The View From The Dark

Go on the message boards, anytime, and you're likely to find posts which run the gamut from well-reasoned and insightful discussion, to humorous satire, to whimsical nonsense, to pot-stirring, to ugly personal attacks.

Some won't tolerate any critique -- even constructive criticism -- of their beloved Mountaineers. Some have no other goal than to rile the faithful. And then you have the rest -- perhaps the majority -- who just want to keep up with their favorite teams and perhaps exchange and benefit from the various perspectives represented by the collective participants. And perhaps just have a little fun.

Why do I choose to share my time and thoughts with you at this website or on these message boards? Why do I consider myself a staunch supporter of WVU and the Mountaineers? Why should you care what I have to say if you haven't got a clue from where I come?

I suppose I can explain it best by referring you to that old bumper sticker. You remember the one, "West Virginian by birth, Mountaineer by the grace of God." I'm very proud to be a native son and a graduate of our State's land-grant university. I owe much of what I am to my experiences as an undergraduate. My wife and I met in Summit Hall. From the time I first stepped on campus in 1980, I did not miss a single home football or basketball game; did my share of pre- and post-game partying as well. And yet, perhaps miraculously, I was still able to satisfy the requirements necessary to earn the degree which has served as the foundation of later academic and career success.

The necessity of having to earn a living took us to the mid-Atlantic coast and then the Midwest. Through business and pleasure, we've had the good fortune to have seen very nearly every state in the contiguous 48. All the while, we kept track of the Mountaineers and attended games when circumstances allowed. I suppose the old adage is true, "You may take the boy out of the Mountains, but you can never take the mountain heritage out of the boy," because we always felt that longing to return to Almost Heaven. So we did what it took -- and for us that meant a change of career path -- and 10 years after graduating from WVU, we returned home.

It's all about pride in our State, pride in our school and pride in ourselves.

The years have meted out joyous times and terrible hardships -- nothing particularly unique about that. My wife and I have two sons and a daughter. Our eldest is a special needs boy of whom the doctors said would not survive his first year. That was nine years ago. He has shown me, by seeing through his eyes, the simple joys and marvels of life; he has demonstrated, through his own bravery, that there is no anguish so burdensome as to abandon hope; and he has proven, through interaction with others, that discrimination still comes in many forms.

We do for him -- indeed, all our children -- what any parent would. We do what we believe to be right, we fight the battles that are necessary to fight, all the while understanding that even if you are in the right and prepare as well as possible, things could still not go your way. We've won some battles and lost others. But you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and prepare for the next challenge life brings your way. Because there really is no other choice.

But it exacts a price. Of each of us, you and I, life places many demands. Our time is valuable and we have precious few opportunities to unwind -- to unburden ourselves, if only for a brief rest bit, so that we may refocus, re-energize and face life renewed and with vigor. And with precious little time to devote to that very important self renewal, we must be selective and choose only those leisure activities from which we obtain the greatest sense of fulfillment.

And one of those precious few things, for me, is Mountaineer sports. Sure, there are others -- family and close friends, hunting and fishing the West Virginia backcountry, writing stories -- but nothing quite connects the pride I have in my State, in my school, in my community, in my family, in myself like cheering on the Mountaineers. Because, as Coach Rod and Coach Beilein have both said, they represent to the world our State, our school and our people.

But on a more personal level -- and as odd as it may sound -- the time and effort I devote to supporting -- and yes, critiquing -- Mountaineer sports is time which recharges my batteries, time I can temporarily forget about the trials and tribulations of life - if only for awhile. But it is also time that is vital to my ability to refocus on those myriad of life events that are truly more important than sports.

It's an outlet, a release, or just a hobby.

In addition to this wrapping up of family and community spirit, I find myself connected to Mountaineer sports, and sports in general, because they so closely mirror real-life -- my family's lives -- especially with respect to the preparation and commitment necessary to face and overcome the next challenge ahead.

Yet that pride of which I speak can at the same time be accompanied by frustration and even displeasure with how things are done in West Virginia or what is going on with my favorite teams -- frustration born from the desire for things to be better. Just as in real-life, we ask ourselves, "Could I have done that better? If I'm ever in a similar situation again, how will I handle things differently? How can I improve?" And so I take the same approach to Mountaineer sports as I do to the situations of my own life. I ask, "What needs improved and how can I help?"

So no, you needn't have a coaching resume to be able to offer criticism -- constructive criticism -- of our favorite teams and programs. Heck, my coaching resume includes nothing more than being a voluntary assistant basketball coach at the elementary school level. But that, in of itself, is something else I enjoy and take pride in.

In upcoming editions of the View, I'll share what I think needs to be addressed in order for the Mountaineer football program to take that next step to become a consistent top-25 program. And I'll share my perspective on a topic which has become a pet peeve of mine -- fan behavior.

I've decided to forego my usual seats for the 2003 season and instead get a couple in one of the wheelchair accessible locations. My son has shown me so much magic. I think he will enjoy the magic which is Mountaineer football.

Sure, I know that it's only just a game. Still, what do the Mountaineers mean to me?

Now, let's bring on the Mountaineers!

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