A War To End All Wars

A war will take place this weekend. Warriors adorned with tribal garb and decked in armor will do battle for hours. Disputants smeared with face-painted and bearing coats-of-arms will bellow out warchants. Cannons shall fire and war drums shall roll. Injuries will be sustained. At the end of the day, the victors will emerge. Legends will be made and spoken of in lore for years to come.

This war will be a football game in the hills of southwest Virginia as the University of Virginia (UVA) Cavaliers travel to Blacksburg to play the Virginia Tech (VT) Hokies for the Commonwealth Cup. This year's matchup holds special significance as it is quite possibly the most important game in the history of the rivalry. It will decide the Atlantic Coast Conference champion and go a long way towards determining which team will go to the Bowl Championship Series. Post-season matchups and millions of dollars are on the line.

The top students in high schools across Virginia, if they choose to stay in state, usually pick one or the other for college. A rivalry of identity eventually emerges, not the one so talked about after the recent election, but one that is Maroon vs Blue. The different cultures of the two schools serve as the background of the rivalry. Located in Blacksburg, VT is a large land-grant university that boasts a well-reputed engineering school, a strong research curriculum, and one of the only two Corps of Cadets at a major university. The campus is dominated by gothic architecture extending radially from a large expanse of green known as the “Drillfield”. Though thousands of students spend a significant portion of their lives walking through the Hokie Stone campus, a belief that is nearly universal among them is that one cannot spend four years there without falling in love with the place. Hokie football fans are known nationally for their enthusiasm, even braving hurricanes to support their team.

UVA is the university located in Charlottesville founded by Thomas Jefferson that also boasts a law school and medical school in addition to the undergraduate campus. Like Blacksburg, Charlottesville is a quintessential college town in which the university dominates the landscape. UVA is consistently ranked among the top public universities in the country. Their football fans often invite ridicule by wearing blazers and ties and sundresses to games; holding hands and swaying back and forth after a touchdown singing a poor imitation of Auld Lang Syne; and focusing more on aesthetics than performance. As such, they are stereotyped as "wine-and-cheese" elitists by VT fans. In turn, UVA fans label VT as a school for the "common man".

Of course, my sympathies lie strongly with the Hokies, as VT is where I experienced life on my own for the first time, came of age, and learned the art of critical thinking after years of mind-numbing boredom in public primary school fugue. Living in the Northeast with a limited budget, I cannot see tomorrow’s battle in person, but for those few hours, I will join with my fellow Hokies all across the nation and those 65,000 at Lane Stadium to scream at the top of my lungs at the television, curse the dastardly Cavaliers, and wish pain and suffering upon the enemy. The remnant reptile part of my brain which is usually suppressed by more evolved rational-thinking modules will take center stage. My atavistic instincts will temporarily assert themselves in a fury of tribal rage.

Yet unlike in most wars, nobody will die, nor will there be any collateral damage. Indeed, this war will be a time for celebration. Long time friends from both sides of the divide will re-unite from all over the country. Pre-game tailgate parties will be feasts of barbecued meats and palliative spirits. After the game, rival fans will shake hands and walk away unscathed, resuming their everyday lives without disruption. The heartfelt pangs of defeat will dissipate by early next week. The greatest indignity suffered will be of a losing team’s fan having to wear the winning team’s sweatshirt after losing a bet with a co-worker; the greatest spoil of victory will be the pride of the Commonwealth.

photo by I. MorozovThough this war may not have the geo-political implications of other wars, that is a feature not a flaw. It allows us to express our innate yearning to belong to groups and identify with communities through a peaceful outlet. One need not partake in the raping and pillaging of Charlottesville to enjoy the feeling of victory.

Rare is the event that puts in such stark contrast the differences between collectivism and coming together freely in collective association; between the state and civil society. Rare is the event that shows so clearly why the latter is preferable to the former.

In preparation for Saturday, I offer Catallarchy readers a ritual incantation to bestow strength, resilience, and vitality upon the warriors in maroon. May the the Gods of Gridiron show favor to the Hokies.

Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!
Tech, Tech, VPI
Sol-a-rex, Sol-a-rah
Poly Tech Vir-gin-ia
Ray rah VPI
Team! Team! Team!

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I'm not sure that it's fair

I'm not sure that it's fair to say that UVa "dominates the landscape" of Charlottesville. As a Charlottesville native attending Virginia Tech, I've found that it's easily possible to live in C'ville and never notice or interact with UVa, while it seems to me that it would be quite difficult to do that in Blacksburg. To be fair, my experience in Charlottesville is as a native, and my experience in Blacksburg is as a student, so a certain amount of skew on each side is to be expected. But I've lived in Blacksburg year-round since I started here, and found that, even in the summer, Blacksburg is all about Virginia Tech, which is the economic, social, and spiritual center of Montgomery County. Though UVa is certainly a major economic engine for Charlottesville, the non-university population of Charlottesville and Albemarle County (something like 5 times that of Blacksburg and Montgomery, IIRC) is sufficient that it's easy to be removed from the interests of the university.

A quibble that doesn't detract from your blog entry, certainly, but it seems worth calling up.

Jeez, is no-one going to

Jeez, is no-one going to post the score?

VT 24 UVA 10 All is right

VT 24
UVA 10

All is right with the world.