Imagine the horror: sports fans wearing striped ties, spectators swaying hand-in-hand in song, and constant and repeated references to Thomas Jefferson in every uttered phrase. Make no mistake, this horror is as real as the grave of Sally Hemmings. I should know, I lived it. This is my story.
I once was a UVa fan. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's true. Before the demons of my past try to discredit my red and white reputation, let me just come out and explain myself. It was a frightening and terrible experience, one I continue to be haunted by to this day, but one I survived.
I am a third-generation NC State graduate. But you have to understand, I grew up in Virginia. I didn't know any better, it seemed normal at the time. I thought the University of Virginia was the college that represented me, since I lived in Virginia. Back then, I didn't know that the Virginians who got in to UVa were all spoiled Jeffersonian zombies. I didn't know that UVa was nothing but UNC dressed up in a legacy of mediocrity. I thought UVa was the cool local underdog, and I was proud to follow the golden rule of sports team allegiance: thou shalt pull for a team that plays near where you live.
But I had turned my back on my family - I had ignored a very big asterisk next to the golden rule of sports team allegiance: *family brainwashing should always trump geographical proximity. I blame my parents for letting the spirits of Wahoo fandom possess my soul. They saw the seeds of Hoo-ness begin to grow within me when I asked questions like "Will I grow as tall as Ralph Sampson?" and "It's not that important to have an all-time winning percentage greater than .500, is it?" These red flags went ignored, and I spiraled freely into a positive perception of UVa.
There was hope for me, but my parents' disregard only made me more vulnerable. I asked my father about the can of NC State 1983 cherry soda, but he told me I wasn't allowed to drink it. I told my parents I wanted to be able to dunk like Spud Webb, and they told me "don't be stupid." Thus, I settled for wanting to be able to lay the ball up like John Crotty. If only my parents could have seen what was happening to their son.
But my family never took the threat of pulling for UVa seriously. It wasn't until we saw what the students and alumni of UVa really were that the true horror of being a UVa fan was realized. I went to Scott stadium to witness UVa's first-ever victory against Clemson. (The Cavs had lost 27 straight - UVa football used to be what experts politely termed "a non-power.") At first I was awed by Monticello being in the same general region. Then I watched the excited crowd run onto the gleaming astroturf. It was quite an alluring sight, but it was an evil illusion of legitimate sports exuberance. A sense, a prickly feeling on the back of my neck, something told me that Charlottesville was a very unwholesome place.
Whenever the Cavaliers scored, even if it was just a field goal, all the fans would put their arms around each other and sway back-and-forth together while singing the New Year's Eve song. Such things did not happen at normal football games. And UVa had no marching band, only an apparent group of musical friends wearing light blue church-shirts and orange vests covered with enough pieces of flair to be noticed from the upper deck of the stadium. This group of friends ran onto the field during halfime, practiced, and then went back to their seats before the game started again. I was bewildered. Whenever I left the stands to get a drink or use the bathroom, I would encounter throngs of young men dressed alike in khakis, white shirts, and orange and blue striped ties. And they were everywhere - I could feel their gaze penetrating me, inquiring where my own orange and blue tie was. I felt trapped, even frightened.
The ghosts of Jefferson's love children were clearly menacing this campus, consuming the souls of its students. When I questioned the UVa grad that had brought us to this game, he dismissed all the phenomena as as just tradition. And that tradition was terror!
UVa is a land of zombies with excellent standardized test scores. It is a place that shuns its real mascot, the Cavaliers, for the mysterious moniker "Wahoos," a cultist term they seem to believe associates them with a fish known for drinking high levels alcohol. UVa is the flagship school of a state that has produced a who's who of athletes, like Lawrence Taylor, Grant Hill, Bruce Smith, Michael Vick, Moses Malone and Alonzo Mourning, yet none ever played at UVa.
I was scared straight by my experience in Charlottesville, and have embraced my NC State roots ever since. However, to this day I have horrific nightmares of UVa, scary dreams where Al Groh builds a legitimate ACC power and good athletes from the state are successfully deceived into joining the UVa fraternity. Nevermind the nightmares, though. UVa is scary, but NC State is real. The Pack may have lost two of the last three against UVa, but this year I ain't afraid of no Hoos!