Busing a move with the Scots faithful: To Ferrum and back again, a sports editor’s tale
Ferrum was an adventure.
Adams Stadium was the last USA South venue I’d yet to visit over the last seven seasons. The last three times MC has made the trip into the hills of Virginia, something has always come up as a conflict, so while I long ago checked off my list a visit to every other USA South Stadium, Ferrum remained a little irritant like sand in the professional eye, until Saturday.
Over the years, I’ve driven through the night after the Saturday edition headed to the press, ridden through the back roads with radio voice of the Scots’ George DeBaby and the late Jimmy Campbell — stopping at some truly horrendous road side dives George so frequently finds that do a disservice to gray congealing grease to call them greasy spoons and hitched a ride on the team bus once to write from the team’s perspective of the road trip.
But Saturday was something new in not only destination but methodology. I rode the fan bus.
The Scots don’t always have one going my way on my schedule, but when the announcement crossed my desk that the fan bus was being resurrected this weekend, I couldn’t resist the opportunity.
So at 6:15 Saturday morning, I bolted from a refreshing two-hour nap and raced the sunrise to campus and my ride on the chariot arranged by Kim von Mitch, the concessions master.
The bus wasn’t as full as I thought it might be, but I was far from the only one making good use of the convenience. Running back Chad Brooks’ girlfriend and back EJ Heard-Hunt’s sister shared the seat in front of me. Heard-Hunt’s folks — including Earl, the bass tone behind the rumbling “hit’em in da mouth” calls from the stands the Scots faithful know well — weren’t far away. Former MC wrestler Earl Hunt sat behind me sharing the coffee Thermos, and Dani and Dana were napping in the back as we rolled up Interstate 81.
A scattering of MC trainers and cheerleaders were also on board, and sitting toward the front got the first nerves as we turned off on Exit 109 and the state roads. The GPS directed our skillful driver Roy and his ‘97 Prevo along on our way to Ferrum. Roads that grew progressively narrower, rougher and finally turned into a one-lane paved goat path through the woods.
It was fortunate that only two vehicles approached from the other direction on that narrow strip of gravel surrounded by trees. Unless they were close to home, it was a long drive to the nearest source that might offer clean underwear to those surprised and momentarily terrified drivers as we barreled toward them along the mountainous path.
Ferrum University is generously remote in how we define places in their distance and ease of access from Eisenhower’s interstate system. The campus, however, takes full advantage of its surroundings and is an open haven surrounded by the orange and deep red of November foliage.
The afternoon ended exactly how the Scots fans had hoped and planned as they had talked what had to happen for a share of the Scots’ first USAC title in tones that said “when we beat Ferrum,” not “if we beat Ferrum.”
That confidence and the enthusiasm it reflected, and the butts in the seats at a Division III game five hours from home it showed the MC players, said more than any whistle or cheer or call alone ever could. There was an energy in the visiting stands Saturday, and that’s something beyond value to Maryville College on and off the field.
Marcus Fitzsimmons survived the bus ride back to MC and may one day venture forth on the fan bus again, after much therapy. Follow him on Twitter @TDT_Sports.