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A sea of maroon and orange tailgaters are set up near Lane Stadium at a Virginia Tech home football game. Games that start at noon don't leave a lot of time for tailgating beforehand.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchill, presumably addressing early kickoff times for Virginia Tech football.
More than a decade in this business has taught me that athletes and their fans are more optimistic than we probably think.
Football players vow they will shock the world, fail in doing so most of the time, then show up for Monday’s practice anyway. There’s another opponent to slay, after all.
In a minor league clubhouse in Pulaski many years ago, a young pitcher just out of college told me how he mentally rebounds after giving up a home run. He assures himself, over and over while the opponent is circling the bases, that this home run is the last one he’ll ever give up.
“The future,” C.J. Wilson explained, “is perfect.”
C.J. was close on that one. He’s since enjoyed three 15-win seasons in the majors, collected more than $34 million in salary, earned a pair of all-star nods and pitched in a couple of World Series. Maybe his future wasn’t perfect — he’s surrendered 87 homers in the big leagues, and we’ve all seen the dandruff shampoo commercials — but I like to think it was his upbeat attitude that propelled him into the neighborhood.
Sports optimism’s everywhere. Hopeful golfers tee off every weekend, undaunted by the likelihood that they’ll yell “Fore!” way more often than they’ll card a 4. Bowlers shrug off gutter balls as “setting up the spare.” The Kansas City Royals keep showing up to spring training.
A pro wrestler might argue that “time wounds all heels,” but the majority of sports fans subscribe to the version of that phrase with the more traditional syntax. The pain of a loss lasts only until it’s time to play again. Life, generally speaking, is good.
In that spirit, I asked the Internet — a challenging place for sports optimism to flourish — a question this week: “How do you make the MOST of noon kicks?”
Because we know the conventional stance on noon kicks: They stink. For travel, for tailgating, for game-time atmosphere.
We’ve heard the outcry every time the ACC has announced a noon or 12:30 p.m. kickoff slot for Virginia Tech this season, which means we’ve heard it a lot. Today’s home game against Pittsburgh is the fourth straight Lane Stadium tilt to tee it up at 1:30 p.m. or earlier.
And this might not be the last home run Tech fans are going to give up, so to speak. The final two home games are against Duke and Maryland. Sounds pretty noon-tastic.
But impressively, many responders to my question managed to keep the glass half-full. Of “Bailey’s and coffee…vodka orange juice…bourbon ginger ale…in that order,” according to Chris.
You don’t have to be a morning drinker — or even go to the game — to appreciate the silver linings surrounding noon kicks.
Here are five reader-inspired tips for curing the noon-game blues.
1. Lock in your arrival time — all season long. “When I was in school,” Jonathon Fogle says via Twitter, “we were in the parking lot at 8 a.m. no matter what time kickoff was.” If you can pull this off, it’s genius. It strips the TV networks of their power over your schedule. You don’t even need to know what time the game is; just start packing up when everybody else does.
2. Not an early riser? Carry the party over. As HokieESQ puts it on Twitter, “Don’t go to bed the night before.” Easier said than done for us older folks, but it just might be the perfect solution for the young. Just don’t schedule anything for Sunday.
3. Indulge in the most important meal of the day. “Our grill has a griddle attachment so we can do eggs, bacon, sausage gravy, pancakes, whatever we want that week,” 540Hokie noted on the blog. “For the UNC game we grilled breakfast quesadillas. They were great.”
Breakfast is clutch, whether it’s a few fast-food biscuits and coffee or something a little stronger. “Nothing better for breakfast than a big glass of bourbon,” argues In Bud We Trust. “Gets a football Saturday off to a good start.”
4. Savor the national landscape. Yeah, you’re kicking at noon, but most of the bigger games aren’t. Take advantage of this lack of conflicts. Map out the rest of your viewing schedule, starting with the 3:30 games (Florida-LSU, Northwestern-Wisconsin and UVa-Maryland among them this week) and leading into the prime-time showdowns (Texas A&M-Ole Miss, etc.) As Short Coach put it on the blog: “Watch it on TV, get the win, and then watch other ACC teams beat on each other.”
5. Stop and smell the charcoal. If there was one suggestion more prevalent than any other, it was this one: Slow down and extend the experience as best you can — on both ends of the game. Hurrying only gets you a facefull of traffic. Jim McAlister has his schedule down to a science: “Arrive 7:30,” he says on Twitter. “Breakfast at 8, washer toss tourney till 9, cook and eat again at 11. Head in 11:30. Eat again after game.”
Nice. As Churchill might say: What difficulty?
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