Flag and Fuggler: Dox Aitken's Family Superstitions the Key to Virginia's Success?

COURTESY OF NCAA PHOTOS


Patrice Aitken was hard to miss before, during and after Saturday’s NCAA semifinal game between Virginia and Maryland.

You just had to follow the flag.

She walked the rain-soaked concourse of Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. before watching her son, Dox, and the Virginia Cavaliers fight for a spot in the national championship game, waving the blue flag with a team’s “V” logo encrusted in white and orange.

Security at Rentschler wouldn’t allow her to bring the traditional stick on which the flag was attached — something she had done since 2019 — so she had to improvise.

“I shrunk it and I put it in my coat and kept my coat on,” she joked.

Instead of a stick, she used a pink blackboard pointer, typically used in classrooms, to prop the flag up. She waved the flag proudly as her son took home the 2019 NCAA title with a win over Yale, and nothing was going to stop her this weekend.

“She definitely has some tricks up her sleeve,” Dox Aitken joked. “She needs to have her props, and if she doesn’t, she thinks something bad is going to happen.”

Patrice Aitken, like many families in the Virginia Cavaliers contingent, swears by her good luck charms. It’s hard to blame those families, who watched Lars Tiffany and his team ride momentum to the last national championship in Division I lacrosse before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 season.

Her son, Dox, did not plan to play college lacrosse in 2021 — he had his eyes set on competing for Villanova football last fall, likely ending his college lacrosse career. However, Dox Aitken decided to rejoin the Virginia lacrosse program this January after the Colonial Athletic Association football season was moved to the spring.

The news was welcomed by the Cavaliers staff, but more so the Aitken family. They got to see their son play one more season of college lacrosse, and Patrice Aitken had five more months to carry on with her traditions.

Some might even call her superstitious.

“What do you think?” she asked when questioned if she was, indeed, superstitious.

Patrice Aitken stood in the front row alongside her husband, Mark, and daughters, Chandler and Schuyler, in the south side of Rentschler Field, minutes after Virginia took down North Carolina in the first of two NCAA semifinals.







She had just finished talking about her Virginia Cavaliers flag when she unzipped the orange winter coat that she used to smuggle the lucky charm. Inside was what can be best described as an ironically ugly plush doll in the shape of a sloth, featuring what closely resemble human teeth.

She grabbed the doll, called a “fuggler” as a way to shorten “fun, ugly, monster,” and brought it closer. Attached to the fuggler were two pins, one white with the words “Dox Aitken — 6” on it and the other with an image of a Virginia helmet.

Fugglers trace their roots to an Etsy user who bought fake teeth and attached them to a stuffed animal. The sloth fuggler entered Dox Aitken’s life during the Christmas holiday in 2018, when he opened it as part of a gift exchange.

“I thought it was hilarious,” he said. “Nobody wanted to take it from me because this thing was just stupid and ugly.”

“It was a lot of laughs and a lot of ‘This thing is awesome,’” said commentator Booker Corrigan, who is close to Dox Aitken’s uncle and took part in the Christmas exchange. “We all took pictures with the fuggler.”

Dox Aitken largely forgot about the ugly stuffed animal, which he left at home, for the next few months, but Corrigan and Patrice Aitken never did. Together, they surmised that the fuggler must have been a good luck charm.

Patrice Aitken decided to bring the fuggler to Dox’s game at Syracuse on March 2, 2019 — mostly in jest. However, Virginia downed the Orange in overtime for their first win at the Carrier Dome in a decade.

“They hadn’t beaten Syracuse in a long time,” Patrice Aitken said. “It was all because of the fuggler.”

There was no looking back. The fuggler became a staple at Virginia men’s lacrosse games.

She brought the fuggler and the flag to games in the shortened 2020 season. Then, once Virginia the field this season, her good luck charms returned. The mother who swapped in her vehicle for a blue and orange mini cooper made sure the fuggler came everywhere. She made every game except those at Syracuse and Notre Dame, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Now, it’s not just Patrice Aitken that swears by the magical mystery doll. Dox Aitken approximates that up to 10 other Virginia parents are carrying fugglers in tow.

“They bring this ugly thing to games and squeeze it when it gets tight,” he said. “It’s some weird voodoo thing they think they have.”

“Fugglers in the tailgates. Fugglers in the stands,” Corrigan said. “It’s so ugly that it’s cute. It’s so creepy that it’s endearing. Fugglers bring joy to those who love it.”

Patrice Aitken will be in the stands on Monday, holding her flag and her fuggler, hoping it can conjure up just one more victory for Virginia. Whether her son ends his career with back-to-back titles, she’ll be filled with pride.

Both she and her son know they’ve been granted a gift of another lacrosse season — another season of ups and downs, plane tickets and plush dolls. Dox Aitken may not buy his mom’s superstitions, but he’s grown to enjoy every second of playing in front of his family.

“You want to make them proud. You want to make them happy,” he said. “Since I started at Virginia, her fandom has exponentially increased to an absurd level. She’s really enjoyed the ride as much as I have, which is pretty rare. She’s shared this experience with me. She’s been able to participate in her own way, which is super cool.”

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