coming and we as a student body were just sick of the media.”
“We’ve been through hell,” he
The student also said that
some members of the media were sneaking into buildings and classes, all to
get pictures of the Tech students.
With that knowledge in hand my
interviews went much more smoothly. I started each conversation by
apologizing for my media brethren, and I made a several friends from the
Tech student body.
I can only imagine what that
April day must have felt like. Virginia Tech has a beautiful campus that is
tucked away in between the mountains of southwestern Virginia. There is no
way that something like that could happen in Blacksburg. Somehow, it did.
I then went to the memorial at
the drill field for the 32 slain victims. It was very moving but it was so
unfair. Those 32 people should have been a part of that beautiful Friday
afternoon on campus, getting ready for the game with East Carolina.
The ceremony on Saturday was
very well done.
The video tribute brought many
in the capacity crowd to tears. It was a beautiful piece with pictures and
music that literally gave you a sense of the pain and healing that was so
much a part of the campus for the last four months.
The East Carolina check
presentation was also special. Unfortunately, the television audience didn’t
get to see it live. After the presentation, the Tech crowd chanted “Thank
You” on one side, and “Pirates” on the other. It was loud and it was a
powerful show of gratitude.
Both teams ran out onto the
field with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blaring through the speakers. It was
a day of sportsmanship. Members of the teams and coaches met again at
midfield to shake hands before the game. They did the same thing afterwards.
As for the game, I think
Pirate coach Skip Holtz did a brilliant job of getting most of the general
population believing that his team didn’t have a chance. I’m sure there are
hard core Pirate fans that said they always believed, but I think the
general consensus around town was that this would be a long day for the
purple and gold.
The only group that really
believed East Carolina could win wore the colors. Holtz had his football
team believing that they could play with and beat the nation’s ninth-ranked
The Pirates didn’t win the
game but this team won plenty of respect around the nation. From the gift of
$100,000 to Hokie Hope, to the Pirate defense that gave up just 33 yards on
31 carries, this game was about gaining respect.
There are no moral victories.
Coach Holtz doesn’t believe in
However, he wanted his young
team to know that they can play with anyone in the nation. Holtz never
speaks to his team as a group on the field, especially after a road game.
This time he did. He told them
that they DID belong. He told them to continue to believe, and that good
things would happen.
They almost happened against
It was a trip that I’ll never
forget. Hopefully it will turn out to be the start of a season long journey
to remember for this East Carolina football team!
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