Sunday, September 27, 2009
Over the years of sports fandom, I've witnessed some of the most inhospitable treatment of people for the mere fact that they support the opposing team. When the Capitals host the Flyers, many Philadelphia fans descend on the nation's capital and bring their bad sportsmanship with them, and they often display it even their team wins. In the days prior to Caps home game sellout crowds, you could hardly get five steps down F Street without a Flyer fan saying something offensive directly at you. Hokie fans and fans of other Big East schools alike have endured batteries tossed at them during games against WVU. Even though I miss that rivalry very much, I don't miss hearing the stories about fans choosing not to go to Morgantown for fear of an altercation. These examples of course exist amongst many others. They by no means stand alone.
In contrast, I'm very proud of the way Hokies treat fans of the visiting opposition. The Virginia Tech athletic department has orchestrated a media campaign called Hokie Respect. The overall message embodies welcoming opposing fans to Blacksburg, VA and wishing them a good stay and pleasant visit. It doesn't mean that we hold back in expressing our hope that the Orange and Maroon beat the pants off the opposition, but Hokie Respect aims to keep all interaction as pleasant and good natured.
I attended the game against Nebraska, and seeing how we don't have many opportunities to interact with Big 12 fans, I took it upon myself to wander through my tailgating lot and intermingle with some 'Husker fans. They treated me as polite and nice as anybody could imagine. They offered food, drinks, conversation, and even live music, and they couldn't have been more happy to have come anywhere but Blacksburg, VA to watch a football game. I enjoy sports fandom much more when we can have our passions for our favorite teams, but all the while keeping things decent, amicable, and fun for everyone.
After hosting Nebraska in Week 3 of the season, some Cornhusker fans took the trouble to write Virginia Tech's athletic department to express how much they enjoyed the trip, save for the game's outcome. I've listed a few of my favorite excerpts from letters written.
"Absolutely HATED the outcome of the game, but it doesn’t diminish the reception that Tech provided to the Husker fan base!"
"Don't give me anymore beer. I can't handle another Tech fan inviting me to join their tailgate."
"I’ve never been treated better or made to feel more welcome by a town, a school and its fan base than what I encountered at Tech."
"We parked in a guy’s yard and my wife asked where the nearest restroom could be found. He said, 'Oh, just go in the house. Top of the stairs.' And then he just walked away."
"Hokie fans are a class act. Nebraska fans are also well known for treating visiting fans well in Lincoln. Many Hokie fans mentioned their experience in Lincoln last year, and hoped that we would be treated the same way in Blacksburg. We were."
You can read a few letters in their entirety here: http://www.hokiesports.com/football/recaps/20090924aab.html
Not to suggest that readers of this blog haven't done otherwise and even more, I hope the next time you're at a home game you'll say, "Welcome to Blacksburg," to some opposing fans as you make your way from your tailgating lot to Lane Stadium. Let's keep Hokie Respect going strong.