Sunday, November 30, 2008
UVa-Virginia Tech Commonwealth Cup: Divided loyalties
The big rivalry tests whether blood is thicker than football.
Photos by MATT GENTRY The Roanoke Times
Neighbors and friends Ken McCullough Jr. (left) and Bill Lemon, both of Lynchburg, join in the good-natured rivalry between Tech and UVa.
Fran Spanberger of Richmond (right) wonders why JMU student Drew Loso supports Tech.
MATT GENTRY The Roanoke Times
Former University of Virginia cheerleader Matt Cook (center) is surrounded by Hokies at a tailgate.
BLACKSBURG -- Allison Cook, a senior at Virginia Tech, had to beg and plead with her brother to get him to Saturday's football game against the University of Virginia.
Matt Cook, a 2005 graduate of UVa, somewhat grudgingly joined the family's tailgate gathering sporting navy and orange.
The rivalry game, held annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is often a family affair because of its proximity to the holiday.
But many families, like the Cooks of Richmond, are split over which team to support.
Matt had been to two Tech-UVa games in Blacksburg while he was a student and cheerleader, but he prefers to root for the Cavaliers when he's home.
"It is my sister's final home game, so I thought I would rescind that," he said.
Allison still expects a Christmas gift, and Matt said he knows he's not off the hook.
"It is a friendly rivalry. We talk a lot of trash," he said.
In the Cook family on Saturday, the Hokies outnumbered the Cavs. Patriarch Paul Cook was wearing a Tech hat, but the UVa season ticket holder said he would have worn a Virginia cap if the game had been played in Charlottesville. Allison's twin sister Hilary Cook, a senior at James Madison University, wore a Tech sweatshirt under her fleece North Face coat.
"My loyalty was decided for me," said Hilary, who was not wearing any purple -- one of JMU's colors.
At another tailgate get-together in the parking lot of Lane Stadium, Ken McCullough Sr. of Lynchburg and Ken McCullough Jr. of Appomattox were the lone Virginia fans among more than a dozen Hokie supporters. The younger McCullough, wearing a UVa toboggan and drinking beer from a can covered by a Tech insulator, even went against his team and predicted that the Cavaliers would lose, 13-7.
"I am just being realistic," he said.
Tech won, but the score was 17-14. The win earned the Hokies a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Boston College on Saturday.
At every Tech-UVa game, Dave Wilberger strings a clothesline between two trees in the stadium's parking lot to display T-shirts and other memorabilia ribbing the Hoos.
A new addition this year was an orange T-shirt featuring a Cavalier picking his nose; it reads "Wahoos Eat Boogers." Wilberger said a passerby at a previous Tech-UVa game -- a Lynchburg man he had never met before -- noticed Wilberger didn't have that one and mailed it to him.
A mix of fans showed up to Wilberger's tailgate party Saturday.
"Half are Hokies; half are Wahoos. But since I run the clothesline, I run the shirts," said Wilberger, who graduated from Tech in 1973.
Three daughters of Wilberger's fraternity brother were among the party -- Kelly Clifton and Ashley Clifton attended UVa even though both of their parents went to Tech, where the youngest sister, Lindsay Clifton, is a junior.
The Cliftons' home in Centreville is a house divided.
"Or a house confused," Lindsay said. "I was the one who chose the right way."
That is why she is sure her parents will leave the inheritance all to her.