THE STORY OF THE LUCKY ORANGE PANTS

Tony Bennett

Wahoo (noun):  1.  A fish that can drink twice its weight in water.  2.  A slang term used to refer to a fan of the University of Virginia and its sports teams.  Fans are always well-dressed, exceedingly polite, and routinely disappointed.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a diehard Virginia fan.  This has necessitated years of therapy.  Apart from lacrosse and tennis, Virginia sports teams (and by sports teams, I am talking about football and basketball) perennially fall into one of three categories:

1.  They are terrible from the get-go.

2.  They are mediocre, losing most games but garnering at least one victory against a ranked opponent.  Bonus points if it is a rival school.

3.  They start hot, inexplicably rise into the Top 25, and then lose every game in the second half of the season.

Every year is the year that it’s going to be different.  And at the end of every season, we all shake our heads and say “rebuilding year.”  Virginia fans are loyal, but that loyalty comes with a price.  Disillusionment, disappointment, heartbreak.

Apart from the Ralph Sampson era, Virginia basketball has had only one or two bright spots.  When I was in high school, my parents actually took me out of school to go to the Meadowlands and watch UVA play in the East Regionals.  My teachers were not amused.  But that’s how we roll.  I remember standing in my freshman year dorm watching UVA play top ranked Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen.  My three roommates, unaccustomed to such fanaticism, watched wide-eyed as I paced around the room and performed all sorts of superstitious rituals.  They threatened to call my parents when I started talking to the players, giving them pep talks and advice  (“I don’t think she understands that they can’t actually hear her…”).  We won that game by the way.

I swear, getting ready for a UVA game is strikingly similar to a first date with someone you’re gaga for.  Nausea.  Anxiety.  Xanax.  Objectively ridiculous pre-game rituals (which for me include wearing my Lucky Orange Pants.  I have three pairs for varying temperatures (as well as lucky orange shorts, skirts and dresses) and I truly believe that if I don’t wear them, we will lose).  You prepare for the worst but hope for a Sports Center-worthy slam dunk.

After a spate of unfortunate coaching choices, the heavens smiled down on us when UVA hired Tony Bennett as head coach 5 years ago.  He immediately implemented his father’s trademark motion offense and pack-line man-to-man defense.  For a team that has struggled with laziness, discipline and fundamentals, Tony Bennett and his 5 Pillars might as well be Moses coming down Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments.  Under Bennett, Virginia isn’t a flashy team to watch.  They’re not fast.  They’re not always pretty.  We’ve been compared to a boa constrictor that slowly wraps around its prey and a trip to the dentist without novocaine. But my favorite comes from John Feinstein: “The Cavaliers are the little kid who keeps tugging on your leg asking for a cookie until you finally give in to exhaustion and give him the cookie.” 

More importantly, Bennett has shifted the focus of the basketball program to 5 core principles, what he calls The Five Pillars:  humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness.  And it ain’t just lip service.  Commentators routinely remark on the unselfishness of the players.  The remarkable lack of arrogance.  The willingness to give up a good shot so that your teammate can make a great shot.  The character of these men, on and off the court.

And it has paid off in spades.  In 2013-14, Virginia had the most successful basketball season in almost 30 years.   My obsession with UVA basketball and my willingness to engage in self-mockery over social media meant that The Lucky Orange Pants took on a life of their own.  They developed a following.

Beyond basketball, the Lucky Orange Pants got me writing again.  Not just about UVA, but about motherhood, the tribulations of an old house, and about growing up.  I had been prodded by some of my friends to share the Adventures of the Lucky Orange Pants (and the girl who wears them) beyond the four corners of Facebook.  I resisted for many reasons, one of which is that I am, at heart, lazy.  But my mother keeps reminding me (and I am using the word “reminding” euphemistically) that she isn’t on Facebook.  So here it is.  Because, as it turns out, even in your 30’s you still can’t say no to your mom….

Shortly after I started this blog, my dad died unexpectedly and my writing unconsciously shifted to navigating through that lossas we adjusted to a life without him, as my brother got married, and as I realized that this crazy love has kept me connected to my dad.

Thank you for joining me…

6 Comments

Leave a Reply