If you live in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you live in one of the best states in the Union. After all, Virginia is for Lovers! (You knew that was coming. Now back to the point.) Virginia is an ideal location geographically for many reasons; it is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies and; is home to some of the finest colleges and universities in the country. In short, Virginia is a place where choices are plentiful. That is, until you enter the world of Virginia Tech vs. The University of Virginia. To that end, there is but one choice, UVA or VT. Like most deep seeded rivalries, when it comes to UVA or VT, you are in, or you are out. You "are" or you "are not." You bleed orange, or you bleed burnt orange. There is no in between.
On Saturday November 26, 2011, the men of the University of Virginia football team (a team that has not lived up to expectation in recent years) suited up for arguably the most important game in the history of their program. It was set for national television on their home field, and the winner was headed to the Conference Championship game. Their was no prouder time to be 'Hoo! There was no prouder time to be a 'Hoo fan, as was evident by all of the crossed sabre flags on cars, and embroidered corduroy UVA pants proudly displayed throughout the Commonwealth.
On that same Saturday, the men of the Virginia Tech University football team (a team that normally dominates regular season play) suited up for what they likely deemed another game against a supposed conference rival, and which would likely result in Virginia Tech's return to their Conference Championship game. Playing on national television was not cause for celebration in their minds, and their fan base adopted Virgina Tech's lunch pail - let's go to work - mentality. As is always the case, Virginia Tech gear was on prominent display by Hokie Nation.
Later that afternoon, Virginia Tech stormed onto the field at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, and soundly beat the University of Virginia 38-0, in a game that was never in contest. The 'Hoos dream of reaching their first ever ACC Championship game was dismantled from the opening kickoff, and when the whistle sounded at the end of the 4th quarter, Virginia Tech was once again - and for the 8th straight year - the holder of the Commonwealth Cup (the trophy awarded to the winner of this annual cross-state/intra-conference rivalry). The rivalry on this day however, despite the final score, had reached a fever pitch.
On Thursday, December 8, 2011, a gunman killed a Virginia Tech police officer after a routine traffic stop on the Virginia Tech campus. We later learned that prior to the killer taking his own life, he took the life of Deriek Crouse, a public servant, husband and father of five. This became the third tragedy to strike the Virginia Tech community since 32 innocent lives were inexplicably taken on April 16, 2007 by another cowardly gunman.
When tragedy strikes, communities band together, and strangers far and wide reach out to those in need. When tragedy strikes, good rises above evil and the healing process begins. Rivalries are set aside and bonds are formed. The inability to say nice things about your rival is replaced with sorrow, support and sympathy. When tragedy strikes, orange and burnt orange melt into unity and compassion, and a shared sense of pride rises well above the 100+ year old rivalry that is VT v UVA.
In 2007 when tragedy struck Virginia Tech, the UVA family reached out to the Virginia Tech community in numerous ways, and led the world community in letting Virginia Tech know that they were not alone. Likewise, when news broke of the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech, UVA students painted Beta Bridge in solidarity with, and public support of their cross-state rivals.
Despite the realness of their historical rivalry in every sense of the word, and their recent defeat in the "we are finally going to win this game" Commonwealth Cup, UVA pulled out their orange and navy blue and stood behind their Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange rivals to the southwest. And in doing so, left no doubt that in times of tragedy and need Virginia is for 'Hoos and Hokies.