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Translating the word Wahoo

April 12, 2016


College towns are insular places. They feel like the world entire to freshmen. They start feeling cramped to seniors. Charlottesville is one of these towns. Tucked between the Shenandoah and Richmond, the town possesses a hint of Washington Irving’s narrative fiction—ghosts abound in Charlottesville. Thomas Jefferson is over one shoulder. Ralph Sampson is over the other. Somewhere on the Lawn is a room where Edgar Allan Poe toiled away, most likely in misery, or at least anticipating misery. Perhaps Sampson is nothing more than Poe’s imagination stretched so thin on a rack that his knees buckle and break. Oh! The misery!


The refrain in my childhood home about anything UVA sports related was some alternating rendition of “Come on!” and “Typical Virginia.” Sometimes a good ol’ “pathetic” was tossed in for good measure. All of which is to say, nothing good ever came from rooting for the Wahoos.


Sure there were some bright moments on the lacrosse field, and the baseball team has found success of late. But the 1990’s and 2000’s watched both the football program and basketball team fade not so much from glory realized but even glory imagined. George Welsh retired, but even before that, Beamer and the Hokies eclipsed a program founded primarily on one glorious upset of Florida State. On the other hand, the basketball team squandered talent until there was none left to squander.


I think these feelings, more than anything, seeped into my piece The Cauldron about the UVA seniors fromthis year’s basketball team and the word chokein amateur athletics. Sometimes, I guess, our emotional investment in a sport becomes so much that only words connoting death do the events justice. I guess. Then again, I’m not even really a UVA fan. I’ve always pulled for North Carolina in basketball. Maybe that has something to do with bandwagons. Maybe it has something to do with loyalty to my dad. Then again, he’s the one who always took the failings of Virginia sports so personally. I guess some things hurt on principle and others—well—they hurt because pain can be geographical and hard to explain. Some of the ghosts wail from Monticello, and some hurl remotes through house windows.  

And then there are those that simply move on with the living, outside the history, outside the ball fields and arenas, in the rest of the greater world. 

Bryan Harvey tweets @LawnChairBoys

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