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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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Here's To Great Things In 2021...

Well, it’s that day again.

You know, the one where some think everyone is getting a fresh start, all the previous problems have been washed away with the old year, and now on Day 1 of 2021, we take that first step of a new journey as we mentally hum “we’re off to see the wizard.”

Even though it doesn’t work that way.

You can certainly do some planning today, although I have found the old proverb of “we plan, God laughs” more often than not to be true during my 64 New Year’s Days. In hindsight, the greatest years were the ones where I had low expectations, and some of the more disappointing ones were when I thought I had what was going to happen planned out quite nicely.

Turns out life doesn’t work that way either.

But I do start each New Year with hope, which forces me at some point during the day in between football games and big meals to take a moment and think about what could make me happy. Which in and of itself isn’t all that easy to determine.

That’s because, as the commercial says, life comes at you fast. As a young buck, the things I wanted meant better jobs, more money and more stuff, which I aggressively went after. Then I found myself sitting at LAX one night at 11 PM awaiting a red-eye back to Dulles, tired out of mind, asking myself “what are you doing?”

The things I wanted, I discovered, made me successful. But not necessarily happy.

Today, happiness is walking into the kitchen on a cold gray New Year's Day and seeing a full pot of good coffee (which I had just made) while my dog Maggie is wagging her tail, munching on a full bowl of her favorite food. Tomorrow it could be news that my daughter will be coming for a visit and wants me to make some of her favorite food. Sunday it could be something altogether different.

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Happy "The Most Overrated Holiday Of The Year"

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, which means today I will be fielding texts from my single friends complaining about how they’re going to be sitting alone, all by themselves, on New Year’s Eve.

I already received one today before it was even 8:30 AM.

I understand the sentiment, much like how bad it is being alone and not having someone to buy extremely overpriced flowers for on Valentine’s Day. It makes you feel like you’re not only by yourself, but you also have to deal with the burden of being able to do whatever you want, be able to spend your money on everything only you enjoy, be in a big den with several big screen televisions where nobody questions your decision to watch sports all the time…oh wait, we’re not writing THAT story.

My point – whatever it was supposed to be – is that New Year’s Eve is the single most overrated holiday on the calendar. My single friends think they’re missing either wild parties or this incredible atmosphere of love and togetherness; instead, it’s more a survival contest to see if everyone in the family can stay awake until midnight and yell “Happy New Year.”

In my house, the routine has been pretty similar for decades. Everybody thinks we should have special food to celebrate the New Year, but nobody wants to cook it. So I put out a bunch of crackers, cheese, chips etc. so family can graze when they walk through the kitchen. I’ll usually make a pizza, or set up a crock pot or two with stuff for nachos, but it’s nothing elaborate.

Once it turns 7, I usually go back to my office/man cave and watch sports. My wife will say something like “I have three Hallmark Christmas movies left on DVR so I’m going to watch them tonight” and my daughter – when she was living here – stared at her phone and pretended we didn’t exist.

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Here's To Hoping Haskins Hears The Message Loud And Clear

There is a way to release a player in the NFL.

Then there’s the way Washington just released quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

The way Washington got rid of their 2019 first-round draft choice today just seemed to have a message written all over it. With only one game left in the season, they could have easily just made him inactive for Sunday night’s regular-season finale with Philadelphia. No one would have cared given his performance yesterday, and then he could have been quietly released in the off-season.

But no, Washington wanted this separation to include blunt force trauma. It’s like a couple breaking up and one person wants the world to KNOW what they really thought about the other. They released him with a week to go, and they did it promptly on Monday, less than 24 hours after Sunday’s game ended. Head Coach Ron Rivera was short and to the point about the decision.

"This afternoon I met with Dwayne and informed him that we would be releasing him," Rivera wrote in a statement. "I told him that I believe it benefits both parties that we go our separate ways. We want to thank Dwayne for his contributions these last two seasons and wish him well moving forward."

Notice he didn’t say they met and mutually agreed to part ways. It says clearly Rivera called a meeting and there was no conversation about anything other than him telling Haskins to not let the door hit him in the backside while carrying his stuff to the car.

My experience has been when you say things like that, at least in a corporate setting, the person you’re firing has finally gotten on your very last nerve, exhausted your last thread of patience, and you can’t wait to get that person out of the building.

Maybe that was the case with Rivera.

But he also could be sending a message to two groups of people. One could be his own locker room, where he’s saying there are things we’ll stand for and things we won’t. Haskins may have crossed the line in the “things we won’t” category far too many times, so perhaps Rivera was telling his team he wasn’t kidding around.

Or as many a parent has said, “don’t TRY me.”

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Here's Something You Can Do To Make A Difference

If there was ever a text emblematic of 2020, it’s the one I’m looking at right now on my phone.

It’s from my oldest friend. He’s sitting in a waiting room in a hospital somewhere miles from his home. A friend of his has encountered medical issues that could be very serious, or could be nothing at all. But knowing how tense such things could be, he said “I’ll come along.”

I told him it’s as if God knew at this moment she could use a friend to lean on, and opened the door for you to be that rock. It’s a door I’m familiar with, because I have found myself in that same situation probably a dozen times this year.

It’s what I will remember about 2020 the most.

Let’s face it, this year has had a human cost to it I’ve never seen before. I’m not talking about the financial cost of not working – although for many that’s a huge issue in and of itself. But the aspect of loneliness and not being able to have daily human interaction with a variety of others, I fear, is on the verge of seriously hurting people.

I see it in my own house. My wife had to visit a hospital three times this fall over a knee injury, and the worry over COVID, getting to the hospital, etc. was real. Each time she’d get worried, I’d talk her through all the dangers she perceived, was able to drive her to the hospital, take care of all the details, and assure her everything would be OK, which it turned out to be.

But it made me wonder “what if you don’t have anyone?”

It’s not just old people and hospitals. I’ve been blessed to be able to mentor half a dozen people this year who are just having a hard time with this rut we all find ourselves in. Human nature for even the most competitive person is to decide when things are not good in your life, you try changing things. In my younger days, that meant finding a different job, maybe going back to school for more or a different education, or going to new places to meet new friends. There was no guarantee any of that would work, but you at least felt in control of things by pushing buttons trying to change the arc of your existence.

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Here We Are Again, Back At The Crossroads...

Well, here we are, back at the crossroads.

We knew we’d be back here one day. As we watched the rocket ship take off under Frank Beamer, enjoyed the streak of bowl games, the long streak of wins over Virginia, even the decades-long streak of not having a losing season, we knew nothing would last forever.

But last night it officially did. The end of the streak of not having a losing season ended two years ago. The 15-game streak over UVA ended last year. With a 45-10 loss to Clemson last night, there will be no bowl game. The 27-year run is over.

Every brick Frank put together to build the foundation of the football program is now gone.

That it has happened so fast is maddening. That it is Justin Fuente who has fired up the flux capacitor and taken this program back to where it was in the 1980s is stunning. After his first two seasons, he was doing so well fans were afraid he might leave. He won 19 games in those seasons, said all the right things, and executed the transition between Frank and his program flawlessly.

But last night’s game was a microcosm of what has happened since. You could see flashes of what a great coach Fuente could be in the first quarter; he employed personnel in different roles, showed different formations defenses couldn’t study on film, and made bolder calls on offense that for a moment, had Clemson back on its heels.

This fired up an already well-prepared team, as they realized the improbable could be possible. It was 10-10 late in the second quarter, and despite having to create their own energy in an empty stadium, the Hokies were showing a national television audience they weren’t going to roll over and fulfill the 23.5-point beating oddsmakers had predicted.

But Clemson then scored to make it 17-10 in the final minute. The Hokies got the ball back with relatively decent field position at the 32, one run got them to the 36, and another advanced the ball to the Clemson 43. For a second I thought there was a mistake, as my television showed the clock continuing to run through all that, with Khalil Herbert’s 21-yard run going out of bounds with only two seconds left in the half.

It was no mistake. Fuente told his offense to run out the clock despite having three timeouts left. Had he just used one, he probably could have kept running the ball and ended up in field goal range. As it was, they threw a Hail Mary that was caught at the one, and the half ended with no time on the clock.

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I'd Run Through A Brick Wall For Mike Young

I have to admit, I couldn’t help noticing several moments during Virginia Tech’s big upset of No. 3 Villanova last night and then not think about the contrast between the football and basketball programs.

Those moments illustrated a lesson I hope Virginia Tech’s athletic administration has learned.

The first came late in the game when the Hokies were rallying. Television cameras caught the Virginia Tech bench, where Coach Mike Young was briefing his players on what he wanted done during the timeout. The players were engaged, excited, listening. Young was full of energy, but controlled, as if teaching a class and both coach and player alike were excited about what they were learning.

The second came after the game. Young immediately took the blame for a key play that occurred in the final seconds. Keve Aluma was supposed to miss the second shot of a one-and-one; he tried, but it banked in, so Villanova had one last chance. There were 1.3 seconds left so the odds Villanova could pass the ball inbounds and make a shot were slim to none. The only chance was to run the baseline, slip one of your players in front of the defender while he’s watching the ball, and draw a charge.

That’s what happened to the Hokies’ Justyn Mutts. A foul was called, Villanova made both ends of the one-and-one and the game went into overtime. Asked about it after the game, Young was quick to say “I failed to coach my player [Mutts] on one of the oldest tricks in the book and it almost cost us."

This was not a case of Young using the press to confess his coaching sins to the world. Young is a sharp and experienced coach who is not only good at coaching X’s and O’s, but is just as good managing and motivating people. He knew people might criticize Mutts for that play, and he was having none of it. He immediately drew the arrow toward himself, deflected all criticism from the player and heaped it all on the coach.

Which is what great coaches do.

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Biggest Issue With The Hokies Yesterday Wasn't On The Field

Lord knows, there were plenty of things in yesterday’s Virginia Tech-Pitt game to be unhappy with.

But for me, it wasn’t the predictable play calls, the missed tackles, the going for it on 4th and 4 and only getting 3, or losing by a wide margin to a team that had lost 4 of its last 5 and had 16 players out.

It was a single answer by Justin Fuente to a fair question by Richmond’s Mike Barber after the game.

The question involved the Hokie offense and the perception of a lack of imagination in play calling that has been voiced by many Hokie fans on social media. The team had gotten off to a great start offensively, averaging over 40 points a game and going 3-1 in their first four games.

But a wheel seemed to come off the high-scoring bus at Wake Forest, as Virginia Tech was held to only 16 points in a loss to the Deacons. The Hokies have now lost 4 of their last 5, and instead of averaging 40, they scored 16 against Wake, 24 against Miami and only 14 yesterday against Pitt.

During those games, there have been flashes of versatility and imagination that led to big plays. But when things got tight, the Hokies seemed to crawl back into their shell and run the same handful of plays they always run, specifically a quarterback keeper by Hendon Hooker.

Because of that, Barber asked the question many fans would like to know the answer to: With an open date coming up, which would allow for some changes to be made that would address some of the shortcomings shown during the current 3-game losing streak, would Fuente consider taking over play calling for the final two games of the regular season?

Fuente reacted with not only disgust, but almost contempt for Barber. “That’s the most ludicrous crap I’ve ever heard. Next question.”

I’ll take that as a no, coach.

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Even My Dog Knows Nothing Is Going To Change Right Now

As I do every Sunday morning, I got some hot coffee, then Maggie the WonderBeagle and I thrashed out the results of the previous day’s Virginia Tech football game. It was another loss, and I was trying to develop some level of outrage about how the state of the program has fallen so far since the glory days of the 90s and early 2000s.

I couldn’t.

It was at this point Maggie looked up from sniffing every leaf in the back yard and said “why would you? Do you really think anything’s going to change?”

Admittedly, the hound is right.

If you take yourself through what would happen if you made the change this morning, you see the foolishness of such a move. Unless you’ve got a name coach ready to come in tomorrow who can lead the program back to the 10-win seasons of yesterday, the first thing you’d have to do is name an interim coach for the rest of the season.

That alone says to fans we’re punting on the rest of the season, not to mention the question of which assistant would you elevate to the job temporarily. This isn’t your father’s program where if Frank Beamer left, Bud Foster could grab the helm and the program would keep on trucking. Indeed, one of the bigger issues on this team is the performance of some of the key assistants. You going to promote one of them?

Then there is the danger that the assistant does really well those last few games. With nothing to lose, many times the team plays better as they rally around their teammates. Then there’s pressure to let the interim stay as the head coach, the school does it for the sake of continuity, and you soon realize why that coach was an assistant and not a head whistle.

You certainly don’t save any money in that scenario, as you’re going to pay the head coach any way. If anything, it costs you more because you have to pay the assistant you promoted more. So you’ve spent money you don’t have just to make a change that doesn’t make the situation any better.

I’m not arguing you shouldn’t consider a change at the end of the season. But this is an unusual year where all players get a mulligan and can come back next year regardless of eligibility. And there is a possibility that head coach Justin Fuente might just “get it” before the end of the season. There were signs of that yesterday.

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Maybe The Problem Here Is A Matter Of Trust

It has taken me 8 games into the season to see it, but I think I now have a feeling why this program isn’t going anywhere.

It’s a decided lack of trust. Or for lack of a better word, fear.

Not just fear of dialing up a daring play when the game is on the line, although that certainly happened in the fourth quarter. The coaching staff actually put together an imaginative offensive game plan where early plays set up later plays and for three quarters, they ran it well. It wasn’t until the fourth period that they became like a turtle going back into its shell, afraid to do anything other than the basic core plays they run all the time.

But I’m talking about more than that.

One of the things you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been a long-time watcher of Virginia Tech football is that the most hated man in Blacksburg is always the offensive coordinator. Half of the profane words I have accumulated into my vocabulary were acquired sitting up high on the alumni side of Lane Stadium around the 20, listening to old-timers describe the job they thought Ricky Bustle was doing.

Fans weren’t much kinder to Gary Tranquil, Bryan Stinespring or Scot Loeffler, and under Justin Fuente, Brad Cornelsen is the man getting his time in the barrel.

Over the years, sometimes the brutal criticism has been warranted. Other times it has not.

But if you’ll look at the years when the Hokies’ performed well no matter who the OC was, I think there’s a trend that’s hard to ignore.

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One Year Ago, We Both Found What We Were Looking For

This morning, Maggie the WonderBeagle crawled up in my lap to rest up from a tough 12 minutes running around a 37-degree cold backyard to, as we say, “take care of business.”

As I always do, I rubbed her head and ears, gave her the extra treat I always keep in my pocket for her, and told her it’s hard to believe that one year ago, we met, and my wife and I took her home to live here forever.

I asked her if she felt any different.

Almost on cue, she jumped down from my lap, walked out to her kennel, grabbed the pink blanket my wife wraps her with every night when she goes to sleep, then dropped it from her mouth to my lap as if to tell me she’d like blanket service before her morning nap.

I guess she didn’t have a personal butler one year ago to take care of such things.

She didn’t have anything a year ago. She was only 10 weeks old, but she’d spent some of that time roaming the back roads of South Carolina, where she got to meet animal control and ended up spending some nights in a kill shelter. Then after being rescued by HART (Homeless Animal Rescue Team), she spent a week with two different foster families.

I’d like to think she was out looking for me.

We had just lost 2 dogs in the last 12 months. They lived to be 16 and led full lives, but now the house was empty of animals. If you’ve had pets your entire life, you know the feeling. Your head says don’t get another one for a while and grieve. Your heart, however, tells you that you need another animal to love and the place is always going to feel empty until you do.

A year ago, I said wait. My wife  - as she often does -  ignored me and found a candidate. I’ve always liked Beagles, and this little spud weighed all of 8 pounds; a perfect lap dog. We went to Petsmart, and the little dog looked at me as if she was asking “what’s your story?”

Indeed, her life had been a revolving door of people, so for all she knew, we were more temps. But that night after being bombarded with toys, treats and blankets, she came back to my office and crawled into my lap. She soon let out a contented sigh as we watched a football game together.

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Explain To Me Again Why You Don't Care About Saturday's Game?

After finishing what I believe was my 8,000th career pizza on a Friday night for dinner, was just noticing a few people on Twitter saying they really don’t care about the game tomorrow with Miami after last week’s disappointing loss to Liberty.

I get it, I really do. Actually heard an old friend say the same today.

But here’s five things I’d counter with:

  1. This isn’t some nameless team of people who come and go any given week wearing a jersey that says Virginia Tech on it. It’s Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson and Tre Turner and young men we’ve seen and gotten to know the last few years. I don’t care what jersey they’re wearing, they’ve become family. Family doesn’t give up on family when things get tough.
  2. It’s Miami. The U. The team that’s always back once they win more than one game in a row. Yeah, they’ve got some good players, but they've always got good players. They talk the talk yet rarely walk the walk. Many years ago, the Dallas Cowboys were perceived this way and one day after San Francisco was routing them at halftime, viewership actually went up in the second half despite the game having no suspense to it. People just wanted to tune in to see the Cowboys get their backsides kicked. Miami is like that too.
  3. If you play golf, you know you’re not going out on the links and shooting 70. You’re playing for moments, like that birdie on No. 5, or the 5-iron on the par-3 No. 12 that just missed being a hole in one. Then you drink a lot of beer and make it sound like it was much better than it was. Well, that’s also the way Virginia Tech football is going to be this year. Remember that win over N.C. State with half the team not playing? That was the birdie on No. 5. The loss to Liberty was the driver in the woods than turned into an 8. Tomorrow could be that 5-iron on the par-3, which is the beauty of this team. You know it has weapons, just like you have a bag of golf clubs. Question becomes if in either situation, the tools are used correctly.
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