The band never quit.
That’s about the best thing that can be said about Virginia’s painful 52-7 loss to Southern Cal at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville Saturday. That and the record crowd of 64,947 may have seen the national champions play.
Still, I love the first day of football season. Every team is undefeated, and fans are drunk on high expectations. When players go to sleep on Friday night, visions of national championships dance in their heads. It’s sunshine and roses on every campus in America.
Until the game starts, anyway.
Even in Virginia, it was too hot to officially be autumn, but the faithful were out in force. Tables brimmed with fried chicken, potato salad, and deviled eggs. Grills burned all over town. The campus was awash in orange and blue.
UVA fans seem to have abandoned their old-fashioned Cavalier mascot in favor of a big-mouthed tropical fish. "A Wahoo is a fish that can drink twice it’s weight," fans were quick to explain. I even rang my friend Jean before the game to learn the right way to cheer this team. "Wahoo-Wah!" she cheered. "Say it with me. WAHOO-WAH!"
The crowd erupted when the Cavelier Marching Band took the field, the snow white feathers on their hats bobbing jauntily. The school’s beloved Cav Man got an even grander welcome. "You’ll never see a prettier horse," drawled one lady. "The cavalier comes out and swings his saber, and you think, ‘Where’s Rhett?’"
Even with the color and pageantry of the pre-game festivities, you still had the unsettling feeling something wicked was about to show up on the horizon. When the Trojans stormed the field, it was pretty clear what that was. Less than 5 minutes had expired in the first quarter when USC scored the first time. By the end of the game, there were more empty water bottles than cheering fans left in the stadium.
I chuckled at the fans who were boldly wearing those bright orange HOOSYourDaddy T-shirts. I guess we know the answer to that question now.