George Daniels, manager of the Virginia Tech bookstore where disgraced former school quarterback Michael Vick will attempt to hawk his autograph for $25 to $30 a pop Saturday said a mouthful this week when he declared that “the Hokie Nation will respond in a positive way” to the return of an ex-con who spent 21 months in stir on a federal rap of running a dog fighting ring.
Hokie Nation? Think about it. A “nation” built on the foundation of a school mascot based on a turkey.
Tech has gone to great lengths to dispel the widely-held myth that a hokie is turkey. The term “hokie” goes back to 1842. Retired Tech professor says the term as used in the 1800s to express “feeling, approval, excitement, surprise.” O.M. Stull, who graduated from Tech in 1896, won a $5 prize for writing a cheer that started “Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy.” Someone later changed the spelling to “Hokie.”
But before Tech’s sports teams were called “Hokies,” they were called “gobblers,” which — to most — is another name for “turkeys.” One Tech legend has it that “gobblers” came from the habit of Tech athletes “gobbling” up their food and later translating into “gobbling” up opponents but the use of a turkey as the school mascot goes back to 1913 when a local resident amused crowds at a game by having a large turkey pull him around in a cart. Tech’s president at the time pulled the plug on the turkey pull, declaring the stunt “cruel to the turkey.”
A mascot in a turkey costume appeared in 1936 and a live turkey was also present at games into the 50s. A permanent costumed turkey mascot became part of football games in 1962 and Tech teams were called “gobblers” until the late 70s when Tech’s then football coach thought a team named for a turkey or for gulping down food (whichever the case) wasn’t a good idea and promoted a change of name to “Hokies.”
Tech changed the mascot costume in 1982 to make the turkey look more like a cardinal with attitude and renamed it the “Hokie Bird” and “the Hokie Nation” was born but the “Hokie Bird” statues that litter Blacksburg like discarded beer cans still have turkey tails.
Which makes us wonder: Is it “hokie” or just plain hokey?
Either way, if the “Hokie Nation” chooses to embrace a convicted felon who brought disgrace upon himself, his sport and his former school it is hokey, foolish and complicit in the crimes of Michael Vick.
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