It's Always Darkest Before It Goes Pitch Black

I didn't see the game - I was at a wedding. (For the record, who schedules a wedding during football season? A couple who went to a school without a football team, that's who.) My uncle had an illness, and sounded awful. He's also a Duke alum, and in an effort to make him feel better, I told him that his school's football team was pummeling mine.

He didn't believe me. I had to show him the score on my phone.

This illuminates the difference between the casual fan and the dedicated fan. The casual football fan doesn't realize that Duke has come a long way since the Ted Roof days of ACC futility. David Cutcliffe was a perfect hire for a Duke athletic department that needed to get something out of its football program other than a punchline.

The perception of these fans takes years to change - and this is precisely the problem that the Virginia football program is facing. It's easy for those of us that follow the team, the players, the recruits to find reasons for optimism. The next great player is redshirting. The guy about to sign in February might change everything. There are glimmers of things coming together. We can always find something.

But the casual fan doesn't know who is redshirting. They couldn't tell you who the first defensive tackle will be off the bench. They know wins and losses. Every loss is another reason to watch the team on television, or go for a hike, or spend their money on some other pursuit. The declining attendance at Scott Stadium is not just a function of the 2012 team's struggles - it's an amalgamation of years of more losses than wins.

It's quite possible that the most fitting image of the season will come from today, with the news that the roof of the new indoor practice facility currently under construction caught fire.

Like the new indoor field, this season was supposed to be about constructing something new and lasting. We acknowledged that it was a work in progress, and that we wouldn't see the full results until next season, when the walls had been hung onto the structure being erected this year. But now, instead of seeing this new thing taking shape, the roof is suddenly on fire and people can see the smoke for miles. The running game can be stopped easily. The passing game is woefully inconsistent. The defensive secondary's myriad of issues can hopefully be chalked up to being young. If not, it'll be akin to discovering that the trusses holding up our burning roof were anchored in pudding instead of concrete.

The only reason the neighbors aren't heaping ridicule on us is that they've suddenly discovered a rapidly expanding sinkhole in their backyard where their vaunted defense used to be.

It's in these times when the serious fans keep cheering. It's easy to be a supporter when the future is nothing but New Year's Eve bowl games and Heisman Trophies and sell out crowds. It's hard when the wins are few and far between, the players are overmatched, and the roof is fire.

There's no light at the end of the tunnel for this season, Hoos fans, but the only way out is through the pitch black darkness.

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