It’s no secret that the Hokie experience has been atypical for anyone enrolled since Spring 2020. With COVID-19 sweeping the nation, many students have been in a social time capsule since the start of the pandemic. With in-person classes this fall, many are taking a step out into a new landscape and rediscovering what they missed about Hokie culture.
I am no exception to this rule. Because I’m a procrastinator by nature, I didn’t decide to go to a football game until my junior year, which of course was impossible when the time came. I’m a senior who hasn’t attended a single football game as a Hokie.
This feels blasphemous. Football is such a huge part of the culture that I hear so much about, and I’ve never even set foot in the stadium in my time here — outside of getting a COVID-19 test. Thus, I decided that this semester I would get season tickets. This Friday is my first time experiencing a home-opener for the Hokies, and I’m excited to see what it is like. My time on campus has given me a few insights into what I might be in for.
However, an obstacle for myself and other students will be overcoming the state of Virginia Tech’s parking. In my two years on campus, I noticed how crowded Blacksburg was for each home game. The stadium lot still exists, but it seems like every other lot has been demolished for construction, so it’s a mystery where the overflow will go. I’m dreading the bus ride to campus Friday, but I’m sure the journey will be worth it.
Once we’ve reached the stadium and kickoff is imminent, Hokies are going to do something they haven’t done for at least a year now: jump to “Enter Sandman.” I haven’t done this since my freshman orientation, and that was early in the morning so I can’t say I was feeling the hype. It sounds like jumping to “Enter Sandman” before a football game is a magical experience, and I hope I can learn how to do it from everyone this Friday.
After we finish jumping, I’ll be sitting in a stadium seat for the first time since 2019. I got very comfortable with the luxury of watching sports from my own home during COVID-19. Watching sports live from the cheap seats is going to take a bit of getting used to again. Personally, I’m looking forward to it — the air of competition always feels a bit different when I can be there to see it. I just hope I’ll be able to tell what’s going on.
Another plus of live sports returning is being able to bond with new people over football. Although I don’t lack a social circle being a senior, I missed having a year of social spontaneity during COVID-19. I can’t wait to meet Hokies new and old in the student section without it having to be through a breakout room.
I’m not going to spend all my time socializing, of course. I am a football fan at the end of the day, and I’m excited to see how the Hokies will do this season. It’s fair to say that Virginia Tech has underperformed since 2018, posting a 19–18 record in the previous three seasons. In addition, the Hokies lost four of their last five at the end of the 2020 season and areslight underdogs to the visiting Tar Heels, judging from ESPN's Football Power Index matchup predictor. Despite this, I have hope for this season. The beauty of a new football season is that everyone starts out with the same record, and I hope the Hokies can approach this season with a fresh mindset.
Going to a home game for the first time as a senior and with lightened COVID-19 restrictions makes me feel like a freshman again. I am re-learning our construction-riddled campus, re-adjusting to taking in-person classes, and becoming acquainted with Hokie football for the very first time. Everything about the Hokie experience feels fresh again, and I can tell by observing campus that others feel similarly. Hopefully, Hokie football feels this renewed energy going into the fall 2021 season. I want a good show for my last semester.