I have been a sports fan my entire life, but being from Canada, I never had a college team that I was a true fan of. That changed in the spring of 2010 when my sister chose to attend UVA for university.
It was the second season after Tony Bennett got there when I started to watch Virginia basketball. From that day forward, I have watched literally every Virginia game that I could (thank you internet streaming). I have not missed a single game in the past three years, and I’ve seen the program rise from the bottom the ACC to perennial high-seed in the NCAA tournament.
There are many tough games I remember as a fan - the battles against UNC and Duke, tournament losses to Michigan State, the comeback by Syracuse in the Elite 8, and of course the loss to UMBC. So many people lost hope in the program, and my friends ridiculed me for my team not being able to win big games. I never lost hope. I knew the pack line defense made this team great, the best coach in the country, and the skilled offensive players returning would make the team contend again in 2019.
After watching the regular season and ACC tournament, I had a great feeling about the Hoos. Fast forward to 10 minutes into the first tournament game, I was sweating at my desk at work. I tried to keep away the thoughts, but it felt like history was not on our side. The sense of relief I felt when the boys settled in, started running the offense and getting stops, was incredible. I didn’t get any work done that Friday afternoon.
The game against Oklahoma was the only game there was never a doubt. I sat in my red chair at home, watched us play tough Virginia basketball, and knew there was no way we were going to lose that game. People don’t seem to mention the Oregon game when they talk about that UVA run, but I won’t forget it. I was back in my red chair, biting my nails as we traded buckets throughout the game. The only time I was able to catch my breath was when Kyle found Hunter wide open down low to finally seal the game.
By the Elite 8, my red chair was becoming a staple, but a friend of mine was having her birthday dinner and I felt compelled to go. I gave her one condition, we needed to turn on the game. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, extremely anti-social as I locked in on the game. My friends couldn’t get a word out of me except during halftime. It was a good thing I had emotional support if needed, because I was starting to lose it watching Carson trade buckets with Ty and Kyle throughout the second half. The end of the game was incredible, and I still don’t remember how I celebrated when Mamadi hit that shot. Considering my friends said they could not watch another game with me after that one, it must have been pretty good.
That was fine with me, back to the red chair. I watched both the final four games with my family, going through every emotion and screaming too much at my TV. Once Kyle got fouled vs Auburn, I figured it was destiny. Until late in the final, it suddenly seemed like it wasn’t. After Ty hit Hunter for that game-tying three, and Braxton made the great play at the end of regulation, it was destiny again. When the clock hit zeros in overtime, all I could do watch break down and smile. The dream was reality and this never-quit Virginia team was the center of the greatest story in college basketball history.
That win meant so much for me as a fan since I was 14 years old, and I know how much it meant for the program. It was more than the guys on the court, but all the guys who came before them too. I bought a lot of that championship merch in the following days, and plan to keep some of it for my kids down the road so that the Virginia fan base in Canada continues to grow.
I love the pack line, I love this team, and I love that shirt Ty wore in the summer league.