BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Just a few yards outside of Lane Stadium, with an angled view of the video scoreboard, a Virginia Tech freshman sat outside taking in the first game of a season unlike any other.
“When it comes down to it, you can hear the players, you can hear the game. You’re not hearing it come through a TV,” the student said. “You’re hearing with your own ears, what’s going on here tonight. And I think that’s an experience that you can’t pass up, even if it’s different than in past years.”
While the lights were on and the Hokies football team entered the field to the traditional sounds of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, game day in the age of COVID-19 had a different tone in Blacksburg Saturday night.
“We’ve been here before where it’s just been the whole feel of Hokie Nation and now it’s just different, depressing,” Hokies fan Ann Skinner said. “But it’s still exciting, we’re so happy to be here.”
With capacity maxed out at a thousand fans, attendance was limited to friends and family of the players and coaches. The lucky few were grateful to be inside.
“It’s been crazy. Everybody’s been waiting for it to start, we’re just ready for it to start,” fan Jason Poe said. “We’re ready for Corona to be over with.”
Beamer Way is usually packed with thousands of fans in the lead-up to kickoff. But instead the street was virtually empty for most of the day, with tailgating banned on campus and in the town of Blacksburg.
“Without it being all the full fans, it’s just that we have to scream louder,” Skinner said.
Inside, cardboard cutouts replace the humans that would’ve been watching the game. While outside, those who were ticket-less tried to get as close as they could. Like the freshman student who watched the game on the scoreboard outside the stadium.
“I mean I can see the scoreboard right there. I can argue that’s better. That’s a huge TV up there compared to the little TV in my dorm.”