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(Do Not) Enter Sandman: Sad Virginia Tech football fans make alternate plans for opener

(Do Not) Enter Sandman: Sad Virginia Tech football fans make alternate plans for opener

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BLACKSBURG — Most of the people walking around downtown Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon were not heading later to Lane Stadium.

But Kyle and Cindy Hockman were.

The Hockmans are the parents of North Carolina State quarterback Bailey Hockman, whose team played the Hokies on Saturday night.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, only the parents and friends of the Tech and State players and coaches received tickets to the Hokies’ season opener. No more than 1,000 people were permitted in the stands, as per the commonwealth’s guidelines in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We wouldn’t miss this game for anything,” said Kyle Hockman, who is from Savannah, Georgia. “If the parents couldn’t be there, it would be really hard — and even hard on the players, because they need some support. … We’re thankful that we’re allowed to go.”

“We’re just glad to be able to be here,” Cindy Hockman said. “We’ve watched him his whole life.”

Tailgating at Virginia Tech and in Blacksburg was not permitted Saturday, so the Hockmans paid a visit to downtown Blacksburg to get something to eat.

The Hockmans already had an idea of what a mostly empty Lane Stadium would be like. State opened its season last weekend with a home win over Wake Forest in front of 350 fans.

“It was definitely strange,” Kyle Hockman said. “I know watching games on TV, it seems like it’s pretty normal almost, … but being in person, it was really different.

“The parents, we were all spread out in three or four sections, trying to cheer together.”

Neither the general public nor Tech students were allowed to attend Saturday night’s game.

Tech seniors Bailey Vu and Evan Furtner planned to watch the game on TV at their apartment with their three roommates.

“It kind of sucks,” Vu said. “I’ve gone to every [home football] game since I’ve been going here. … It’s really disappointing.”

Not even the Tech marching band was allowed in Lane Stadium. The Marching Virginians’ music was going to be heard in the stadium, but the band members would be performing from the nearby home of the Tech baseball team — English Field.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play with my friends,” said Evan Fox, a senior member of the band. “It’s a little different — we’re spaced out, obviously. … They’re videotaping us and piping our sound in, which is cool.”

Fox was in downtown Blacksburg with his sister, Tech sophomore Lauren Fox, and their parents, along with Lauren Fox’s roommate, Lauren Marsh.

Lauren Fox planned to watch the game on TV at her apartment, along with her parents, Marsh and two other roommates. She was a regular at Tech football games last year, and loved tailgating on Center Street.

“Center is definitely going to be a loss, not getting to go this year,” Lauren Fox said. “Center is a different experience because it’s fun to get to be around other students who are celebrating.

“But this year it’s not going to be any less fun. It’s just going to be with your closest friends instead of being around everyone.”

Marsh liked going to Tech games last fall.

“Especially ‘Enter Sandman,’ and knowing everyone’s collectively together and jumping up and down and screaming,” Marsh said. “This year, we’ll be jumping up and down in our apartment.”

“The people below us aren’t going to like us,” Lauren Fox said.

Tech students Thomas Gyory, Suzy Hakki and Lauren Broussard also liked tailgating on Center Street and attending games at Lane Stadium in recent years.

“That’s what gets us through the year,” Gyory said of the games.

The three seniors planned to watch Saturday night’s game on TV at a friend’s apartment, along with three others.

“Sad,” Gyory said. “But we understand.”

“We’ll definitely be back [next year],” Hakki said.

Blacksburg resident Sean Stahl, who owns the Adornment Body Piercing Studio in downtown Blacksburg, planned to watch the game at nearby Champs Cafe and Sports Bar.

“I wish I could actually go [to Lane],” he said.

Recent Virginia Tech graduates Peter Kump and Jacob Cassidy planned to watch the game with two others at Kump’s house in Blacksburg.

“It is pretty sad,” Kump said. “We were blasting ‘Enter Sandman’ this morning on the way to the gym, excited for game day. But it’s not the same if you’re not in the stadium.”

“The four years I was here, the memories you had of being at Lane and tailgating, there’s nothing like it,” Cassidy said.

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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