A Difference in Attitude

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Sean Bielawski is the co-host, along with Nick Pierce, of “The Drive
Home” on ESPN Radio 1430AM in Blacksburg.

Two years ago, I witnessed three of my friends enter into a signed agreement
late one fall evening. The agreement was between two Virginia Tech alumni and an
Alabama alumnus. My Alabama friend made a claim that his Crimson Tide would win
another football national championship before Virginia Tech’s program could win
its first.

Of course, this statement was greeted with much disdain from my two Virginia
Tech friends. The conversation got so heated that eventually it was agreed that
if Alabama wins a national title before Virginia Tech, both of my Hokie friends
(I’m not making this up) owed the Crimson Tide supporter an Oldsmobile Cutlass
Supreme. On the other hand, if Virginia Tech is the first to the college
football promise land, then the Alabama alum had to buy both Hokies the same.

After what took place Saturday night in both Athens and Lincoln, I am
confident that my Hokie friends are going to have to pay up. The funny thing is
that you did not even have to watch the games to come to that conclusion, you
simply needed to watch the reactions in the post-game locker rooms.

Alabama had just embarrassed Georgia, the preseason number one team in the
country, in its own house, with the Tide racing out to a 31-0 lead at halftime.
While Georgia made the score respectable at 41-30, the outcome of the game was
never in doubt. In September of his second season as the head coach at Alabama,
Nick Saban’s team had just solidified itself as a national title contender …
and Coach Saban was livid.

He was upset with HOW his team won. You see, college football is not like the
NFL. It is not enough to simply get wins, but you must get wins in convincing
fashion to be considered a national championship contender. The fact was,
Georgia outscored Saban’s Crimson Tide 30-10 in the second half, and Saban was
not the least bit satisfied with it.

Now
let’s travel about 1000 miles west to Lincoln, Nebraska where Virginia Tech had
just escaped defeat for the third straight week. The Hokies scored a 35-30 win
over a Nebraska team who is coming off of a 5-7 season and looks poised for
mediocrity once again this year. In fact, if not for a careless personal foul
penalty that kept Virginia Tech’s last touchdown drive alive, the Hokies very
well could have lost a game that it should have won by three touchdowns. Thanks
to poor red zone offense and the inability to put a bad team away, Tech once
again needed help to pull off a victory … and Coach Beamer was ecstatic.

So ecstatic, in fact, that he even did a dance in the locker room after the
game, what he called his “Fancy Gap move,” referencing his hometown.
Like all Hokie fans, I was pretty amused when I first heard about Coach Beamer’s
two-step in the locker room, but after further thought, this began to eat at me.

While Coach Saban was ranting about how unhappy he was with his team’s
dominating performance in a win over a top-10 team, Coach Beamer was dancing
after escaping with a five point victory over a team that will be struggling to
get seven wins. Does anyone else see what is wrong with this picture?

Now there are a few excuses that Hokie fans can make to justify Coach
Beamer’s behavior. You could argue that Virginia Tech does not have the talent
that Alabama has. That might be the case, but why, then, was Alabama ranked at
least seven slots below Virginia Tech in preseason polls that are based on
talent and past performance? The talent discrepancy is not that wide.

Another popular argument would be that Virginia Tech is a very young football
team, and that has to be taken into consideration. Ah, now we are getting
somewhere. But wait, what if I told you that Alabama was younger? In fact,
Virginia Tech listed 19 freshmen or sophomores on its two-deep depth chart
against Nebraska. Alabama? Twenty freshmen or sophomores in its two-deep depth
chart for the game against Georgia, one more than the Hokies. Oh, but the Tide
must have senior leadership. Wrong again. Alabama currently has nine scholarship
seniors, tied for the fewest in the country.

The difference between these two football teams is very simple: attitude.
Coach Saban will not rest until Alabama hoists the program’s thirteenth national
championship trophy. This is exactly what makes Coach Saban great, his lack of
complacency. As soon as satisfaction creeps in, improvement comes to a halt.

We have heard the stats from Coach Beamer about his program, that Virginia
Tech and USC are the only schools in the last four years to win at least 10
regular season games. That sounds very familiar. In fact, it was the streak of
Tech’s rival, Virginia, whose 13 consecutive seasons of at least seven wins from
1987-99 was the punch line to many Hokie jokes.

Still, while poking fun at the white-collar Wahoos for their uncanny ability
to achieve mediocrity on the football field, it seems as if Virginia Tech has
fallen into the same complacency trap that has plagued Virginia fans for the
last twenty years. Only this time, it’s being satisfied with ten wins instead of
seven.

Now, I am not saying Alabama is a lock to win the national championship this
year. I definitely am not saying Coach Beamer cannot lead his Virginia Tech
program to greater heights, but that will not come about without a change in
attitude.

As Hokie nation, you need to ask yourself if ten wins is good enough for you.
If it is, keep dancing. If it isn’t, who knows? Maybe two of your fellow Tech
faithful will end up with a couple of Oldsmobile Cutlass Supremes. From what I
saw late Saturday night, I wouldn’t bet on it.


Editor’s Note: This column was submitted unsolicited. The views of TSL guest
columnists do not necessarily reflect those of TechSideline.com or TSL staff.

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