When I was a teenager, I dreamed of becoming a writer. Not your normal wears polos and complains about airline delays kind of writer, but someone who could write with a Hunter S. Thompson edge while prolifically profiling some of the world’s most famous people. Like how Norman Mailer embedded himself with Muhammad Ali in Zaire for months in the lead up to the Rumble in the Jungle, or how Gay Talese meticuously stalked Frank Sinatra for months to build one of the most famous magazine profiles of all time (all without an interview from the man himself). And of course, as any wanna be journalist would, I was obsessed with the movie Almost Famous.
In short, it’s about a teen who gets hired by Rolling Stone to go on tour with the fictional band Stillwater. Hilarity ensues, until he eventually publishes an epic saga about a middling Stillwater’s struggles on their ascent to fame. It’s fun, and one of those movies that has grown with me over time.
Earlier in my life, for obvious reasons, I wanted to be William, the aspiring journalist (played by an over-his-skis Patrick Fugit). But even as my life changed — spoiler, I did not become Hunter S. Marcolini — pieces of Almost Famous still resonate in my soul.
Now, as a grumpy hipster who just turned 30 and frequently finds himself at odds with what’s popular at the moment, I can’t stop relating to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs character — William’s mentor and a grumpy hipster who frequently finds himself at odds with what’s popular at the moment. And as he dispenses pearls of wisdom about rock and roll being dead, and how “the only currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool,” he and William have the following exchange:
Lester: (After complimenting William on being able to write with such quality despite only being a teenager What are you, the star of your school?
William: (long pause) They hate me.
Lester: Well, you’ll meet them all again on your long journey to the middle.
This exchange rolls around my brain all the time. It’s one of those things an adult says to a younger person, fully knowing they won’t understand how true it is. Because how could you? When you’re young you can dream unencumbered by knowledge of the way the world works. Whoever’s popular or unpopular, what you do in the moment when you’re in high school, it doesn’t matter all that much. Life finds a way to put you all in (basically) the same place.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just end up running right back into the middle, and maybe no one in sports has learned that lesson as much as the Virginia Tech football team and its fans. Because over the last decade, the Hokies have lived there. They’ve been there so long that they actually built a nice three bed, two bath craftsman home smack dab in college football’s melancholy suburbia.
Over the last 10 years and five games (from the 2011 Logan Thomas Sugar Bowl team until now), the Hokies are 81-54, a respectable-but-not-great .600 over that period. It’s an era that spans coaching staffs, athletic directors and full cycles of recruiting classes. A timeframe that’s seen schematic changes (lol remember when Mike O’Cain just decided they were going to run the pistol that one year?), gamut-spanning quarterback play, good defenses, bad defenses and even that year where they just didn’t want to play defense at all.
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