RIVAS: Once a Wahoo, always a Wahoo
University students should keep traditions alive
I went to my first U.Va. football game in 1994 when I was two years old. We beat Clemson 9-6. Born to a couple that met at the University of Virginia in their first-year dorm (Kent) and married at the Chapel in their mid-20s, I bled orange and blue some time before it became a trademarked T-shirt logo. It was my parents’ first year with season tickets, and they took me to as many games as they could. According to their accounts, I was one of those rare, well-behaved toddlers who found contentment in almost any activity, which made me a natural companion for weathering the ebb and flow of Virginia football mediocrity (although we were pretty good in the ‘90s). When I was four, my dad and I endured the pouring rain to watch the Barber twins beat NC State 62-14. Though many fans left early for fear of contracting a vicious cold, I insisted that we stay despite the torrential downpour. I loved my ‘Hoos, and have never stopped loving the University of Virginia from my very early childhood on.
The “Good Ole Song” was a household hymn; I knew every word long before I knew the meaning of the words themselves. At my elementary school’s annual fifth grade luau, the DJ played “Rock and Roll” by Gary Glitter — known at the University as “Countdown to Cav Man,” played every time Virginia scores a touchdown. Unaware of the song’s ubiquity across middle school dances and high school athletics nationwide, as the guitar riffs swelled to the chorus I pumped my fists above my head and shrieked: “U-V-A, GO HOOS GO!” Surprisingly, my classmates didn’t seem to be as well-acquainted with the cheer.
In 2002, my family traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend the Continental Tire Bowl against West Virginia. The Cavaliers were clear underdogs, but we smoked the Mountaineers 48-22. I wore a Virginia baseball cap and an orange-and-blue pom-pom in my hair. Despite the mid-30-degree weather, I refused to wear a jacket because it covered up my Virginia sweatshirt. I watched every game I couldn’t attend on TV, or listened to it on the radio if it wasn’t televised. The day that Matt Schaub and the Cavs beat Virginia Tech in 2003 was one of the five best days of my life. The Sunday paper featured a special sports section entirely devoted to the game; I taped the pages to my bedroom door where they remained until we moved to a new house after my first year.
These games have always been more to me than simply football and tailgating. They have become tradition. This will be my parents’ 20th year holding season tickets, and I expect them to continue doing so for the next 20 seasons. As a family of six die-hard superfans, we have traveled the country to bowl games, followed our favorite players in the NFL, and hosted blow-out tailgates in the Scott Stadium parking lot (South Lot 514 — you’re welcome anytime). University athletics brings my family together in a way that almost nothing else can. For us, football games are joyous gatherings with extended family and friends; they are a way for my parents to connect with their college friends and spend quality time with their four kids. I’ve grown up witnessing the pride that the University inspires within them. Their love for this school has become my own.
Since I became a student, not a day has passed during which I haven’t given thanks for the opportunity to study here. A simple love for the Wahoos has evolved into an uncontainable passion for this school in its entirety, and it has given birth to several traditions of my own. This is my home, and when I consider how it will feel to get kicked out next May (I refuse to say the “g” word just yet), I am filled with anxiety and fear. I know not how I will fare beyond age 22 and feel as though graduating (okay, I said it) will be like getting dumped from a long-term boyfriend.
But I know that tradition will guide me through the unknown. No matter where I am, I will continue to return to U.Va. Like my parents, I will give back to the University as an alumna, attend Reunions with my old friends and hold Virginia close to my heart. The traditions I’ve created will keep me close to U.Va. long after I’ve graduated. I will never truly felt as though I’ve left for good.
Make your own traditions while you’re here. It will give deeper significance to your time as a student and inspire memories to last a lifetime. Do things that are meaningful to you and do them with the people you love. Traditions are activities that we choose to preserve — so preserve something that you don’t want to lose. Celebrate always, for life is sweet even in the smallest ways.
One day, I will bring my children to the Lawn, tell them enchanting stories about Thomas Jefferson and paint their faces orange at their grandparents’ tailgate. Perhaps I will have season tickets of my own, and — if I’ve done anything right as a parent — my daughter will sing “Countdown to Cav Man” at her school dance.
Caitlin Rivas is a fourth-year trustee.