I am the only Hokie in a family of Tar Heels. I was born and raised wearing that beautiful hue of Carolina blue, and in college traded most of it for the unique but equally beautiful palette of Chicago maroon and burnt orange. Explaining my allegiances to the Hokies and the Tar Heels always garners some confused facial expressions the inevitable question, “So what do you do when they play each other?”
The question wasn’t always met without hesitation, especially in my younger Hokie days. I essentially had to learn how to cheer for another team. But now, I don’t even think twice, especially regarding football.
For the last several years, my family has attended the VT-UNC football games, in both Chapel Hill and Blacksburg. Games in Chapel Hill are like homecomings for my parents, and memories of my childhood in Carolina blue become suddenly vibrant. I see kids dressed in full UNC gear; the little girls in UNC cheerleader outfits remind me of myself at that age. I look at them and think, “I remember when I had an outfit like that.”
Then I see a Hokie family with their kids rocking the maroon and orange, Hokie Bird hats and Hokie cheerleader outfits, and I think, “That will be my kids one day.”
A few weekends ago, we went to the UNC-VT football game in Chapel Hill; my cousin Alexis, also a UNC alumna, joined us. I was outnumbered three to one, but I like to think my Hokie spirit made up for the numbers. When we got to our seats in Kenan Memorial Stadium, I added a dash of maroon and orange amidst the sea of Carolina Blue. A few other Hokies were seated nearby, so I waved to them and flashed my best VT hand signal. We high-fived after touchdowns and made sure we sang “Tech Triumph” extra loudly when appropriate.
One time, I might have yelled, “Get him!” a little too loudly on a Hokie defensive play, and an older lady a couple rows down turned around and gave me a stink eye. Naturally, I yelled even louder on the next play. Even my parents and Alexis laughed.
The game ended in the Hokies’ favor with a 34-17 victory. As is tradition, the UNC band and spirit squads led the remaining Tar Heel fans with the singing of “Hark the Sound” and “I’m a Tar Heel Born.” I hummed along to the tune I’d heard since birth; even as a Hokie, I couldn’t resist the melody. For a small moment, it felt like I was turning on my Hokie allegiance. But that feeling faded quickly. Yelling, “Go to hell, Duke!” feels good no matter what colors I wear. Everyone hates Duke.
Mom always says that, when it comes to these games, “Our family can’t lose,” and she’s right. Since I became a Hokie in 2010, my allegiance spread to them, and they cheer for the Hokies almost as much as their alma mater. Our allegiances aren’t really split. They’re just varied. Besides, maroon, orange, and Carolina blue don’t look so bad all together.
And maybe next time, I can introduce Alexis to football weekends in Blacksburg.
Kate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, a Virginia Tech alumna, and a current graduate student at Elon University in North Carolina. She’s working toward her MA in Interactive Media, and afterwards hopes to further her career as a kick-ass writer.
Originally from Atlanta, Kate enjoys exploring the Piedmont region of North Carolina, especially its wide offerings of wineries. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.