It’s time for the Streaking The Lawn Christmas Roundtable! I asked our staff what their Christmas wish is for UVA sports (apart from the obvious ones like a bowl win or national championship in basketball), as well as their most memorable UVA gift.
Eric Hobeck: The best gift I ever got was the four tickets to the basketball game against Georgia Tech the first week of 2000 that my dad got for the four of us (parents, brother, and myself), inspiring my lifelong passion for the program. We were this close to winning a pizza for being the loudest fans, and for a six-year-old, it was the time of my life. It was the first sporting event I ever went to, and it’s probably what started me on my path to sports journalism as a career.
As for current events, I'd love to see Jay Huff improve his game as ACC play ramps up. That improvement comes from playing time, and as of this writing, he's one of two scholarship players who hasn't played in all 11 games (Marco Anthony being the other). He's attempted just six three-pointers in his seven games, and is averaging 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in just under 12 minutes played. That probably isn't going to cut it going forward, but the good news is that there are games on the ACC schedule where he can challenge himself against greater opponents without costing the team much in terms of what the scoreboard says at the end (sorry, Pitt). The bottom line is that he needs to play more. His defense isn't perfect, but he adds a totally different element on offense that hasn't been seen in recent years at UVA. His floor-stretching ability increases the ceiling for this team, and that can only happen if he gets more minutes than he's currently getting.
Paul Guttman: I’ve gotten so many UVA gifts over the years. My favorite is probably the Jefferson Cup we got for my daughter. Sorry if that's a cheesy answer. I also got a UVA flask which was cool. As far as sports go, let's keep with the cheesy answers and hope for good health for everybody on the basketball team. Late season injuries (or illnesses) keep killing this team's postseason chances.
Brian Leung: Objectively speaking, the best UVA gift anyone can get is 100 Things Virginia Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. Have you guys read that one? It's so good. But if for some reason you're unable to get your hands on a copy of this best-selling book (UVA Bookstores Q4 2016 No. 2 best-seller), my favorite is the set of four rocks glasses that the VAF gave many years ago that had each of the four UVA basketball arenas on it. Brings a smile to my face every time.
I agree with Tiki - hoping that all of our players across all of our sports teams stay healthy. If Virginia's going to go down this year, I want it to be because they were beat by a better team, not because someone literally shot him or herself in the foot. Or appendix. Have we checked everyone's appendices lately?
Pierce Coughter: I've gone through more UVA hoodies, hats, and shirts over the years than I could possibly remember, but I'm currently looking at a UVA-themed nutcracker my mother got me a few years ago. I have little in the way of Christmas decorations to begin with, so it's prominently posted up next to my tiny Christmas tree and it's awesome.
We won't get the results on this until next fall, but I'm wishing for continued production at the QB position. Kurt Benkert had his up-and-down games this year, but they were mostly up - and statistically he was one of the best UVA QBs of all-time in 2017. Whether it be Lindell Stone, Bryce Perkins, or Brennan Armstrong, whoever is leading the offense in 2018 needs to produce at a strong level to keep the program’s momentum going.
Caroline Darney: This was a tough question. I've gotten some great Virginia gifts over the years (clothing, tickets), but I think the one that stood out was one that was unexpected and thoughtful. My good friend Sally, who is Australian, obviously knew of my obsession with UVA and got me a vintage football calendar. The calendar is awesome in and of itself, but each page is a vintage football program cover that turns into a framable piece (it's perforated and you can separate and frame it). It was such a nice gift that aligns some of my fave things (UVA and old time posters). I've framed some and they're amazing.
Editor’s note: Previous copies of the calendar have been available on Amazon, but none yet for 2017 or ‘18.
For my Christmas wish, I am torn between two things. First, I'd like for some consistent post production on the basketball team. Isaiah Wilkins is absolutely capable, Jack Salt has improved immensely on the offensive end, Mamadi Diakite has shown flashes, and Huff has the highest upside. Their production down low will make everything easier for the rest of the offense, and it would make me so happy. Secondly, I want an ACC win for head coach Lars Tiffany and the men's lacrosse team. The conference will be brutal yet again, but a win against Syracuse, Notre Dame, Duke, or UNC would be a huge step for the second year coach. The Hoos will have some outstanding players this season (Ryan Conrad, Dox Aitken, Michael Kraus) and add some talented first-years (No. 1 midfielder in the country Matt Moore). They should make some noise this spring.
Paul Wiley: Easiest question I've ever gotten. Christmas 1996. Tim [Mulholland] and Tiki are within months of graduating, while Brian just finished his second-year exams. I'm nine years old. All through Christmas morning, my brother and I have been getting super underwhelming presents - VHS tapes with some movies (cool enough); some books (I was enough of a nerd to appreciate this); and then two or three travel games, like Parcheesi or a chess board, each with magnetic pieces. We were definitely thinking a little bit of that thought only a snotty kid can have on Christmas: "What the hell, mom and dad?" Then, they pull out the one more box. It's small; in fact, it was the box for another travel game. But it's to both my brother and me. So we knew something was up. And inside that box? Carquest Bowl tickets. They had arranged the entire trip in secret. Another family we were friends with had a big conversion van, and they had taken out the back seats to put beanbags and sleeping bags for us kids, along with a TV/VCR combo that plugged into the car outlets. They picked us up Christmas night and we drove straight to south Florida. By the morning of the 26th, we dipped our toes in the Atlantic in Miami Beach, and the next day watched the refs hand Miami the game on a phantom Tiki Barber fumble.
This year I'm hoping for good matchups for Jay Huff, an ACC win for the men's lacrosse team, and an early commitment from an in-state four-star for the football team.
Ryan Reese: My best UVA Christmas present ever was a "VIRGINIA" decal to put on my car. It was Christmas 2000 and I became a Wahoo fan a couple years earlier. I was a senior in high school and UVA was the only school I really wanted to attend. I had no qualms about showing off my fandom with hats and shirts up until that point, but I wasn't going to put a sticker on my car unless I was accepted. Much to my delight, and I'm sure due to an error by someone in the admissions department, I got accepted the first week of December. So on her way home for winter break, my sister stopped by Charlottesville and got me that first decal making it official.
This year, I'll head out to the baseball diamond for my 2018 wish. The lineup will be solid once again, but the question marks will be on the mound. I wish for someone at the back end of the bullpen to be as solid as Tommy Doyle and Alec Bettinger were last season. And in the rotation, I'd like to see Daniel Lynch and Derek Casey take the next step, Evan Sperling and/or Noah Murdock to come back strong from their respective injuries, and one of the first-years to jump right in and be a solid option option. If that can happen, then there is no reason why this team can't make it to Omaha.
Danny Neckel: The best UVA-related gift I received was in 2005 at the Rolling Stones concert at Scott Stadium. One of my best friends was on crutches at the time, so to thank me for helping him navigate Grounds and the concert, he bought me a Rolling Stones/UVA concert shirt, which was orange with the Rolling Stones tongue logo combined with the V-sabres logo. I’ve worn the shirt so many times to various UVA events and other Rolling Stones concerts that it has faded to pink over the years.
The UVA athletic accomplishment I would like for Christmas would be for the basketball team to go on a long winning streak to get ranked high in the polls. This could include a win at Duke or an ACC tournament title. Asking for a Final Four or No. 1 ranking would be too much, but a nice little run into the top five would be a pretty sweet. It would also be a nice way to give all the offseason UVA Grinches a nice lump of coal in their stockings.