The "Stick It In" Saga
On Sept. 1, 2007, ESPN’s College Gameday came to Blacksburg, VA to watch Virginia Tech take on the East Carolina Pirates. I remember that day vividly for two reasons:
1. Over 66,000 people came together to honor the 32 innocent lives that were taken by tragedy on April 16, 2007.
2. That day was the last time in my youth where I would ever hear The Marching Virginians play the “Stick It In” drum riff.
Now let me make this ABUNDANTLY clear before we proceed – I am in no way, shape or form aiming to disrespect the memory of those who lost their lives on April 16. And I would most certainly not dare compare the magnitude of those two occurrences AT ALL. That’s not what I am trying to do here whatsoever. I just happen to remember that day for those two reasons, and it’s a very unhappy coincidence.
I’ll put it this way: Most of you who have listened to the Sons of Saturday podcast before have heard me talk about my first memories of watching Virginia Tech football. I watched Michael Vick flip into the endzone against JMU. I watched Kevin Jones and Lee Suggs be untouchable. I watched Bryan Randall win Virginia Tech an ACC Championship after our first season in the conference. And throughout all of those trips to the red zone, I listened to The Marching Virginians play “Stick It In.”
“Stick It In” was and still is synonymous with those memories. It was an extra little bit of fun that made a young whippersnapper feel like part of something bigger than himself. When The Marching Virginians played that riff, it meant the Hokies were in the red zone. When the Hokies were in the red zone, that meant the Hokies could score. When the Hokies could score, that meant that the Hokies could score more points than their opponent. When the Hokies could score more points than their opponent, that meant that the Hokies could win the football game. And let me tell you, Grayson sure did love to watch the Hokies win football games. And as I’m sure anyone reading this knows, he still does to this day. Very much so.
I remember after that ECU game coming back to Lane Stadium on Sept. 15 when the Hokies were set to play the Ohio Bobcats. A young Tyrod Taylor made many trips to the red zone that day, but when he got there, something was missing. I looked at The Marching Virginians the first time T-Mobile drove the offense down inside the 20 yard line. The band didn’t pick up their instruments, and the student section seemed unusually quiet. That was odd.
Something was clearly wrong with that picture. So what did I do? I turned to my old man (who to this day still has the answer to all of my questions), and I asked
“Dad, why isn’t the band playing 'Stick It In?'”
“Because Grayson, it’s banned,” he said.
“Banned? What do you mean banned?” I refuted.
“I mean they aren’t allowed to play it anymore.”
How could that be? Why would something so fun and harmless get banned?
Here’s the “on paper” answer to that question:
1. The Marching Virginians may or may not have used their flutes as props when the crowd yelled “Stick It In! Stick It In! Stick It In!”
2. As a result, some alumni thought of the riff as a double entendre. And that double entendre was deemed “inappropriate.”
3. The removal of the riff was the first step of “Hokies Respect” – an initiative of the athletic department at the time to make our fanbase seem more friendly to visiting fanbases.
Yeah, alright… whatever. Everyone already knew Virginia Tech had some of the nicest fans in the country. We didn’t have to prove anything. Even with binoculars, I still couldn’t find out why getting rid of it made any sense -- and I had 20/20 vision back then.
Here’s the thing, though. If you’re more worried about the context of a drum riff that is supposed to liven up the crowd when the Hokies are in the red zone, then I can’t help but feel sorry for you.
In the famous words of Chazz Michael Michaels:
“No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative… it gets the people GOING!”
To anyone that had anything to do with getting it banned – was it worth it? Honestly? I can think of so many moments and memories of games in Lane Stadium that would have been SO MUCH BETTER with “Stick It In” being a part of the atmosphere.
And that’s not to say fans weren’t ticked off. Fans under the age of 40 were at least. “Stick It In” was only disrespectful if you made it disrespectful. Other than that, it was a harmless way to encourage the football team to stick the football into the endzone of the football field. That’s also known as scoring a touchdown. What’s wrong with encouraging that?
I was once informed by an anonymous tip that besides getting asked “Are we going to be good at football this year?”, the second most asked question that current athletic director Whit Babcock gets is “When are you going to bring back 'Stick It In?'”
The thought of Mr. Babcock being asked that question still makes me laugh, because that would actually be the first question I ever asked him in person. But that’s a different story.
So twelve years went by. Twelve. Long. Years. No “Stick It In” in Lane Stadium.
For those twelve years, I wondered if it would ever come back. And I always said that if it did, I’d probably be moved to tears on the nostalgia factor alone.
And on Oct. 19, 2019, the Virginia Tech Hokies played the UNCAA Tar Heels of North Carolina (oops) in Lane Stadium. It was the Homecoming game, and I was fortunate enough to fly home to Blacksburg from Los Angeles to be there. Besides it being Homecoming weekend, it was also the weekend of my 24th birthday. And man, little did I know what I was about to fly home to witness.
That game went into six overtimes. Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five. SIX OF THEM. It was a marathon of a lifetime. A true battle to the end. Fu vs. The Return of the Mack.
Listen ya’ll, I’ve seen a lot of crazy games in Lane Stadium (‘09 Nebraska, ’11 Miami, ’18 UVA), but none of those compared to this game. This game turned into Tyson vs. Holyfield. It was a boxing match, and both teams kept swinging until one stood over the other.
And right before Quincy Patterson delivered the knockout blow to the Tar Heels, I heard a familiar drum riff. One that I had not heard in a long, long time. One from yesteryear. I looked to The Marching Virginians, and there they were – dancing a jig (with no flutes as props) to “Stick It In.” I couldn’t believe it. My old man, my little brother and I started losing our FREAKIN’ MINDS. No exaggeration - I nearly cried. At that point, we could have lost the game and I would have been happy. It was like the perfect ending to every football movie ever. The prodigal Son of Saturday returned home to see his team play in a game for the ages, and a piece of his childhood returned with him.
Lane Stadium lost it at the sound of those drums. It’s like we had picked up right where we had left off. I felt bad for the student section, because most of them didn’t know what to do (as the video at the end of this article shows). But those who knew it well sang it loud and proud. I was actually sitting in the west stands surrounded by people who probably weren’t big fans, but I made sure they knew I was. And it was at that moment when Quincy Patterson snapped the ball, ran left through the pile, and “stuck it in.”
I had no voice left, but I remember grabbing my dad and yelling with whatever was left “I CAME TO SEE A SHOW, BABY!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!” It was so perfectly poetic. Better than any Hollywood script I could have ever written. I personally like to believe Whit Babcock knew it was my birthday and had The Marching Virginians play it because I was home. The ambiguity of that hypothesis alone is good enough for me. And if that is the case, thank you Mr. Babcock. I’ll be sure to tell all of my west coast friends to join the Hokie Club.
After that game, I heard “Stick It In” wasn’t played again that season in Lane Stadium. That disappointed me dearly. I couldn’t help but wonder why, especially since it seemed so well received after its triumphant return. To the Virginia Tech athletic department, you aren’t allowed to tease Hokie Nation like that. If you’re going to bring it back, you had better bring it back for good. On that evening, we as a fan base proved we can handle it.
I don’t know if we’ll have college football season this year due to the current state of the world, but if we do, I better hear that The Marching Virginians are playing “Stick It In” at deafening levels every time Virginia Tech is in the red zone in Lane Stadium.
And to the folks who have a problem with “Stick It In,” allow me to end this article with a quote from the Nature Boy Ric Flair.
“You may not like it, but you’re going to have to learn to live with it, because it’s the best thing going today. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”