Virginia Football Returns to Charlottesville

[caption id="attachment_9" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Tailgating with Memaw"][/caption]

The air has a distinct crispness to it once again and the anticipation of fans across the country is palpable as teams prepare for the opening weekend of college football.  A weekend that we have all been anxiously awaiting since the final snap of last season.  For this 1st time Chat Sports blogger and avid Virginia Cavalier, however, the new season begins with a very heavy heart.  My grandmother, Memaw, will be laid to rest on Friday in the foothills of Crozet, VA.

Since 2002 (coincidentally my 1st year as a UVA undergrad), Memaw and Pawpaw have been fixtures at the Birckhead family tailgate - not missing a home game for the past 9 years.  Born and raised in Crozet, VA, Memaw always called the Charlottesville area her home.  Although she excelled on the hardwood growing up, UVA football quickly became and would always remain her guiltiest pleasure.  As luck would have it - though at times, I admit, it actually seems like more of a curse - Memaw passed this passion down to my father, who ultimately instilled in me an undying loyalty to the Virginia Cavaliers.

Over the years, the highs have been high and the lows have been low for the Virginia football program, but the one constant following every home game was always Memaw's bright smile - displaying her ever optimistic attitude that the boys had played their best and she was still proud to be wearing the Orange and Blue.  Looking back, I have now come to realize that for Memaw - though she still desperately wished for 10 win seasons, ACC titles and a yearly victory over Virginia Tech - UVA football meant so much more.  For her, it was a Saturday drive 'into town' with my grandfather, something to look forward to every week and, most importantly, a weekend she could spend with those she loved most enjoying a common thread.  So as the Cavaliers get ready to take the field against the Tribe of William and Mary, we have decided to keep our Saturday tradition alive - not only for the sense of a little normalcy, but also because we know Memaw wouldn't have it any other way.

As we unload the coolers full of cold beer and set up the UVA themed tables topped with Wayside fried chicken and homemade sides prior to Saturday evening’s first blow of the whistle, we’ll do so with a new perspective on what Virginia football means to our family.  Sure, I’ll still be upset if our recent trend of throwing the ball to the other team more than our own continues…and you probably don’t want to call me if the Cavaliers suffer a similar fate as it did two years go in a season-opening loss to William & Mary…but, at the end of the day, the big picture seems a littler bit clearer now.  Despite the outcome of the game, it gives our family a chance to be together around something we love, it gives my grandfather a chance to take his mind off of grieving for a few hours, and it gives me the opportunity to spend a weekend in the ‘Hook with my new bride.  Looking around the current college football landscape, with the Nevin Shaprio’s of the world and college programs chasing the dollar signs into new conferences making all the big headlines, I think this perspective is simply lost by too many.  That’s too bad.

And, for the record, Virginia 31 – William & Mary 10.  Wahoowa!

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