Three weeks into the college football season and most Wahoos are already looking forward to the start of basketball (T minus 48 days in case you’re wondering). It’s always hard to be a UVA fan, but the last few years have stretched even the most faithful of us to our limits. On the other hand, I suspect the pharmaceutical industry is sending Coach London a big ol’ gift basket every week.
Indeed, many of the faithful, some who have been season ticket holders for 40 years, have just stopped going to games.
But not me.
If it were just a football game, believe me, I would have given up going a long time ago. But it’s more than just a game to me. And no amount of losing seasons can stop me from sitting in Scott Stadium on Saturday afternoons.
Most people visit cemeteries to commune with the dead. But I feel no spiritual connection to a marble slab or a name on a plaque. My cemetery is Scott Stadium. Inside these walls is where I feel my dad. Where I see him. Where I hear him.
He is here.
I can hear him saying, with a lilt in his voice and a wry smile on his face, “This is the year that we’ll run the tables!” just as he did every year.
And here. In the quiet reflection of my boys.
Sometimes, the boys prefer to linger at the top of the hill before we head to our seats. And when they do – when they sit as still as statues, looking down on the field, with the grass beneath their feet and the smell of smuggled booze in the air – that’s when I know they can see him too. That’s when I know that thirty years from now, they won’t remember the minutiae of their childhood but they will remember this. They will remember Saturdays in Charlottesville.
And most of all here.
Maybe you can’t see him, but I can. He’s right in the middle of all of us.
And always it hurts.
But in a good way. The way that you hurt when your heart is constricting at the same time it is expanding. The way that it hurts when you are fighting to hold on to memories that are slipping through your fingers. The way that it is supposed to hurt. The hurt is just my dad’s way of reminding me that he’s sitting beside me.
And in the small moments that suddenly become unbearable, I steal a glance at my boys. I see the past and I see the future and I catch my breath.
Two weeks ago, the beleaguered Cavaliers hosted 9th ranked Notre Dame, a contest we were supposed to lose badly. But, miraculously, for three hours we outplayed them. For three hours, we did everything right. For three hours, all of us crammed into that stadium believed in the impossible. And isn’t that why we all watch any game – for the chance to believe in the impossible?
But three hours wasn’t enough. We lost that game in dramatic fashion with 12 seconds on the clock. And if you really think about it, that too is why we watch this game. The disappointments on the field somehow validate the ones in our own lives.
Sometimes we try our hardest and still come up short. Sometimes we are simply not good enough. Sometimes our teammates let us down. Sometimes we have to pick up our jaws from the floor and will ourselves to believe again.
So I go to Scott Stadium. I sit in the heat and the cold. I sit through losses and victories. I go because I love harder than the disappointments, the inconveniences, and the mistakes.
I go because this is my cemetery. My consecrated ground.
I go because my dad is waiting for me there.
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