Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies-Hoos rivalry is all about the fans

Q: Why is it that the UVa football team doesn't have a Web site?

A: They can't string three "Ws" together.

Q: What's a Hokie's idea of a seven-course meal?

A: A six-pack of Bud and a can of Skoal.

I stole those jokes. I don't feel bad about this. The fun-loving Virginia Tech and Virginia fans who posted them on my blog this week probably stole them from somewhere else, too. Doesn't matter. Jokes were meant to be pilfered, meant to be told and re-told, meant to be worn out like a church welcome mat.

Like these bad boys:

Q: What do UVa and Virginia Tech students have in common?

A: They both got into Virginia Tech.

Q: What does the average UVa student get on his SAT?

A: Drool.

See, this is the heart of a rivalry. It's certainly not the coaches. Not in this state. Football is too big of a business these days for either side's head man to dare risk riling up the other.

So both guys were respectful this week. Tech coach Frank Beamer warned us that the Cavaliers have "been in just about every ballgame." UVa coach Mike London told us the Hokies are "very sound in a lot of things that they do."

All diplomatic and true.

But you've got to admit, just once, it would be awesome if Beamer stepped to the podium for his Tuesday press conference, cleared his throat and said the following:

"Did y'all hear the Rolling Stones are playing at UVa's Scott Stadium this week?"

Then he'd pause, savoring the confused looks on reporters' faces, before adding:

"Yeah, they're 10-point favorites."

Simultaneously, two hours away in Charlottesville, London -- dressed in his usual jacket and tie -- would stare seriously into the cameras to begin his press briefing:

"Before we talk about injuries, I'm curious about something. Can any of you tell me the difference between a Hokie and a carp?"


"No? Well, one's a bottom-feeding scum sucker. The other is a fish."

Of course, this doesn't happen in press conferences, because it doesn't need to happen in press conferences. It's happening every day in offices throughout the Commonwealth.

In other words, the fans are what this game's about. Especially this year, when neither team's big-picture fortunes will change regardless of the result.

Perhaps Tech will extend its winning streak against UVa to seven games today, which means you're more likely to hear this:

Virginia Tech is playing at UVa, which has a first down with 3 minutes left in the half. A UVa fan sets off a firecracker, and Virginia Tech, thinking it's the end of the half, runs off the field.

Three plays later, UVa punts.

Or maybe UVa pulls a surprise, and this one becomes the joke du jour:

Did you hear about the fire in VT's football dorm that destroyed 20 books?

Yeah, the real tragedy was that 15 hadn't been colored yet.

We need not look for meaning where it does not exist. The significance of today's game is all around us. Tech running back Ryan Williams might (and did) say this is "just another game," but Charlie in Chilhowie feels differently. So does Betty in Botetourt, Larry in Lexington and any other person who's ever bought a VT hat or a cross-sabres shirt and rehashed jokes such as this:

Q: How many UVa students does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Just one. He holds it in place and the world simply revolves around him.

Q: How many Hokies does it take to change a light bulb?

A: One, and he gets four academic credits for it.

All right, enough stealing. (Thanks to Other John, hokie24, rayrayuva and Todd for the material.) Here's my own question: How many people does it take for the Tech-UVa rivalry to be fun again?

Just two. One fan who likes the Hokies, and one who likes the Hoos.

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