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Thanks for joining us! We write about sports, food, life and anything else interesting here in Ashburn and Loudoun County, all while cramming as many features into the site as possible.

Our staff consists of one old man and a dog named Maggie The WonderBeagle. Want to know more? Click on the icon below:

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A Simple Act Of Kindness I Will Never Forget

Because the patio on the back of my house seems to perpetually be covered in shade, I’ve just finished an hour or two of doing exactly what my wife, doctor and friends have all told me not to do: chipping and shoveling away all the ice.

I mean, I could wait until it melts in late June. But there’s a WonderBeagle who enjoys seeing just how far she can get me moving on the ice, and I don’t wish to fall down out there between now and late spring.

In the course of wrestling this frozen bear, I had to take breaks because – as everyone seems to very much enjoy reminding me of – I’m an old man. It was during one of these breaks I found myself scrolling through Twitter, and two posts caught my eye. One was the fact today is Giving Day at Virginia Tech, and as the name suggests, they want you to give something to the University.

The other involved a younger journalist with a small newspaper here in Virginia. He was mentioning he was using a gift card to buy himself lunch instead of making one because he was too tired from all his long hours at work.

It hit me right in the feels.

I have a complex relationship with journalism these days, because many of the larger publications have turned the profession from a search for the truth to a search for ways to repeat the narrative. Not surprisingly, there are many out there who rank the profession’s popularity right up there with used car salesmen and telemarketers who somewhere during the call say “but wait, there’s more.”

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World Now Finding Out What Hokies Have Known For Years

The first real newspaper I worked for was a twice-a-week newspaper called the Blacksburg Sun. Being the low man on the totem pole back in 1976, I got the assignments nobody wanted, so my first story was about a high school football game between Christiansburg and Floyd.

The game was at Floyd, in fog and rain. If you’ve never driven uber-curvy Route 8 in those kinds of conditions at night in Southwest Virginia, you just don’t appreciate what gripping the steering wheel tight really means. Plus if on the way back home you misread the signs and ended up on 221 instead of 8, you got the bonus experience of driving some of the most deserted backwoods stretches of pavement in the region before arriving at Bent Mountain and eventually Roanoke an hour later.

If you were a 20-year-old kid like me, this meant instead of getting home at 10 to write that story, you instead arrived home at 1 AM. The story got finished at 3 AM. Then you had to get up at 7 to turn the story in and get ready to cover your first Virginia Tech game.

Access was different back then for media, as if you wanted to write a story on someone, you made a phone call and were usually told “when can you be here?” An interview was set up by the paper for me to sit in the coach’s box instead of the press box, and I was to watch a graduate assistant handle his duties from there. Then I’d write a story about it.

The GA was friendly and helpful. He pointed out things that were being done and explained them fully. He also pointed out things I should avoid, as they were taking black and white polaroids of formations of both teams, marking them, and sending them down to the field in an envelope attached to a string that ran down to the bench. Some, he said, were OK. Some, he admitted, were not.

The game ended and I wrote a very forgettable story. I was new to all this, so I just regurgitated every quote I had written down, then forgot about it all. I had survived the weekend, filed my story, and was well on my way to earning the $1.90 an hour I was being paid that would come to me in a check that Friday.

I never thought much about that story until coming across it in an old box of worn, yellowed newsprint from 40 years ago. I read the story, thought it sucked even worse than when I wrote it, but saw the name of the GA.

His name was Bruce Arians.

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A Memory Of When You Could Disagree And Still Get Along

One of the reasons it’s now been a month since I’ve dropped all participation in social media is how the world has changed. Everything is absolute: You’re either a good guy (if you believe as we believe) or a  bad guy (if you believe as those OTHER people do).

There is no in-between.

Truth be told, by whatever standard you measure, some of the most successful people I’ve met have a little bit of both angel and devil in them. I know personally, I am capable of doing wonderful and generous things for others, but as my wife will freely tell you, I’m also capable of biting somebody’s head off in certain situations.

I think all of us, to a certain degree, are that way.

This reminds me of a story I wrote several years ago about a very successful person named Mitchell Gold. We both illustrated these traits, didn’t get along, yet respected each other. I’m not sure that would happen now, but since it was a really good story I think you’d enjoy, and even involves me getting an autograph from a dog, I’m going to rerun it.

Here is a tale of two hard-headed people, a furniture-signing dog, and kindness:

One of the great things about having a child is realizing they have no idea what you’ve done in life. It’s as if they think you’ve never left the house, and if you did, you certainly didn’t meet anyone interesting.

Such was the case Sunday when my daughter was reading The Washington Post Magazine. The cover story was about a businessman and gay activist by the name of Mitchell Gold, and I mentioned I’d like to read it to see how he was doing.

“You KNOW him?” my daughter asked, as if I had just grown a second head.

“Of course I do,” I replied, as apparently my daughter didn’t notice I had left the house for 25 years and worked in the furniture industry, allowing me to meet a lot of interesting people, including one Mitchell Gold. “He and I never got along, but he’s a good guy. He even built a piece of furniture for us that he customized just for you.”

Since she was 5 at the time, I suppose it was fair she didn’t totally recall all of that. So I began telling her the story of Mitchell Gold, and it immediately bought to mind how different times are from way back then. These days, you couldn’t disagree with someone the way Mitchell and I did back in 2000 and survive.

That’s because according to the rules of social media today, it seems that if you disagree with someone, they have to die. You have to destroy them. There is no middle ground. They need to lose their job, lose their career and be branded with a scarlet letter if you have a different view. Disliking them and respecting them at the same time is not allowed.

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Rest In Peace, Hank; The Spiral Notebook Has Finally Been Closed

I think for everyone, there comes a time when you are very young, and you first notice Major League baseball. Usually, you are nudged toward the game by a parent or a friend, and in the course of sampling it, you eventually find a favorite player you really like.

It is at that point, you truly become a baseball fan.

For me, that player was Hank Aaron.

They say heroes get remembered, legends never die, but today, the greatest baseball legend of my life passed away. Hank was 86.

I can’t tell you why I was drawn to Hank, other than it was a completely different dynamic when I was growing up in the 1960s. You got to watch baseball only once every week on NBC’s Saturday Game Of The Week, and your view of the majors was filtered by whatever team was good at the time. In the mid to late 1960s, that meant you saw a lot of the St. Louis Cardinals, as they made the World Series in 1967 and 1968, so you got to watch them and listen to Curt Gowdy drone on about something during the contest.

They became my favorite team, but in the course of following them, I became aware of this outfielder playing for the newly-minted Atlanta Braves in 1967. The team had just moved a year or two ago from Milwaukee, and as a sophisticated 11-year-old, I’d roll my eyes every time my Dad referred to them as the Milwaukee Braves.

”C’mon Dad,” I would say. “Nobody calls them that any more.”

Hank Aaron just looked cool. He’d come to the plate, look loose and relaxed, and then launch a pitch 400 feet over an outfield fence. He wasn’t just a slugger either, as he batted for average and got on base a lot. But it was the home runs that became a magnet for me with Hank.

A few years later, MLB would have a promotion that said “Chicks dig the long ball.” In the 60s, us 11-year-olds thought they were really cool too.

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In The Blink Of An Eye...

I suppose this morning I could write about Virginia Tech’s still improving basketball team. Or the NFL playoffs. Or even the Washington Capitals running out of gas in a shootout with the always hated Penguins.

But I can’t get the text I received during halftime of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest game off my mind. It was from my old friend Rick, who I’ve known since junior high in Norfolk, played dozens of rounds of golf with, and text back and forth snide remarks about local sports teams with when the Hokies or a Washington team is playing.

“Since you are not on Facebook you probably don't know I had a heart attack Thursday,” the text starts out, with all the matter-of-fact tone as if he was going to finish the text with “and then I drove to the store and got a gallon of milk.”

Um, what?

Rick is one of those friends I’ve known just about all my life that I was mentioning yesterday in this story, and to say it was a shock is an understatement. He’s a golf superintendent, so he logs more miles walking before 9 AM than I will all week. He has no family history of heart issues, and while he still eats like a college kid at times, he’s in relatively good shape for a guy whose age starts with a “6.”

We were just texting during the national championship college football game Monday. When the weather is decent, we have a standing appointment to play golf at his course as often as possible. Rick calls it “cheaper than a shrink,” because when you’ve known a person for that long, a 4-hour conversation in a golf cart can be a rich oil capable of soothing the soul no matter what life’s current situation.

You start the round exchanging pleasantries, go back in time to remembering being on the Stumpy Lake Golf Course out in Virginia Beach as 16-year-olds, then talk about sports, marriages, raising kids, even how our classmate Wendy Rieger on Channel 4 is the same age as both of us, yet still looks younger. Lies are told, triumphs re-lived, current life situations are vented.

Many a time the expression “I don’t remember it quite that way” is said, (there’s also a phrase similar to bovine waste products used) and attacks are made on each other’s memory, manhood and ability to play. By the end of the round, you’ve solved nothing, but you feel better because you’ve talked about things, you realize you’re not the only person in the world to struggle with an issue, and you go on until next week’s discussion of a brand new set of problems.

This is what old guys with old friends do.

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We Dug Coal Together, And I'm Glad We Did

I know I’ve been hammering this “small world” theme the last couple of days, but I experienced something yesterday morning that is on my mind, and makes me want to talk about it one more day.

I had dropped by a bulletin board for a website called Techsideline.com. I used to be a regular there for a couple of years, but lost interest two years ago. I had written this story Thursday, and since Cindy and Jean Farmer were probably well known to many there, I thought I would post the story for all to see.

There were replies to the story, which brought back more memories, which sparked more replies from me, which brought back more memories. After an hour or two, I realized I was having conversations with 15 to 20 people who I’d never met, whose real names I’ll never know, yet people who shared mutual friends with people I’ve known all my life. They even shared memories of some of the very things I remember warmly, and even one mentioned I was the Resident Advisor in his dorm.

Small world, indeed.

It kind of reminded me of the television show “Justified” (no, we didn’t shoot each other) that was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard two decades ago called “Fire In The Hole.” If you haven’t watched the series, it went on for years and was very enjoyable. It chronicled the exploits of Raylan Givens (the good guy) and Boyd Crowder (the bad guy).

The short story’s first sentence is “they had dug coal together as young men…” and the book launches into a fast-paced adventure where each tries to kill the other. Despite that, they still sort of remained friends, something that boggled the minds of every other character in the story and television show.

On the book’s last page, one character asks Raylan why that is. He answers with the final words of the story: “I thought I explained it to you. Boyd and I dug coal together.”

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Recent Comments
Bob Martin

Another Coal Digger

We shared the same employer, attended VT at the same time although I lived further upstream in O'Shag, lived in SW VA specifically... Read More
Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:01
Dave Scarangella

Couldn't Have Said It Better, ...

Not to mention you seemed to be sitting right next to me in the Superdome on an early January night back in 2000... ... Read More
Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:11
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Some Stories Just Seem To Live On Forever

Thursday, I posted this story about what a small world it’s been for me in the universe that is Virginia Tech athletics.

It ended up being read by quite a few people, and I got several emails in response. They all had the same request: Post the pic of Cindy Farmer and Mike Young in high school.

Sorry, can’t do that.

On a closed subscription site, maybe that could happen. But we’re out in the open for everyone to see, and while I have no issue with someone grabbing a picture of my dog talking into a microphone, or a big ol’ sandwich I just made, a prom picture is a little more personal. There's no way I could control where that pic went, so I’m not posting it.

But I will post one pic related to that story. Over the years I’ve been needled by a few friends when I’ve told the story because I did not put together Cindy and her Mom Jean having the same last name. In my defense, I’d like to point out I thought Farmer was Cindy’s married name, not her maiden name, so the fact that those two had the same last name did not register.

That hasn’t stopped a few wise cracks about all that from time to time. Take back in 2014, when Virginia Tech was playing Cincinnati in the Military Bowl in nearby Annapolis.

Cindy and her oldest daughter came up from North Carolina for the game and they sat near me and my old friend Doug during what ended up being a 33-17 Virginia Tech win. They had taken a shuttle over to the Navy stadium before the game, and since their hotel was on our way back to Ashburn, I told them to forget the shuttle and I’d give them a ride.

Walking back to the parking lot to get the car, we passed the sign you see in the picture above. Of course one of us said “you related to that Farmer too?”

Some stories, you see, just seem to live on forever 😊

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When It Comes To Virginia Tech Sports, It's A Small World

If you’ve been a sportswriter AND a sales guy in your life, you’ve told thousands of stories.

I know I have, and I’ve never written about the one I’m about to tell. But it is by far my favorite, plus the next time someone says “it’s a small world,” this will now be the standard you’ll have to compare it to.

It’s no secret I’m a big Virginia Tech sports fan. I was a student there in the 70s and worked my way through school covering Tech sports for a small weekly called the Blacksburg Sun (they went to Wednesday and Sunday editions when I was there and gave us shirts that said “Blacksburg Sun: Now Doing It Twice A Week.”)

It was there I got to meet many people, but my favorite was basketball coach Charlie Moir. He answered all my questions, gave me all the access I could ever want, and even invited me along with the writers from much bigger papers for dinner when we were on the road.

Big stuff for a 20-year-old.

To get any access in college sports back then, the main gatekeeper was the head coach’s secretary. Charlie’s was a very nice lady named Jean Farmer, and I was extremely lucky she liked me. If she liked you, you could call just about any time and she’d find Charlie. If she didn’t, odds are you’d hear about him being in a meeting.

Over the next few years between the Blacksburg Sun, Roanoke Times and newspapers in Martinsville and Lynchburg, I would deal with Jean quite a bit. Her, Charlie, many of the players and Sports Information people Wendy Weisend and Dave Smith are among my warmest memories of that time in my life. 

Fast forward about 20 years.

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — Patsy N. Spurrier

great story; love watching Cin...

Great stories; love watching Cindy on Fox8. Patsy
Friday, 15 January 2021 18:35
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The Issue Isn't Forgetting Sarah; It's Remembering Gregg

About 10 or more years ago, there was a movie out called “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

These days, however, my issue has become “Remembering Gregg Marshall.”

I pride myself on remembering all sorts of sports minutiae and it’s not unusual for me to hear a friend say “how do you remember that from so many years ago?” The only thing I hear more is “why can’t you remember what I asked you to do as well as you remember sports trivia” from one member of my household.

Which brings us to Gregg Marshall. He’s the embattled coach at Wichita State who has been quite successful in the world of college basketball. Many times on social media when his name comes up, it is noted that he grew up in Roanoke, a town I have a lot of fondness for, as I met my wife and started my sports journalism career there.

I'm also hopelessly addicted to a sub sandwich from the New Yorker Deli on Brambleton with extra cole slaw on it. But I digress. 

Each time Marshall's name comes up, I think for a moment and have zero memory of him. I can remember about 100 other athletes I covered during that time of my life. But no Gregg Marshall.

Last night there were stories of Marshall’s problems in Wichita on social media. Again, there was the mention of him being from Roanoke, so I went to Wikipedia to see if they mentioned when he lived there. Turns out he graduated from Cave Spring High School in Roanoke County in 1981.

This sparked more curiosity. From 1978 until 1981, I was the high school sports guy for the Roanoke Times. My wife went to Cave Spring. We even got married in Roanoke in 1981. I was in Roanoke for every game of his high school career working for the newspaper that covered his school and district.

Still no memory of Gregg Marshall.

So at close to midnight last night, I went down into the basement and found a big box that has been stored away and untouched for decades. Somewhere in this box were a bunch of clips from all my newspaper jobs, something I had no need to ever look at again after leaving the profession in the late 80s.

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