In just a few hours, I'll start my trek to Charlottesville for the home opener with Richmond, the beginning of the Mike London era. I've been attending UVA Football games for 27 years now, from that odd first experience ("why is everyone wearing blue blazers?") to the present, lengthy, overnight trips most games now create.
We've got a whole routine at these games, and lately it goes like this. I leave the farm 7.5 hours before game-time and drive to Richmond to pick up Rob, my fellow season ticket holder (Tom is the other. I've mentioned these guys before--my two favorite Democrats). It takes about 3 hours to reach Rob's house. Prior to the home opener, we go to the VA ABC store (maybe not next year!) and purchase some ridiculously expensive bottle of bourbon, which we present as tribute to our tailgate hosts upon arrival, guaranteeing us the bounty of their table for the remainder of the season. From there, we continue west to Charlottesville, paying rapt attention to the other Hoos along the way.
We arrive three hours before gametime, ostensibly to find prime parking (which is difficult sometimes), but also to enable our further wanderings. We park almost always near the basketball stadium and then walk to "The Corner", a little shopping district across the street from the Rotunda at the U. There, we will do two things: we will buy UVA stuff that we don't need (I currently own at least a dozen ball caps), and we will enjoy our pre-game meal. The meal occurs at a place called "The Virginian", a narrow, deep establishment whose decor has not changed in 75 years, save for the model TV's over the bar. Al Fresco dining at the Virginian (basically on the sidewalk out front) provides the best "scenery", and I don't need to add how wonderful the scenery is at the early games, where sundresses predominate.
From the Lawn, we head to our tailgate. Three sets of friends have parking spaces adjoining each other, this year located outside the stadium directly behind our seats (very convenient). For the price of one bottle of premium bourbon (which has never actually been requested, but which has always been appreciated), we have for nearing two decades enjoyed bounteous repasts (keeping in mind, we just finished out pre-game meal...). This is where we are usually joined by our third seatmate, Tom, who is preternaturally late to every game because of some other commitment, family or professional. Tom is a lawyer in Richmond, and a good one I am told. He generally comes in for some good natured (and envious) ribbing from Rob and me for his continuing failure to gray at an appropriate pace, but it appears to spring from nothing more nefarious than good genes.
At our old tailgate location, astride a main pedestrian thoroughfare, the "scenery" was once again, splendid. I'm not sanguine about the new spot, isolated amidst the alumni elite as it is. We're far more likely to be looking at old Fat guys in orange pants than we are lasses in sundresses.....but I digress. No later than thirty minutes to game time, we head to our seats, so that we might be present for the arrival of "CAVMAN", a computer-generated vignette that plays out on the Jumbo-tron, capped off with a live, mounted version who leads the team out on the field. This is a rousing time at Scott Stadium, but has on at least one occasion, resulted in an unfortunate accident (no one was hurt).
Oh-and then there's a game. Some years, we have a great team, and we're likely to win. These are rare years. Most years, we have an average team, and we're just as likely to lose as win. Some years, we have a crappy team, and we're likely to lose. We're in a rebuilding year this year--so I think we'll fall into the latter category. Be that as it may.
Why do I do it? I love the place. It is special to me in ways I am unable effectively to communicate. The Kitten has a saying I love that describes the unique place other people sometimes hold in our lives--even when we aren't particularly physically close to them anymore--she says, "she's got some of my stuff", with "stuff" being memories, secrets, shared experiences, emotions. UVA has some of my stuff. Rob and Tom--they have a lot of my stuff too. My two best friends. We don't see much of each other the rest of the year, though we do talk now and then. The games serve as a way to re-connect, to catch up, to see how Tom's kids are growing, to remember for just a few hours, the time we spent together without responsibility or care.
UPDATE: Brother Sean would chide me if I didn't provide my prediction. We'll win today, 21-17. It will be the first of three wins this season.