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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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After Beating UVA, Tonight's Loss To Pitt Makes No Sense

On paper, tonight’s 83-72 loss to Pitt makes no sense.

A week ago, Virginia Tech beat Notre Dame handily on the road. Saturday, that same Notre Dame team went to Pittsburgh and beat Pitt by 26 while the Hokies upset No. 8 Virginia. On paper, the game shouldn’t have been close.

On the court, however, Pitt executed a strategy that beat the Hokies like a drum in the second half, and it showed that when Virginia Tech is having a tough night from outside the 3-point arc, you can disrupt their offense and frustrate the heck out of them.

I know they certainly frustrated the heck out of me.

Usually, teams try to beat up on Keve Aluma and try to get him out of his game, and given his superlative 29-point game against Virginia Saturday, I expected the paint at Pitt to be more like Octagon. Aluma didn’t seem bothered, in part thanks to the play of Justyn Mutts, as he proved to be a strong additional presence under the rim so when Pitt doubled Aluma, Mutts picked up the scoring.

It was 31-31 at halftime, but the scoresheet showed a glaring problem that would be even more evident in the second half: Only 3 players scored for the Hokies, with Mutts and Aluma combining for 22 of the 31 points. The other 9 were from Jalen Cone on 3 3-pointers, and while nice, they were a bit of a mixed bag.

The first Cone 3-pointer was so far off the mark, it bounced off the square and banked in, while the other two were where Cone needs to consistently get to. He went straight up, launched a shot where there was enough spacing that he had a clear look at the basket, and the result looked like the Jalen Cone of old. Unfortunately, he shot several more that looked like the more recent Cone, hurrying his shot, firing them up on the move, and shooting even with heavy defensive pressure on him. He missed those other six shots and didn’t score in the second half.

The rest of the backcourt had an even rougher night. The shots weren’t dropping, they didn’t compensate by driving to the basket and trying to draw fouls, and at times looked lost. Wabissa Bede was 0-5. Nahlem Alleyne was 1-8. Hunter Cattoor was 4 of 10. The entire team was 9 for 30 from the 3-point arc.

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Looks Like The Circle Is Being Completed...

This is going to be one of those circle of life stories, only more like “circle of snow.”

Last week I was concerned about weather forecasts saying if everything worked out right, we could be getting one of those 12-inches-or-more snows that seem to come along the mid-Atlantic every 5 years or more. Those concerns were heightened in December when we got a little nuisance snow of a couple of inches, and I discovered my snowblower would not start.

In the cul de sac I live in, snow is the one thing that brings everybody together. In this day and age of automatic garage door openers, it’s not unusual to not see any of your neighbors unless we’re all headed out to the mailbox to get the mail at the same time. People pull in their garages, hit the button, close the door behind them, then go into their homes.

But when it snows, we’re all out there taking care of our driveways and usually helping each other. The three of us who are out there the most are myself, my neighbor Joe, and my other neighbor Kevin. When I first moved here, I was out shoveling when I noticed my neighbor Frank was also out trying to shovel. I was a 40-something person at the time, and Frank was 60-something, so I walked over to him and said “would you mind if I started doing your driveway?”

I explained I didn’t want to see him get hurt over-exerting himself, and quite honestly, he didn’t seem to like it. But I explained how people showed my Dad similar kindness in his later years when I was nowhere around, and it was something I really wanted to do. He understood, and from that point on, I always got his driveway and sidewalk as if it were my own. He’d come out in the first few years and offer to help, but I’d always say no thanks and ask him to go back inside and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. In the spring, he and his wife would always take me and my wife out to dinner to thank us for doing it, but it wasn’t necessary.

It was a simple matter of courtesy and respect.

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This Was One Goodbye Column I Did Not Want To Read

There has always been something special to me about the Roanoke Times.

Well, until now.

I say this because decades ago when dinosaurs roamed the planet, I worked my way through college writing about sports for various weeklies. A few months after graduating from Virginia Tech, however, I got the call that changed the arc of my life: The Roanoke Times morning paper and Roanoke World-News had combined into one all-day paper, and the former sports editor of the afternoon World News – Bob McLelland – had suffered a health issue.

He covered high school sports, and while he was recuperating, they needed someone immediately. After a few interviews, I was asked when can you start? I was working for my old friend Jerry Ratcliffe in Danville, and his response was “we’ll figure it out. Go now if you want.”

So I did.

Having just turned 22, I was pretty fired up. I was going to be working for a big daily, and in the same department as many of the writers whose stories I had studied over the years every morning when I picked up the paper.

I drove down Campbell Avenue that first day, walked in the front doors and was told to take the elevators to the third floor. There I met the people whose bylines I had read so often, finally putting a name with a face. I was assigned a desk right near a 26-year-old guy by the name of Doug Doughty, along with others like Jack Bogaczyk, Steve Waid, Dennis Latta and wonderful editors like Rick Maas, Newton Spencer, Tony Stamus and of course the big guy, Bill Brill.

These are the people who taught me to write, and by example, taught me how to be a professional.

I also met someone else that day, the lady in personnel who tells you about all your benefits, makes you sign all the papers so you’ll get paid, and gives you the employee handbook you’re suppose to look at every now and then. Her name was Debbie.

We’ll have been married 40 years in March.

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One Man's Peasant Food Is Another Man's Comfort Food

If you live up in my neck of the woods, there’s snow on the ground. Yesterday there was too, and tomorrow and the day after there will probably be snow outside as well.

Since we’re all stuck inside with no place to go (that’s certainly not a new experience), one of the topics that usually pops up in these situations is comfort food. Specifically how people love to make it and eat it when it’s cold, icy and snowy outside.

I find the term comfort food to be one of the most misused and abused terms in the food world. By my count, everything ever cooked except steak, lobster and caviar is considered a comfort food. If you at some time in your life liked it and didn’t have to mortgage the house for the ingredients, it’s a comfort food.

About 90 percent of what’s described as comfort food in my experience is laughable, but then again, my experience is colored by a mother who cooked as well as Taco Bell makes…well, anything. My Dad was the cook (he passed that on to me) so comfort food was pretty much whatever he made.

As a result, when people wax on about chicken soup being comfort food, I think of something awful that came out of a red and white can. Meatloaf? Growing up, I’d rather take a bite out of the guy singing “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights.” Beef Stew? Ours was Dinty Moore’s cheapest variety of mushy ingredients, covered in a brown, motor-oil-like gravy.

You get the picture.

The old man had a philosophy of comfort food that I’m not sure isn’t a good way to look at it. He thought – probably because he was really good at cooking it – that Italian food was the ultimate comfort food. He also made a distinction between the kind of food his father grew up with in the Potenza region of Italy in a town called Melfi, and what people in this country have long viewed as Italian food.

The stuff he was raised on – and loved – he referred to as “peasant food.” Where his Dad grew up, there wasn’t much money, meaning there was virtually no meat in dishes, you grew your own tomatoes and spices like basil and oregano, and you got your best flavor from using the freshest of ingredients you could find. He said once Italians came to America, meat and other ingredients were much more available, and it changed how a lot of dishes were made.

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But Dad, You Just Don't Understand....

At 7 AM this morning, there was something beautiful going on here in Ashburn, as snow continued to fall since starting some time during the night. It was peaceful too, as the falling snow acts as nature’s soundproof barrier and blocks off all the noise of the world.

Well, it was until a certain hound let out a blood-curdling scream of a bark that made people wonder if my backyard had become a crime scene.

My house is situated right off a bike path that runs along my backyard’s fence. On the other side is a protected nature reserve, where there is a big creek for rain to run off into, and as a result draws far more animals than you routinely see in a metro area. It’s not surprising to see groups of deer, frogs, snakes, hawks, squirrels, racoons and several other species just roaming the area as if it were their home.

This morning, a new type of animal made an appearance. Sauntering down the bike path like it was just wandering home after an all-night bender was a small red fox, occasionally looking up at the snow like it was annoyed by this white stuff falling in his eyes. Those eyes opened just a little wider when his presence was discovered by my dog Maggie.

I call Maggie a WonderBeagle because that’s what she looked like as a 7-pound puppy, but when her legs grew to the size of a giraffe, we realized she was a different breed: An American Foxhound. Maggie is the gentlest, sweetest dog I’ve ever owned, but the AKC web pages on the breed warn when it is in pursuit of something it wants – namely a fox – it genetically can’t control itself and won’t listen to commands.

The AKC wasn’t kidding, as I watched this domesticated hound that sits on the sofa and watches television like a teenager turn into the Tasmanian Devil. The fox – showing it may be a bit of a jerk in the animal world – calmly stared at Maggie as she’s trying to break down the backyard fence, almost giving it a wry smile before slowly trotting off into the snowy woods.

It was if it were saying “my work here is done.”

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I'm Still Stunned And Can't Believe What I Just Saw

We’ve all been hearing it for months about Virginia Tech’s basketball team.

You know what I mean. That sentence that says “yeah, Virginia Tech is good. But wait until they play someone really good.” When the Hokies beat No. 3 Villanova, that was supposedly because Villanova was playing it’s third game in 4 days. When they beat Duke, it was because Duke was having an off year.

Even when they beat Notre Dame Wednesday on the road, it was “Mike Brey has retired and just hasn’t told anyone.” Wait, they said, until you play someone good like Virginia.

I guess we can now stop waiting.

The Hokies clobbered the Cavaliers 65-51, who are still in first place in the ACC and hadn’t lost a league game in so long, it came back when you could walk into a grocery store and buy toilet paper and paper towels, all you wanted, with no limits. With plenty of inventory to choose from.

Even playing without their leading scorer for the second game in a row, the Hokies sent UVA packing with an L for the first time since the Cavaliers lost to Louisville on Feb. 8, 2020. The Cavaliers also beat Virginia Tech twice in 2020 with a combination of tough defense, slow tempo, and completely suffocating the Hokie offense, holding them to 39 points in one game, 53 in the other.

Which kind of seemed to be UVA’s plans for the evening tonight too.

It certainly seemed like the same was going to happen when Virginia held a 42-34 lead with 13 minutes left in the game after Sam Hauser hit yet another of the circus 3-pointers UVA had launched all night that looked more like desperation passes, yet went right through the net.

Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma, conversely, was apparently having a game so good, his teammates seemed to be standing around and just watching. Other than Aluma, ball movement wasn’t great, outside shots weren’t falling, and the only thing standing between the Hokies and a trip to the woodshed of biblical proportions was Aluma.

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He Uttered 105 Words, But All I Heard Was "I Care"

One of the great things about technology these days is you don’t have to sit around for an hour or more to listen to radio shows, particularly if all you want to hear is an interview of a particular player or coach. All you have to do is wait a day, and someone, somewhere will transcribe it.

Such is the case for a radio program called Tech Talk Live, and I was particularly interested in Virginia Tech Coach Mike Young’s reaction to the indefinite suspension of Tyrece Radford.’s Jake Lyman did not disappoint, posting this transcription of the entire show.

Young’s answer when asked about Radford did not disappoint either. It was pretty close to what I expected he would say, and the reason I earlier this season wrote a story saying I would run through a wall for Young if I was one of his players.

(NARRATOR: It was also the story I texted a link for to Cindy Farmer about, with the words “I really am impressed with your prom date." That led to me writing this story, and it’s been the most read story on the site this year. But I digress….)

“The first thing you want to see is that he’s contrite,” Young said on the show. “He recognizes it, and he’s a good man. He made a poor decision, needless to say. We’re working through some things. There are a lot of things that I can’t talk about here. I love that man, and I will not turn my back on him. I believe in him. I feel awful and Tyrece Radford feels awful. We will support him and hang in there with him. Time will tell how it all plays out. His best interests are at heart as we try to work through this.”

It reminded me of a conversation I had one late night after a high school football game with a very successful coach who I think the world of. Having come from the corporate world, he and I were talking about the art of managing people, and how it compared to coaching young athletes.

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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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