FOGEL: Revitalize the rivalry

Students should recognize the untapped potential of our rivalry with Virginia Tech

I love rivalries. They bring out the best and worst in me, especially in sports.

As a diehard Bostonian, I grew up surrounded by two of the greatest sports rivalries of all time: Red Sox-Yankees and Celtics-Lakers. When I made the trip down to Virginia, however, I became aware of another intense rivalry: Virginia vs. Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, it has not lived up to my expectations, as the rivalry has lost steam in recent years. Once classified by intense animosity, our relationship with Tech has turned into a more peaceful and dull one.

Last weekend the Cavaliers squared off against the Hokies in a rather uneventful basketball game that ended in a 65-45 victory for the University. I was surprised how routine the game seemed for Cavalier fans, as the game came and went without much acknowledgement and the seats were far from packed. Tech clearly does not have the team talent to compete with the likes of Harris and Brogden, but that does not mean the game shouldn’t have been treated with significance.

Our rivalry with Virginia Tech, which came to prominence within the last 30 years, lacks intensity. Football is the prime example; after our 16-6 loss this past Thanksgiving, the Cavaliers have dropped 14 of our last 15 football games to the Hokies, including a shocking 10 straight. Long gone are the days when Matt Schaub and Heath Miller provided a competitive spark. This is not to say there can’t be dominance in a rivalry — as a Red Sox fan I know that the Yankees have won well more than their fair share of championships. Nevertheless, no matter the record of either team, there should be an equal fervor present at every game, and neither rival should ever feel overmatched.

Although college rivalries typically revolve around football, they should extend to all sports. The main issue is that our rivalry remains lopsided in almost every sport. In the last 10 years, the Virginia men and women’s tennis and diving teams have never lost to the Hokies. Soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and women’s basketball are also equally dominant in favor of the University. For example, men’s soccer hasn’t lost to the Hokies since 2005, and women’s soccer won their last consecutive five before dropping their most recent game in the ACC tournament. Recently, basketball, softball and volleyball have been the only competitive sports. The lopsided nature of our rivalry across all these sports has caused an overall decline in competitiveness when it comes to rival matchups.

Addressing the situation is tough. There either needs to be a replacement rival, which is highly unlikely because no other Virginia state school can compete at the same level as Tech or the University, or an increase in the success of lower-performing teams. Cavalier football is not solely to blame, as the Hokies lack athletic prowess in numerous sports. A third solution is to make the best of what we have and inject more enthusiasm into rival games no matter the expected outcome. In addition to top 25 matchups, we should look forward to Tech games and pack them with tons of anxious fans.

Rivalry matchups full of anticipation and excitement do more than encourage profanities aimed at another school or team. These matchups unite students with a common goal to beat an opponent. They provide a sense of school spirit and pride that is unparalleled in any other school event. Nowhere else do you see thousands of students come together to cheer on their classmates. The rival games between Tech and the University need to be restored to their once thrilling nature, and the path to a stronger rivalry starts with putting more fans in the seats. Out-of-state students like myself need to be shown why it is imperative to despise Tech.

Memories such as rushing the field or court after a win give rivalries true meaning. Although it is awesome to rush the court after a top 25 upset like last year’s Duke basketball matchup or the 2012 Georgia Tech football game, it is the sweetest when Tech is the team that falls, as they did in football in 2003. I can’t wait until the day where I cheer against Tech teams as passionately as I do against New York teams.

Jared Fogel is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. His columns run Fridays.

Published January 30, 2014 in Opinion

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