Some of the orneriest college football fans in the country will be cheering for the other team today in an act of graciousness, however brief and scripted, that should be a model for every campus in the country to follow.
Virginia Tech will be saluting – but not rooting for – East Carolina in the season-opener at Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday (9 a.m., ESPN).
The Virginia school was the scene of a massacre in April, The demons inside a young man’s head drove him to murder 32 innocent victims, leaving an entire nation mourning in stunned disbelief.
Virginia Tech’s athletic director, Jim Weaver, has called on Hokie fans to cheer visiting teams before each home game this season. After kickoff, it’s a different matter, Hokies being Hokies.
And that’s the way it should be.
Football fans are supposed to hoot ‘n’ holler, boo and jeer and do whatever is legal to help their team stomp the other school into the turf, so to speak, in the interest of winning a game.
No matter who the opponent happens to be – the “hated” Purple Sparrows of Sisters of the Poor or the “hated” Pirates of East Carolina – the idea is to yell for your team and against this week’s bad guys.
Virginia Tech is ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press poll as the 2007 season kicks off. East Carolina is, to be polite, a good opener for the Hokies.
Not only are the Pirates (coached by Lou Holtz’s son, Skip) a decided underdog, they’ve lost the services of their starting quarterback this week in a disciplinary move.
No matter. The idea of cheering the visitors is one that should be adopted by all colleges. Show the other guys some respect. It’s a silly ballgame, not war.
But it’s not a golf match, either, so good manners can be put aside for three or four hours after kickoff.
Grandstand graciousness is something that should be promoted everywhere. It’s understood at a football game that sportsmanship has its limits in the bleachers (boorishness is not so handicapped).
That doesn’t mean the visitors can’t be applauded, even appreciated for showing up, before the game.
Most important are the young guys who play the game and the spirit with which they play. The fans are just part of the scenery. They’re there to make noise and, within the limits of the law, fools of themselves.
The best college football fans I’ve ever seen, in terms of class, are at the universities of Michigan and Notre Dame.
They’ve been known to cheer an opponent exiting the field after a good effort. Sure, it’s usually after the “beloved” Wolverines or Fighting Irish have roundly thumped them.
But cheering the opponent is a good thing to do, a good habit to get into.
Virginia Tech’s abbreviated act of pleasantry today is a noble act with a special meaning. College teams everywhere should pick up on it.
It would improve even the grandest sport in this country.
Corky Simpson retired from the Citizen in December. He writes a column every Saturday.