A handful of weeks ago, Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers were ranked 2nd in the nation and the WVU men’s basketball team seemed poised for a number-one seed in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Things were great at WVU Coliseum and the Internet message boards were beaming with West Virginia fans endlessly gloating of their team, their coach and the season they were enjoying.
“This could be the year we might win a championship in something other than rifle,” I cautiously hoped to myself.
Then came January 13, 2018.
That afternoon, playing Texas Tech, the Mountaineers fell to the 8th ranked team in the nation, on the road, by a single point.
Two nights later, we dropped a game to 10th ranked Kansas, losing by five points at home.
Since then, things have spiraled out of control for Press Virginia and the month of January concluded with the Mountaineers losing five of the last six games.
I have no idea what has happened to this team that handed #2 Virginia its only loss of the season, but have no doubt something has definitely come off the rails with Coach Huggins’ squad. Never in my life do I ever recall seeing a team fall from grace so quickly. Only three Saturdays ago, we were ranked 2nd in the nation, now I’m wondering if we’ll even get into the big dance… and even worse, if I would even like to see us in the big show!
Still, the Mountaineers are my team and this will never change.
They’re my team for one simple reason and it has nothing to do with the numbers on the scoreboard, but rather everything to do with the name embroidered onto their jerseys, “West Virginia”.
Whether it be football, basketball, soccer, or rifle, the West Virginia Mountaineers embody the hopes and dreams of an entire state in a manner that few, if any other, NCAA college teams do.
Dating back to its earliest days in the 1860s, the people who call the State of West Virginia home have always felt – and for good reason – like it was us against the world. We’ve never been accepted by the northern Yankees, nor have we ever felt welcomed by the sons of Dixie. We are Mountaineers and even today, it still feels like we’re against the world — politically, economically and socially; nevertheless, we stand our ground and fight like Mountaineers.
No where is this “us against the world” mentality more evident than in our sports teams. More often than not, there is a feel of arrogance and superiority in the voice of national sportscasters when they cover games in Morgantown and though this may make me sound like one of “those fans”, I swear the BIG XII football refs are against us more often than not!
Yet it is because of these feelings of abuse that have caused an entire state (save for the folks in Huntington!) to rally around a single team.
Though our politicians may fight like dogs and though we sometimes find ourselves cursing our neighbors, on gamedays, we’re all Mountaineers.
Except of course, when we’re losing.
From the days airplanes were circling Mountaineer Field with banners announcing “Nehlen Must Go” to the present, West Virginia athletics has been cursed with far too many fair weather fans.
Scrolling through message boards and social media pages Eeers fans frequent I find the need to pinch myself as I read posts from the very fans who only a few weeks ago were begging to know why “Huggy Bear” hasn’t been added to the Hall of Fame yet, demanding his resignation or termination.
Are our loyalties really so frail that we’re ready to fire our own alumni-coach who is one of only ten coaches in the history of college basketball to win more than 800 games in a single career simply because of a bad month?
Have we forgotten that our coach has been 22 NCAA tournaments in the last 25 seasons? Not to mention that this very season we held the nation’s record for longest winning streak — or that #2 Virginia is not #1 Virginia because of a trip to Morgantown… This season, like last season, we truly have been the “Best Virginia”.
Yes. These same fair weather fans who are pledging to no longer support the team, demanding the university fire Huggins are the same people who were gloating about how awesome this very team was only a few weeks ago.
Yes, they are the same people who demanded Bill Stewart be made head coach after the miraculous Fiesta Bowl… of course, before they were demanding for him to be fired.
They are the same people who sang the praises of Coach Holgorsen following the January 2012 Orange Bowl win against Clemson, prior to lighting up the World Wide Web with calls for him to go following the December 2012 Pinstripe Bowl loss in a 7-6 season.
West Virginia athletics are great for our state, but it’s time for a few more fans to learn what it means to be a true and consistent fan. Win or lose, I will always be a Mountaineer.
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