A view from the Wahoo side of the Potomac
Some of you may recognize me as one of the Capitals Box Seats bloggers. In addition to my noted love for the Caps I also have a passion for UVa. football. Seeing that it's time for the 75th installment of Virginia vs. Maryland, I thought I'd take a very light-hearted look at this "Clash of Titans". (In case you're a Hokie or ‘Neer outraged that I would imply that UVa. and Maryland are “titans”, your instincts are incorrect – it was indeed sarcasm.)
Let's start by looking at the fan bases. Both Wahoo and Terp fans have one thing in common: indifference to their football team this season. Both programs have struggled topping 40,000 fans for some games.
And that's where the commonalities end.
Let's be honest, the two fan bases are entirely different. A few years ago I went to a Maryland-Virginia game in College Park dressed in my UVa. gear, and as I made my way to the top row of the upper deck I felt I was in Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video -- except that instead of each step lighting up as I walked up the stairs, it was a different profanity-laced diatribe I'd hear. Step on Row G, get a few colorful words with an f-bomb. Step on Row H, receive a more anatomical-oriented set of vulgarities. I couldn't make out the cacophony of sounds when I stepped on Row I, but I envision that it wasn't too friendly. I resorted to taking the stairs two at a time until I got to my seat. Going to a game in College Park is a profanity musical, eloquent in its liberal use of the spoken word. But I guess locals will say that's what gives Byrd its character.
For the loyal Terp fans that will make it down to Charlottesville this Saturday they don't have to worry about excessive profanity or dodging any Zima bottles aimed at them. In years past UVa. would pile 60,000 in Scott Stadium for a game against their third-biggest rival. But UVa. fans have stopped showing up, and those that do show have reverted to their pre-George Welsh practice of tailgating until the second quarter, if they make it in at all. So there is plenty of space to mill about. Heck, Terp fans can even go check out the fashion show in the student section. Curious about whether collars on men’s dress shirts are moving to a wider European style? Or maybe you want to know whether skinny ties go well with Oxfords? Or perhaps you want to see college girls model Lily Pulitzer dresses before deciding to buy? The late Fall UVa. fraternity/sorority collection should be on full display, provided the students show up.
So on to football because there is a game to be played, even though TV was smart enough to stay away. I start by begrudgingly writing that my hat's off to Fridge. Maryland hasn’t played a difficult schedule but they’ve performed well, winning their cupcake games, winning the 50/50 games on the schedule (Duke, BC, Wake) and sneaking out a lucky win over Navy, leaving the team bowl-eligible. That's impressive considering last year's two-win fiasco. Fridge deservedly will get a few Coach of the Year votes for this turnaround.
Virginia, on the other hand, is in full rebuilding mode. Considering the state of the program inherited from the previous coach, Al Groh, new coach Mike London has done an admirable job so far. Groh, the wizard of hubris and current mastermind of a below-average Georgia Tech defense, left UVa. in such shambles that many insiders believe it will be 2013 before the team can become fully competitive again. Not to levy blame solely on Groh, the UVa. administration deserves a lot of culpability to for holding on to a bad coach several years after they should have released him. The impact – on the field and in the ticket sales – has been dramatic: UVa faces its fourth losing season in five years while averaging 45,000 fans in a stadium that can hold up to 65,000. Although London is a ray of hope, these are tough times in Charlottesville.
But Maryland fans don't have it much better, do they? Fridge may not be the long-term answer and this nice little run he's on kind of makes it hard to let him go at season's end. So let's make this a win-win all-around and root for the Hoos to pull this one out. As the Terp fan base tends to do, they will react incredulously to losing to UVa - despite having lost 16 of the past 22 against their border rival - and will then have enough ammo to start the "Fire Fridge" proceedings in earnest. Meanwhile, us Wahoos get a much-needed victory in a revenue sport. After all, it’s frustrating that my boasts about UVa’s national champion rowing team always falls on deaf ears!
| November 12, 2010; 8:43 AM ET
Categories: Kareem El-Alaily, Terps | Tags: Kareem El-Alaily, Terps
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