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Chris Graham: UVa. football woes are hurting my favorite website

Hi, my name is Chris, and I’m an addict. A Sabre.com addict.

mouseblueI came clean on this a couple of weeks ago, making my first post on the site devoted to all things UVa. athletics, about 15 years too late, now that I think about it.

That’s roughly how long I’ve been reading the site, basically on a daily basis 10 months a year, August through June.

Sheepishly, I have to admit, I’ve never been a subscriber. (Bad, bad Chris!) I guess because I also work in the business of covering UVa. sports, I didn’t need it as much for the coverage as for the comfort of the message boards, which are populated by dozens of knowledgeable, passionate UVa. sports fans who comment endlessly about the fate of our teams.

Here’s where sports meets real life: a post last night from TheSabre.com founder Mike Ingalls about how November was the worst subscription month since the site started its subscription service in 1999.

The issue: go figure, it’s the declining fortunes of the football team that serves as the focal point of so much of the coverage provided by the staff and the comments on the message boards.

“It’s causing significant financial hardship for the site and our staff members. We understand the desire to drop a subscription due to failures of the football program, because who wants to read about losses?” Ingalls wrote on the message board.

There is a shelf life to reading about how your favorite team loses all the time. I can push a couple of buttons and get 1,000 or more fellow travelers to read my latest kvetch on how Mike London has dragged the UVa. football program to levels that even Dick Bestwick and Sonny Randle couldn’t have imagined, but how much better could things be if I was writing about a program regularly competing for ACC and national titles with star players in consideration for Heismans?

No idea. I live 20 miles from Charlottesville and write about my alma mater, which hasn’t been competitive … well, it only seems like forever.

The most recent point of relevancy for UVa. football was 2004. The Cavs started 7-1 that year and entered a home game with Miami ranked in the Top 10 in the country. Virginia lost that game and finished 8-4, then went 7-5 in 2005 before falling to 5-7 in 2006, the first in a stretch of six losing seasons in the next eight years.

The ‘Hoos have famously lost the last 10 in the series with in-state rival Virginia Tech, and on the occasion of the most recent loss, last weekend in Charlottesville, I noted the diverging paths of the two programs during the stretch. Virginia Tech has gone 99-34 in the past 10 years; Virginia is 55-66.

Not the best situation if you’re running a business that revolves around a football program, if you can imagine.

“I was really hoping football would begin to rebound this year,” Ingalls wrote on TheSabre. “Even if it rebounds next year, subscription numbers won’t begin to spike until there has been two consecutive seasons of success. We saw virtually no increase over the previous year when the team won 8 games in 2011. People are completely apathetic with the program and have been since 2008. I think it’s going to take some time before fans start to believe again.”

As I mentioned above, I read the site outside of football season. So the good news, it would seem, is that as bad as UVa. has been, is and probably will be some time, basketball is looking pretty good, right?

No dice.

“If basketball was the answer with regard to overall fan interest, they would build 60K seat arenas, not 12-15K arenas. Football is king, and always will be,” Ingalls wrote.

And so it is that I’m finally biting. A subscription to TheSabre is only $5.99 a month (or $59.99 for a whole year, if you want to buy one as a gift for a ‘Hoo among your friends and family).

Here’s a link to the subscriber page.

If you’ve been like me, and riding TheSabre.com for free for years, you need to step up and do your part to keep this community alive.

(Where else can you complain endlessly about Craig Littlepage and have somebody else care about what you have to say?)

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Hosts Chris Graham and Crystal Graham of Augusta Free Press highlight local news and newsmakers with an emphasis on the Shenandoah Valley on Viewpoints on WVPT.

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Chris Graham is the editor of Augusta Free Press, ESPN3 baseball broadcaster and the author of five books. Crystal Graham is the award-winning former host of WVPT’s Virginia Tonight.

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