An undercover investigation into athlete dining

Humor Columnist Walter Sharon breaks down his undercover mission to the athlete dining hall


I have heard rumors of Chicken Parmesan, stir-fries, salmon, correctly grilled chicken that actually has some flavor, brisket and seriously? Fried shrimp?

Before I begin, I feels important to note that I am not an athlete. Well, that’s not entirely true. In high school I was a member of various sporting teams, but here at the University of Virginia, I do not maintain the high honor that is walking around with a Nike backpack emblazoned with my last name and favorite sport. I must admit, however, being a civilian does have some perks. For one, I am not forced to wear sweatpants all hours of the day, and I get to sign up later than most for my classes for next semester, making my decisions easier as the classes I can’t decide between are now all filled. Another perk is found in means of transportation. As a civilian student, I am not forced to risk my life riding a moped around Grounds at breakneck speed. I am provided the far safer option to walk on the sidewalk at a responsible pace, or the far healthier option to ride my manual bicycle uphill both ways to and from class. 

Understandably, the University recognizes these rather lopsided discrepancies, and as a means to make it up to the athletes, has decided to increase exponentially the quality of food provided at the athlete-only dining hall, known only by the cool kids as JPJ.

If you, a fellow civilian, have not heard about this dining hall, that is understandable. I am only aware of its existence due to the fact that my older sister, an athlete here at the University, likes to tell me when the food that she is eating on a daily basis far outshines the half-hearted broccoli for which O’Hill is renowned. I have heard rumors of Chicken Parmesan, stir-fries, salmon, correctly grilled chicken that actually has some flavor, brisket and seriously? Fried shrimp?

Upon reviewing this evidence, I found that I was left with no choice but to go undercover and investigate. Understandably, I cannot pass as an athlete by wearing khakis, so my first step was to reinvent my wardrobe. Out with the vans and in with the Nikes. No more normal pants, baggy gray sweatpants are my only option. Forget about a sweater or jacket, sweatshirts are the required attire. To top off the look, I decided to put my hood up and to wear rather large headphones over the hood. After I had stolen my sister’s backpack, my look was set. I could pass as a Division I athlete at a mere glance. 

It was a dark and fateful night when I took to the Northline to the dining hall. By that time of day, the bus was largely occupied by the athletes whose scooters were apparently being repaired, so I decided to follow them. 

The bus stops. We file out in a rather athletic way. We do not speak to one another. We enter JPJ. Our music is blasting coursing through our hoodies. We absentmindedly check twitter as we walk, because our athletic prowess allows for such technical multi-tasking. I try to stay close to the pack. Luckily I find someone with a similar build to myself, as this was an issue I was afraid I would run into, and proceeded to follow right behind some kid whose favorite sport is tennis. I slipped through the cracks at the entrance and I was in. 

What a sight it was. Rows of tables surrounded by actually comfortable-looking chairs are lined adjacent to buffet style tables, with piles of U.Va.-colored plates and friendly looking servers. I didn’t know where to begin. I moved my headphones to the secondary around-the-neck position, grabbed a plate, and proceeded to see the glories for myself. 

I was utterly disappointed. 

Never in my life have I seen so much rice, grilled chicken, and broccoli. Piles of the stuff. I kept glancing around corners waiting for someone to bring out the barbeque, but no, just more and more trays of healthy-looking options. Even as I perused the tables, people were mumbling things about potassium, vitamin D and recovery. I have no idea what these things mean, but they don’t sound like pizza.

Caught up in shock and disappointment more than anything, I retreated back to the Northline and the long trip home. It took me quite a while to reconcile the things that I saw that fateful day, and it is one meal I will not soon forget. I guess the athletes really don’t have it that nice after all. 

As an unrelated side note, to all the athletes and other general students who are looking for a good place to eat, I do not recommend Runk Dining Hall, please go elsewhere. They only serve steak and mac and cheese every once in a while. Not your cup of tea. 

Walter Sharon is a Humor Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at

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