Despite Virginia football's poor showing against Oregon, I feel revitalized as a sports fan
Anyone who’s ever met me knows how much of a sports nut I am. As I have previously written in this column, I think it’s partially genetic. I was born on Final Four weekend, so it would stand to reason that I’m somehow predisposed to love sports. Every year, come March Madness time, I’m found watching one game on TV and split-screening at least two others on my computer. I morphed into an NBA fan practically overnight. I love European soccer, and I even watch baseball and golf from time to time.
But lately, I haven’t been watching as much as I used to. It’s not that I like sports any less; on the contrary, it’s become very clear to me over the last few months that sportswriting is what I want to do with my life. It’s somewhat to be expected. Between getting ready for fourth year, trying to navigate the job search and dealing with all of the other personal stresses and strains that are just normal parts of being 21 years old, it just seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to be glued to ESPN or surfing Deadspin.
Saturday’s Virginia football debacle certainly didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t upset. I actually predicted that the final score would be 52-10 in favor of Oregon, so it should be clear that I had few or no expectations about how Saturday would turn out. I think it’s more symptomatic of a general Wahoo malaise that I’ve been suffering from ever since the men’s basketball team wasted a historic win against Duke in February by dropping two of its last three games and flaming out in the ACC Tournament. It came to a head Saturday afternoon when I exited Scott Stadium alone, unsure when I was going to feel like returning for another Virginia football game. It was a long walk back to Rugby Road, just me and my thoughts.
But the rest of the weekend brought the sports fan in me back to life.
First, I checked my ESPN alert texts to see what was going on in the Louisiana State-University of Alabama at Birmingham game. My housemates can attest that I lit up when I saw that LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had caught three touchdown passes and racked up one of the most exciting plays of the weekend by returning a missed field goal 100 yards for a touchdown in the Tigers’ 56-17 win.
Then, I was further buoyed by the return of the NFL Sunday. Between finally getting a chance to see Sean Payton roam the sideline with my Saints and having fantasy football scores to check, let’s just say it was a bit of a struggle to get all of my work done on time. There’s just something about football that makes it impossible to concentrate on Human-Computer Interaction or the Economics of the Public Sector.
And perhaps the final straw came in the wee hours of Saturday night and Sunday morning. After meeting sophomore shooting guard Justin Anderson of the men’s basketball team at Cook-Out Saturday night, I headed to the bookstore Sunday morning to finally get my one required textbook – thanks, CS classes – and found myself in line behind senior guard Joe Harris and sophomore big man Mike Tobey.
I can’t really figure out exactly why, but finding myself in such close proximity to the athletes adored by so many people who live for Virginia sports pumped me up. Maybe it’s that I feel a closer connection to the Cavaliers now that I’ve bumped elbows and ridden UTS buses with them, or maybe it’s just that being around the basketball team has me feeling the anticipation of basketball season coming close. But whatever it is, I’m going to try to find a way to harness it.
Since I grew up supporting a powerhouse SEC football program, Virginia football typically doesn’t move the needle for me. Sure, having low expectations prevents me from feeling heartbroken when the Wahoos lose, but it also prevents me from feeling a full level of enjoyment when they pull out the victory. So I’m going to try to take some of this newfound energy – my sporting second wind – that LSU and the Saints and Joe Harris have given me and bring it with me to Scott Stadium next time.
I’ll jump a little higher when AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” plays before the game and sing “The Good Ol’ Song” a little louder when David Watford throws a touchdown or Kevin Parks breaks through the line to score, and it’s going to make me more excited for Virginia football, and I hope some of you will join me.
Because maybe we’ll get heartbroken. Maybe the Cavaliers will flame out and miss bowl eligibility again. Or maybe they’ll sneak in at 6-6 and get crushed by an SEC team with a deceptively bad record. But, like Tennyson said, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all.”
And I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to start loving Virginia football.