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Thursday, October 25, 2007
Fighting Gobblers under attack

THIS IS WHAT GENEROUSLY DONATING YOUR TIME AND ENERGY to edifying the denizens of Orange County will get you. After defending the honor and dignity of North Carolina and its great university against the lowly usurpers of South Carolina, here come people previously from the Commonwealth of Virginia getting peeved, or at least that's how I interpreted the attitude conveyed by the following missive, because I didn't insult their team too.

To provide some context, Robyn, and her husband Dave, are graduates of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a land-grant college originally named Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, serving their state, the nation, the world and, perhaps, the Universe.

Robyn, who spells her name with a "y", is also a graduate of E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia, archrival of my beloved alma mater, George Washington High School of Danville, Virginia, which Glass used to regularly schedule for Homecoming, if you know what I mean.

Last Thursday, my column referred to the Gamecocks of South Carolina as the "Evil Chickens of S.C."


The next day I received this email.

Subject: fowl mascots

After reading your column yesterday, I find myself grateful that you opted to avoid a wide-ranging mascot discussion ... it seems you might have lumped Va Tech with the chickens.



So, I responded:

Subject: Re: Fowl Mascots


You are correct that a free-ranging discussion of fowl mascots would have skewered the team formerly known as the VT Turkeys.

Glad somebody is reading my column -- even if it is only to see if those they know and love have been libeled.




Her response:

Subject: Re: fowl mascots

"Free-ranging" ... I get it. Though I must make it clear that Fighting Gobblers are not turkeys.



So, I responded:


You are in serious poultry denial. You may want to see an ornithologist.



After she failed to respond in kind, I added this:


See below. This should end this fowl discussion.



Fighting Gobblers

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Fighting Gobblers is the original name for the sports teams of Virginia Tech.


Virginia Tech's first mascot/nickname was the "Gobblers". Around 1908, Tech students and opponent athletes began referring to student athletes as "Gobblers" because of the way they "gobbled" their ample servings of food.

Whatever the origins, the name was already popular when in 1913 Floyd "Hard Times" Meade, a local orphan resident, had a large turkey pull a decorated cart before football games. Meade paraded the mascot around the stadium during the game, and even trained it to gobble on command. This tradition continued after another "turkey trainer" took over in 1924.

From then on, fans and sportswriters associated the gobbler with Tech's athletic teams, and for many years the school's official name for its sports teams was the "Fighting Gobblers." In 1936, a costumed Gobbler joined the live gobbler for at least one game. The use of a live turkey mascot continued well into the 1950s.

In the late 1970s, a new football coach, upon hearing that the Gobbler mascot was based on athletes gobbling their food down, began promoting the "Hokie" nickname and even removed the gobble from the scoreboard. Though the term Hokies was widely used, the official designation was only changed in the mid-1980s. Coach Frank Beamer had the scoreboard gobble reinstalled.

Hokies is the official name of Virginia Tech's sports teams. Fans, students, and alumni of Virginia Tech are also referred to as Hokies. The Hokie Bird, is modeled on a large turkey, has been the official sport mascot of Virginia Tech since 1961.

See also: Virginia Tech Hokies


So, then came this response: 

Subject: Re: fowl mascots

Wow -- thanks for the update. I guess you can tell I left the campus in the early 70s.



My final note to Robyn, and the Hokie Nation at large: If a Gobbler is not a turkey, why have opponents' marching bands over the years regularly serenaded visiting Fighting Gobbler teams with renditions of "Turkey in the Straw"? Your team can "officially" change its name but it cannot change its heritage, tradition or its intimate connection to its university’s esteemed poultry science curriculum.

Embrace your inner bird. Meditate upon this wisdom as you watch your top-ten Gobblers scratch it out with second-ranked Boston College tonight: "It’s difficult to soar with the eagles, when you’re working with turkeys!"


Gary D. Gaddy attended the Homecoming Game at E.C. Glass H.S. in the fall of 1967, which his Cardinals won handily, leading, as he remembers it, by 35-0 at halftime when all the despondent but nattily dressed Hilltopper fans went home, and once personally assisted in a 4-H egg-grading competition at Virginia Tech.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday October 25, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:35 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2007 8:03 AM EDT
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