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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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Sun Is Shining A Little Brighter In Ashburn, Thanks To Riverboat Ron

It’s cold and gray outside this morning. It’s going to get colder. There’s even suppose to be a foot of snow on the ground by the end of the weekend.

Something, I thought, needs to happen to brighten the day.

That “something” turned out to be the Rivera family announcing the best news I think anyone could hear: “Thank you all for the love and prayers,” Washington Coach Ron Rivera’s daughter posted on social media. “Just got off the phone with mom and dad leaving the hospital and @RiverboatRonHC is officially cancer free.”

Two of the greatest words I think you can ever hear put together: Cancer free.

I doubt there are any diseases people think positively about, but when it comes to the most hated of them all, cancer is the one most deserving of burning in the fires of hell. It’s an awful disease that is not some theoretical condition that you read about involving others. It’s personal, and it seems like it ends up touching everyone in some way.

I’ve lost friends to it, I’ve watched my own father battle it, I’ve seen people who have made bad life decisions get it (like by smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day) and I’ve seen perfectly healthy people who eat right, exercise every day and never touch any of the world’s vices get it.

It transforms the notion of the freedom to do whatever you want into a case where every sentence regarding the future starts with the word “if.” As if it weren’t evil enough in the first place, it also seems to have a nasty habit of taunting people through the ebbs and flows of its attack on the human body.

When my Dad was fighting it, some days we’d hear the cancer had aggressively grown, and he might not be around in a week. Then a few days later we’d hear the treatment had worked, and things looked good. It seemed like it was cancer’s way of saying “don’t take me for granted or I will have to show you who is running this show.”

Which is why I hate cancer so much. Cancer is a jerk. Cancer is perpetually invited to look at the mistletoe hanging from my back belt loop and kiss my backside. Cancer has robbed me of friends I hoped to tell juvenile jokes to and remember the old days with for many years to come.

Cancer sucks.

Because of this, I find myself rejoicing even when it’s a total stranger ringing the bell to tell the world you’ve finished your final treatment. It also signals that person is one tough individual, who has been to the mat with the 800-pound gorilla of medicine, and sent it away crying for it’s mom.

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Hokies' 2021 Football Schedule Could Be A Tough Row To Hoe

One thing that has always amused me is the reaction of a fan base when a new football schedule has been released. They treat it like the old days when Microsoft would release a new version of its operating system, immediately dropping everything to grab it, analyze it, find all its strengths and find all its flaws.

Virginia Tech’s 2021 schedule was released today, and no doubt that’s now happening. In fact, that clicking you hear in the background is the legions of scribes who cover the Hokies, pounding out 800 words to give the proper perspective.

Me, I’m a little more practical in my assessment. You’ve got a coach on the hot seat who has to get off to a good start or we’re going to return to the good old days of bitching and moaning of 2020, when it seemed every day of autumn was an exercise in complaining.

A quick look at the schedule reveals that getting off to a good start may be a tall mountain to climb.

History, I'm afraid, may repeat itself.

The good news is it looks like a competitive schedule that would be enjoyable to watch from the stands, assuming things in the world get resolved and folks are actually allowed to leave the house by September. There are not four versions of a Southwestern Arkansas State in the non-conference portion of the schedule, and in addition to the ACC slate, Notre Dame and West Virginia are listed as opponents.

Notre Dame is part of the home schedule, along with Middle Tennessee, Richmond, Pitt, Syracuse and Duke. Without the Irish, it’s not a particularly sexy home slate, but with them, it’s not bad.

The road schedule is brutal. It starts at West Virginia, a place I thought Hokie administrators had said they would never play again, insisting only on neutral sites. But there they are in Morgantown, and a quick internet search reveals the latest agreement with the Mountaineers involves one neutral site, one game in Morgantown, and one game in Blacksburg.

The rest of the road schedule includes games at Georgia Tech, at Boston College, at Miami and at Virginia.

Two things immediately catch your eye: the schedule is front loaded with home games, when the weather is hot and the team is working through the kinks of a new season. Six of the first seven games are in Lane Stadium, while going down the stretch, 4 of the last 5 games are on the road. I mean, what ever happened to balanced scheduling where your season alternated reasonably between home and road games?

Oh, that’s right. The ACC made the schedule, meaning they put a lot of time and effort into their favorite teams, then just dumped what was left on its least favored programs.

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It Wasn't Perfect, But It Didn't Need To Be

I’ve heard many an old saying in all my years of watching basketball, and it sure looked like Virginia Tech Coach Mike Young put several to use tonight in a nice 62-51 road win over Notre Dame.

The first involves the belief that the mark of a good team is when that team can go out and beat someone when they’re not playing anywhere near their best. The Hokies only hit 25 of 62 shots from the floor (barely 40 percent), yet aside from Notre Dame hitting the first basket of the game, never trailed the rest of the way.

I’d say that should qualify Virginia Tech as a good team.

Even more impressive, the Hokies had a 9-point lead at halftime, then maintained a double-digit lead the entire second half. Tough defense overcame some ragged offensive play, and the team that looked so out of sorts Saturday against Syracuse tonight looked like a team that knew they were going to win from the opening tip.

I mean, how often in Hokie basketball history have you been able to say Virginia Tech won a ho-hum game by 11 points against Notre Dame on the road in South Bend?

Another old axiom involves what to do when a key player is out of the lineup, which the Hokies suffered when Tyrece Radford was suspended indefinitely earlier in the week. The answer, of course, is never let one person become that important to your lineup, instead fashioning a balanced attack the makes it easier for one player to step up and fill the void when another is gone.

Yeah, it’s easier said than done.

But the Hokies did that tonight. Four different starters were in double figures with Nahlem Alleyne scoring 15 (plus 5 really nice assists), Keve Aluma and Justin Mutts with 14, and Hunter Cattoor with 13. Jalen Cone was the starter to replace Radford, and he continued his shooting slump, but it didn’t really matter with Cattoor coming off the bench and nailing 4 three-pointers, grabbing 3 rebounds and coming up with 3 steals.

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You (Can't Be Let) Go, Dan Kolko

When it comes to making decisions about broadcast announcers for professional sports teams in the Washington area, it would seem the majority of owners of these teams are absolutely clueless.

They just don’t understand the bond fans end up having with these announcers. They are the voice you heard that told you everything would be all right when the team was going through a tough streak. They are the voices you rejoice with when the team has a huge win.

They are part of the experience, and to many, part of the family when they turn on the television and watch a game. You can't help but notice when the games are on network television, as it just seems strange without the locals. Those national guys don’t know what the local guys know, they act like they’ve discovered the theory of relativity when someone passes on a tidbit of information on the team, and they quickly become annoying.

Despite this bond, Washington owners seem to view them as interchangeable parts that no one will notice. What the Wizards did in jettisoning long-time announcers Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier was awful. Because of their consistent mediocrity, I had lost interest in the Wizards and the NBA, but still watched for years because Buck and Phil were like a comfortable old sweatshirt. They weren’t going to lie to you, but they weren’t going to be blatant homers. They understood the high points and heartbreak of previous season, and sometimes said things just as you were thinking the same.

But then the Wizards decided to make a change for change’s sake. Buck and Phil wanted to be back, but the team went younger and cheaper. My old friends were gone, replaced by two strangers.

I haven’t watched the Wizards since.

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What Happened With Darryl Tapp?

Exactly two weeks ago today, Virginia Tech co-defensive line coach Darryl Tapp tweeted something indicating he was serious about trying to repair relationships around the state, which had been the foundation of much of Frank Beamer’s success during the Hokie glory years.

I wrote about it in this story.

“To the former OG Hokies and my Hokie Brothers PLEASE HIT me up in my DMs,” Tapp tweeted. “VT will FOREVER be YOUR HOME. WE WANT YOU BACK AND NEED YOU BACK. Sincerely, Not A Random Guy. This is your brother.” Then he finished it with 17 turkey emojis.

Today I learned in addition to being “Not A Random Guy” he’s also “not a Virginia Tech assistant coach” any more. Last night it was reported Tapp has joined the San Francisco 49ers as their assistant defensive line coach.

That was quick.

Consider, if you will, the high probability executives from the 49ers did not wake up yesterday morning, decide they needed to look for an assistant DL coach in Blacksburg, VA, and by night time had worked out a deal to bring Tapp and his family 3,000 miles West.

Usually “the dance”, as I call it, involves about two weeks of contacting a person, talking through details of the new job, vetting the person, giving them a chance to come back with any other questions and comments and then securing a commitment to take the new job.

Which would mean “the dance” started at just about the same time Tapp sent out his tweet.

Which I find very curious.

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Best move

I left a dream job for several reasons. Public reason was $. Best move because my daughter had learning disabilities and my new lo... Read More
Tuesday, 26 January 2021 13:00

To No One's Surprise, I'm On Team "Old Guy"

When you’re covering a game as a sportswriter, you’re taught from the very first time you step in a press box to never pull for a specific team. “No cheering in the press box” is an old and timeless saying you’re supposed to abide by.

But there are no rules against pulling for a good story line. That’s what I was doing Sunday, since I seem to have the bad habit of being drawn like a magnet to teams that perpetually give me hope, then break my heart in the end.

Sunday, I got my wish.

The next Super Bowl will feature the matchup between two quarterbacks I wanted to see. The old man versus the young gunslinger. Experience versus youth. 80s rock versus hip hop. A QB that runs like a pregnant cow (even though he throws like a machine) versus a QB that runs like a gazelle. A ’67 Chevy versus a Tesla.

Tom Brady versus Patrick Mahomes.

I’ve never been particularly fond of the Patriots, but being part of the “old man” demographics, I feel obligated to pull for Brady. There are several reasons for this, and one is past memories of so many really good quarterbacks who had their day in the sun, then were dumped on the NFL scrap heap to finish off their days with other teams in less than stellar conditions.

Memories of Joe Namath only a few years after pulling the greatest Super Bowl upset ever in a Rams jersey is kind of depressing. Same with Johnny Unitas in a San Diego Chargers one. How about Kenny Stabler going from the ultimate Oakland Raider to finishing his days getting the heck beat out of him as a Houston Oiler?

Some weren’t all that bad, although I still do a double take when I see Brett Favre in a Minnesota Viking jersey or Joe Montana in Kansas City Chiefs colors. They did well, but never made it back to the big game. Only four QBs have gone on to another team – Brady, Peyton Manning (Colts and Broncos), Kurt Warner (Rams and Cardinals) and Craig Morton (Cowboys and Broncos) – and made it back to the Super Bowl.

Just hearing Craig Morton and the Broncos in the same sentence makes me thirsty for an Orange Crush.

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If A Tree Falls In The Forest, Does Anyone Read Its Post?

Just as I threatened to in my New Year’s Resolutions, this is the 25th straight day I’ve written something for the site. I’ve kind of gotten into a routine, and for the last week, I’ve even started each morning saying to myself I was going to take the day off, only to see something happening in the world and write another story.

Some of them I’ve been pretty pleased with. Which is now creating a minor dilemma for me.

I’ve never cared about numbers on this site, because it’s not a commercial site. But I also think anyone who creates something - and then thinks it’s pretty good – becomes proud of it and wants people to see it. This is where the numbers – or lack thereof – come in.

Nothing written here is ever going to go totally unseen because I’m blessed without about 60 subscribers who don’t mind me turning on a program that emails them a notification every time I post something new. I know that’s happening because any time I post something, you can see within about an hour that 20 or 30 people read the story immediately. (Shameless plug: there’s now a subscribe button up on the menu bar to make it easier)

This is a bit of a contrast from being on social media, where I believe you could post a link with only a picture of a rock and 200 people would click on it. That’s the advantage of sending a link out when you have thousands of people following you, and I’m fine with the smaller audience on most stories.

I also get the added benefit of what I really wanted in the first place with the email notifications in that because they’re getting an email telling them of the story, they don’t have to deal with likes or comments or anything out in the open. They can just reply to the email, and that allows for not only comments about the story, but additional comments of a more personal nature about life, family, etc. that I greatly appreciate. It builds a nice sense of community.

But then you get something like Friday’s story on Hank Aaron. I think it’s rare when more than 2 or 3 people take the time to write you and express a view on a story, but in this case, I got nine emails from subscribers indicating they really liked the story.

Cool, I thought, momentarily going all Sally Fields and thinking “hey, they like it.”

Then I checked the stats on the story from the control panel. Only 17 people had read it.

It was like the old saying about if a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear a sound? So I answered two of the emails, asking one to repost the story on Twitter and the other to do the same on Facebook. Within an hour it was over 200. People who saw the story seemed to like it.

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Time For This Team To Stop Being Pushed Around

So much for a fun, peaceful Saturday afternoon, thanks to Virginia Tech’s basketball team.

The Hokies went up to Syracuse for a noon game and simply got bludgeoned by the Orangeman, losing 78-60. They had one of those days where they completed the grand slam of things you try not to do, as they didn’t shoot well, didn’t rebound well, didn’t play very good defense and threw passes that ended up in the scorebook as turnovers.

One or two of those you can survive. All four? Somebody warm up the bus.

It’s just one game in what has been a wonderful season, so I don’t know that it’s time to get too concerned. They've got good players and a great coach, and these types of games happen. But their strength has been balance: Naheim Alleyne, Hunter Cattoor, Jalen Cone and Tyrece Radford have all shown they can step up when needed and bury a 3-pointer. When that’s not working, they’ve had an inside game with depth too, as when a team doubles leading scorer Keve Aluma, Justyn Mutts and David N’Guessan can score and rebound just as well.

No longer are the Hokies a team that live by the three or die by the three. No longer are they a team where if their primary big man gets in foul trouble, the inside game goes in the round file. There’s depth, and it’s not just a big person coming in. It’s competent depth.

All of that was hard to see today. Syracuse figuratively punched Virginia Tech in the mouth from the very beginning, playing extremely physical against the Hokie bigs. The bigs then became like a quarterback that’s been hit on his last 7 passes. They played tentative as if they were bracing to get hit again, and it seemed to really affect Aluma.

He came into the game averaging close to 15 points per game and over 7 rebounds, but finished Saturday in Syracuse with only 2 points and four rebounds. There were missed shots normally made, missed dunks, and a general hesitation that led to indecision on whether to shoot or pass.

As one of the 10 commandments of basketball clearly states, he who hesitates is lost. Or at least prone to missing a shot or committing a turnover.

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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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Is It Worth It? To Some, The Answer Depends...

My young friend Ricky LaBlue just posted this story, where he looks at the all-day circus going on at the University of Tennessee, and asks the age-old question “is it worth it to cheat the system?”

I’ll let Rick tackle the Tennessee angle. I'll answer from the perspective of my lifetime, and how the answer to that question has changed quite a bit.

As a young man, the answer was easy: Of course it’s not. It’s wrong. That’s why they call it cheating. We were raised at a time when you lived by rules similar to those of golf. Know the rules, abide by them, and if you violate them, call them on yourself and accept the penalty associated with that transgression.

Obviously as you grow older, you discover life isn’t that simple. You find for some, the answer morphs into responses that qualify the answer with “it depends on if you get caught,” something I think of frequently when someone says they are sorry after being found guilty of cheating.

“You’re not sorry you cheated,” I think. “You’re sorry you got caught.”

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She's Always Going To Be A WonderBeagle To Me

Yesterday, I got a late start on my daily writing because it was time for Maggie The WonderBeagle to go see the vet.

Judging from the vet’s reaction, she now understands why I call her a WonderBeagle, even though the last time she was there, they had the audacity to say she wasn’t even part beagle.

That’s because when we first bought her to the vet the week after we had adopted her as a rescue in December of 2019, she weighed about 12 pounds and looked like a beagle. Our long-time vet said that she looked a little like a beagle, but she also seemed to be a plain ol’ hound, so her guess was she was a mix with more hound than beagle.

Because of the way vets work in these days of house arrest, the last few visits have involved dropping your dog off and whoever is available looks at her. But last December, our usual vet saw Maggie and came out to see me in the lobby.

“Is this that little dog you got from the rescue people that we talked about a year ago?” she asked. I nodded and she said “well I was wrong. This is a 100 percent American Foxhound. Beagles don’t weigh 65 pounds.” Sure enough, I looked on the AKC site and under American Foxhound is a picture that looks exactly like a male version of Maggie.

Sounds like the ghost of Elvis is trying to tell me she ain't nothing but a hound dog.

Elvis also sang "don't be cruel," so with all due respect, she’s still a WonderBeagle to me. And yesterday, she showed why to the vet who treated her.

Maggie is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had, but what makes her unique is I honestly think she believes she’s a human. As you saw a week or two ago in this picture, she doesn’t just crawl up in a chair or sofa and curl up in a ball. She sits up like a human.

If you’ve ever been to a vet’s examining room, then you know there is always an examining table, and right next to it is a chair, meant for the comfort of the dog’s owner, not the dog itself. When the assistant met me at the front door, she took Maggie back to a room, and when Maggie saw the chair, she assumed it was her.

She jumped up into it and sat there like a human, waiting for the doctor to make her next move.

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