Cynics, be gone: Raise a cheer for UVA teams' backbone

What should we do when life turns a bit sour, when day-to-day troubles turn us into shrews and curmudgeons? Sooner or later, it happens to all of us. Perhaps it’s time to take a break from our troubles (football recruiting) and focus on something good, if only to stave off shrewishness for another week.

On April 28, there were 44 young men on the UVA lacrosse team. On April 29, there were 43, none of whom had been on the team in 2006 when Virginia won its fourth NCAA Championship. None were in Charlottesville when that perfect 2006 season became the best in NCAA history (okay, freshman Owen Van Arsdale was in Charlottesville, but he was a student at St. Anne's-Belfield).

But you can bet every one of the 44 boys on the April 28 roster signed with Virginia looking to repeat that 2006 season. Unfortunately, it was not to be. That’s not the good news, of course.

The good news is that Virginia showed the lacrosse world they can get along just fine without the Bratton twins, thank you very much. Just three days after the twins’ teammates voted to dismiss Shamel Bratton and indefinitely suspend his twin brother, Rhamel, from the team, UVA pummelled # 13 Penn, 11-2.

But the team’s victory on the field paled in comparison to their victory off it.
Virginia lacrosse has taken it on the chin this past year, and easily could have collapsed under the pressure. It’s impossible to imagine the heartache and trauma both the men’s and women’s teams have suffered after last year's death of women's player Yeardley Love at the hands of men's player George Huguely. That any player had the heart to pick up a stick again speaks to the lacrosse staff’s compassion and support.

And with the intensely competitive postseason just around the corner, that the men’s team ousted Shamel Bratton, a highly touted and highly recruited two-time All American midfielder, for thrice violating rules the team itself implemented speaks to what kind of team the players want going forward. It’s not enough to win; they have to be good.

And as if it isn’t sweet enough that UVA’s lacrosse team has gone the extra mile to put integrity first, the school’s baseball team has given fans something else to smile about, and it’s not the team's number-one ranking (though that helps). As the team prepares to face off against Miami beginning May 13, the players are neck-deep in exams.

Many college athletes, especially those heading toward a national championship appearance, get special treatment when it comes to academics: tests rescheduled, due dates overlooked, and absences excused. Granted, those perks are mostly extended to football and basketball players, but at many top-level Division 1 schools, the baseball teams get a pass as well.

Not so at UVA. Exams are exams, no matter what, and that’s just fine with star catcher John Hicks. When questioned about the break, he responded, “We’ve got to take care of stuff in the classroom before we can worry about being on the field.”

Virginia baseball players entered exams with the best record in the nation (43-5, also the best record of any Virginia baseball team in history), so it’s an unexpected sentiment. But it’s balm for the soul.

“We’ve got to take care of stuff in the classroom before we can worry about being on the field.” Only a real cynic could harden his heart against that. To all those fans frothing at the mouth about exam break, please take your shrewishness elsewhere, if only for another week.
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son and many dogs.