Traditional values, traditional dress
THIS WEEK, my father will fly out from my family's home in California for his first and, since I am graduating this year, probably his only trip to a University home football game.
Game day in Charlottesville is a special experience. However, I am worried that one special element of football at the University will be noticeably muted. That is, I am worried that men in the student section will not be wearing ties in the same number as in previous years. This tradition has been a special part of mine and many others' football experience, and it would be a shame to let it go.
As I understand it from my anti-tie friends, the case against ties has several facets. Some shed their neckwear in a show of allegiance to our gridiron commander-in-chief Al Groh, who wants to create a "sea of orange." Others argue that ties constrict a fan's ability to cheer, or that wearing them is somehow elitist.
Groh is a great coach, but he has no place giving fans fashion tips. No other coach in the ACC tells his fans how to dress. Why should ours?
And while a sea of orange may look neat from an overhead camera during televised games, does anyone really believe that the color of fans' shirts or their lack of ties has any mental effect on opponents?
The cheering-impairment argument is just silly. In a very scientific test conducted by myself, I found that I had full range of motion in shirtsleeves, and my throat was not constricted from unleashing the sort of bourbon-aided cheers unleashed during games.
Wearing a tie is not so much elitist as it is classy. Sure, a $22 orange and blue tie is more expensive than a $6.88 orange t-shirt. But, as Trent Thurston, younger part of the father-son team that owns and operates the Corner haberdashery Eljo's, pointed out to me in discussing this issue, a $6.88 orange t-shirt is cheap, but a $22 orange and blue tie looks sharper and has a lot more applicability. It can be worn to football games, dances, job interviews, church and so on, where an orange t-shirt can be worn on limited occasions.
Unlike other traditions that have gone by the wayside, the wearing of ties is inoffensive. The "not gay" chant inserted into the Good Ole Song was offensive to many and was a blot on the University's reputation. In many people's minds, the Pep Band was as well. But who can argue such against ties? What can wearing them do for our reputation except to make one of class and dignity?
Wearing ties isn't just about looking nice or maintaining tradition for the sake of it. As the ACC expands to become one of the biggest and most important college athletic conferences in the country, it would be all too easy for the University's fans to become just another face in the rhetorical body-painting, highly merchandised, maniacal crowd of fans in the conference.
Facing this, the University's fans must fight harder than ever to maintain our uniqueness and not assimilate into our new athletic hegemony.
There's very little uniqueness in being a sea of orange. Looking at the expanded ACC, there are four schools which prominently feature orange in their colors: Clemson University (for which orange is their primary color), the University of Miami, Virginia Tech and U.Va. I doubt any Cavalier football fan would want an opposing team to relate their visit to Scott Stadium with one to Death Valley, or, worse, Lane Stadium.
In contrast, no other school in our conference shares our tradition of wearing ties to football games. In fact, few other Division I-A schools in the country share this tradition, the notable exceptions being the University of Georgia and the University of Mississippi.
I'd like to conclude by presenting a deal to Coach Groh. You continue to do the great job you have done coaching our team to victory and distinction, and we the fans will be there to support you, just as we always have, and dressed just as students were when you played here at the University.
Jim Prosser's column appears Tuesdays in The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org