Last Sunday tragedy struck The University of Virginia Cavaliers and the Charlottesville community. By now I don’t need to go into too much detail: three Cavaliers football players, Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry lost their lives while another player, Mike Hollins, sustained significant injury in a shocking and senseless act of violence. A fifth student was injured, as well.
Shrouded in mystery, this is the kind of event that rocks a nation. The first question on everyone’s mind: why? A simple question with no clear answer, even now. This is the kind of tragedy no one can prepare for. The outcome prompts questions, confusion, rage, and sorrow; the trauma and the grief are unimaginable. There are no words to convey the sadness I feel for the families, friends, and communities impacted by the loss of these three young men.
Football Is A Uniting Force
Football is a lot of things. For some it’s a hobby, for others a lifestyle. It can be a fun game to watch on the weekends, a pathway to college, a networking opportunity, a career. The people on the inside facilitate the construction of the fanbases that so diligently follow it, becoming invested in the success of a team and the futures of its players. And, because it’s a highly competitive sport especially at an elite level, those fanbases feel a connection that inspires a lot of trash talking and excitement. But whether you stand on the sidelines or suit up on the field, once you’re invested in it you’re family.
Every year from at least July until early February, football fans fervently follow the sport and the team, the wins and the losses. It’s family vs. family every weekend, with added vigor for any major rivalry matchup. Schools hold press conferences, players tell the media how confident they are, fans agree to disagree across Twitter and Instagram and anywhere else football families can go to connect and to discuss. Numbers, statistics, projections, bowl games, a spot in the playoffs, these things mean everything. Until, they don’t.
As the events of last weekend unfolded across national news and social media platforms, it became clear that college football at its core isn’t about the trash talk or the numbers. It’s a game that someone will win and someone will lose, but more than that it’s a community. It is a chosen family. Relationships and camaraderie among teammates (and their fanbases) are a byproduct of one common denominator: love of the game itself.
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Virginia Cavaliers Receive Support Across The Nation
The outpouring of support for the Virginia Cavaliers has been tremendous. Across college football, the sentiments of competing programs throughout the country voiced support for their, “Virginia football family,” a support and connection that spanned conferences and even other college sports matchups, including volleyball and basketball games.
Today, the University of Virginia did not play its scheduled matchup against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Instead, a memorial service was held on campus to honor the lives of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry. As the University of Virginia campus mourned this afternoon, their peers took to the gridiron and honored the Virginia Cavaliers in the process.
The Virginia Tech Hokies took the field dressed in orange to play the Liberty University Flames dressed in navy blue. The Pittsburgh Panthers sport shirts that read “UVA Strong” and ran from the tunnel proudly waving a UVA flag. The Tennessee Volunteers sported a V-Sabre logo on the backs of their helmets. So many competitors took the field to play their scheduled matchups, honoring the sadness and the grief and the healing to come for the Virginia Cavaliers community. For the Wahoos, football wasn’t about the score board this Saturday; it was about family.
Today, rivalry and competition were somewhat set aside as the greater college football community honored the Virginia Cavaliers; it was family supporting family. Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry were more than the game, and will be remembered as such by all who knew them. This tragedy is bigger than any game could ever be. But in their darkest hour, the outpouring of compassion for the Cavs has been a strong reminder that football is a uniting force. Football is family.
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