The Cassell Guard and Greenberg's Letters
College Adam Kilgore pinch hits with Saturday notes from Va. Tech-Virginia.
Virginia Tech draped a maroon T-shirt over every chair in the student section Saturday, but a few already had their wardrobe set. They call themselves the Cassell Guard, and they're the easy ones to pick out - sitting in the front row, holding swords, shields and wearing protective helmets.
The Cassell Guard is comprised of a group of students from the fraternity AEP, which won a lottery for front-row seats in the student section. "Since we were blessed with these seats, we thought we might as well show some Hokie pride," Guard member Jordan Holt said.
The Guardsmen wield shields and swords made of plastic or cardboard and wear upturned crowns that look like they were acquired at Burger King and painted. One wore an orange wig shaped like an afro. They hold a banner made out of a gray sheet and black paint reading "Cassell Guard."
The Guard claims roughly 10 members, eight of whom form the core. Membership, Guard members said, must be earned.
"There's a rigorous set of exercises," Holt said. "We cut everyone's hand, and you need to bleed orange and maroon."
"It's a very elite group of knights," Josh Rubin added.
ACC rules prohibit hanging signs from walls or railings, so the Cassell Guard crew needs to hold their banner all game. As one can imagine, their arms tire after an entire game of carrying a banner, a sword and a shield.
"That's part of the rigorous exercises," Jordan Effron said.
The Cassell Guard may been inspired by Coach Seth Greenberg, who makes a plea to students each game day using a letter to the editor in the Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech's student newspaper. He scribbles the letter by hand a couple days before, then has trusty sports information director Bill Dyer type it up and send it along.
But Greenberg himself genuinely writes it: He showed me his notes Thursday afternoon. "C'mon, I'm a journalist, too," he said. Anyone familiar with his previous work as a tournament analyst with CSTV and in the sadly defunct Kosher Korner can attest. Greenberg marked today's letter with unabashed school spirit and liberal smattering exclamation points:
The atmosphere you created for our game vs. FSU on Tuesday was as good as any in the ACC.
Despite the 9 p.m. start, you came out early, stayed late and celebrated a hard fought win against the Seminoles. Saturday, UVa. comes to the Cassell for a 1 p.m. tip-off.
The early starting time is this week's second challenge. I am counting on you to not only be there, but be there early and ready to make a difference!
I need you to be participant and not just a spectator.
Our players are counting on you! The Hoos might have John Paul Jones Arena, but we have the best and most passionate fans in the Commonwealth.
Let's rock the Cassell. As Nikki Giovanni said, "We Are The Hokies, We Are Virginia Tech."
Let's show our Hokie pride and respect, for it's not about anything but the Hokies!
Seth Greenberg, men's basketball coach
Actually, it's safe to say Greenberg marks all his letters with unabashed school spirit and liberal smattering of exclamation marks, including the one from last Tuesday:
Once again, I want to thank you for your support last Thursday.
Your energy was second to none. The Cassell atmosphere was as good as any venue in the country. Please understand that ACC basketball is not about one game. It is about 16 separate entities, eight of them home games. We need you now more than ever. Our win over Boston College got our young, energetic team back to plus 1. In the ACC, you must win your home games and try to steal a game on the road. We have six home games remaining in ACC play (the most of any school in the conference). It is important that we have the "Cassell Guard" out in full force for each and every game.
I am counting on you to bring your energy, passion, and Hokie pride to each of our final six home games. You make the Cassell rock! You are the 6th man! We are in this together. We do not have a basketball team - we have a program, and you are part of that program. Remember, 9 p.m. tip-off! Get there early and make Tech basketball a part of your college experience. Lane Stadium has moved to the Cassell for the winter!
Seth Greenberg, men's basketball coach
About moving Lane Stadium inside for the winter (a line, by the way, Greenberg was particularly proud of): Virginia Tech before tip-off now plays Metallica's "Enter Sandman," long a staple of Lane Stadium (and New York baseball relievers and thousands of 180-pound high school athletes across the nation). Anyway, Greenberg's notes seem to be striking a chord. A poster named Lee Hawkins left this comment on the CT web site under the story: "Gee, thanks Coach. You really show your humility and appreciation when you write into the paper and speak to US . . . someone send Beamer a memo!"
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