Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Are we savages?

There is a post over at the great site Every Day Should Be Saturday addressing what type of fans people are. I don't think there is any debate as to where WVU would fit into that discussion. At this point, we may be the most talked about fans in college, but for all the wrong reasons. From poopgate to stories of old ladies pulling out shanks and stabbing other old ladies from opposing schools, you hear some crazy stories about WVU fans. Unfortunately, most people outside of the state seem to believe these stories are based in truth. This got me to thinking about why we have this reputation and whether it is justified.

1. The old stadium, the couch burning, and fans from opposing teams have collectively created a myth about Morgantown over the years. It doesn't matter if the stories are true or not, if enough people hear them, they take on a life of their own.

I never attended a game at Old Mountaineer Field, but I have heard plenty about it from friends and family. The crowd was right on the field and to attend the game you had to pass through all the bars on Sunnyside back in the 1970s. This led to a "fun-loving" crowd which is easy for other fans to complain about.

Additionally, it's now to the point that if someone on a message board says they went to a game and were assaulted by roaming packs of fans with pitchforks and torches it is believed. For example, poopgate was widely accepted as fact despite no arrest report, proof of the dump, or proof that it was a WVU fan. In fact, most people from MD, Pitt, or VT then added a story of their own about someone they knew that had a grandparent runover by crazed fans after a game in Morgantown.

Finally, there hasn't been a couch burned in Morgantown in a couple of years, but no one knows it. I get asked by relatives after every game, "Hey you guys beat Wofford, how many couches did you burn?" That behavior has been curbed and although the police have been a part it is mostly because we now expect to win. The fires came mainly after upsets. As long as the Mountaineers are expected to win, it will continue to stay quiet. Besides, most of the fires took place in Sunnyside and in all honesty the aftermath of the charred couch probably improved property values.

In a somewhat related story after we beat VT in 2002, I was out in Morgantown and, although there were fires in all different parts of the town, I never saw one. Now of course I may have been a little intoxicated and not had the greatest perception skills going on, but the point is that it's all what you were looking for. If you wanted to burn furniture and try to tip a car and get arrested we had that available, but there were alternatives such as just celebrating by drinking until your face fell off. I wouldn't recommend combining the two, you'll burn your face when it hits the ground.

2. The rivals. MD and Pitt have helped to spread the stories over the years to anyone who will listen. It also seems as though the stories intensify as their teams lose to the Mountaineers on the field. We even had Mark May going on ESPN saying not to take your helmet off at WVU games or have pennies thrown at you.

But our biggest rival has the best stories. VT is THE rival for WVU fans of my generation much like Penn St. was for my father. It really escalated when VT started winning games and extending their fan base. Then, as Ron Burgandy would say, it really jumped up a notch. During the Vick/Randall/Vick II years, the ACC raided the Big East and in a bout of sheer joy/pain, depending upon the year, the underdog in each year's matchup knocked off the favored team. Because the teams no longer play, the fans from both sides have resorted to mocking the other program. We tell VT fans that their team chokes every year and they in turn tell anyone who will listen that our fans are cannibals.

3. In modern times, the stories have continued as there have been videos showing WVU fans heckling and harrassing fans from other schools as they enter the game on youtube. Some of these videos have obviously been done to cause a reaction or with the help of a WVU friend. While others are shameful, but usually contained to a person or two being an ass. In addition, the presence of guard dogs and armed guards with the occasional post game pepper spray made us look even more unhinged as a fan base. It also doesn't help that every televised game has a cutaway to the craziest looking WVU fan. We happen to have one of the best looking groups of female fans in the country and they never get shown. Instead, the production crew repeatedly shows the guy who looks like he spent all day hunting deer with a switchblade and wearing the deer carcuss for a hat.

4. Is it true? I am sure there is some truth to the stories. Our fans are very vocal and do enjoy the pregame festivities as much as any other fanbase. I have seen rival students in the student section taunted and had drinks and cheese poured on them before removed by security. I even witnessed a fight in the student section during a Miami game which was the scariest moment at a game since fighting on bleachers is not a safe strategy. However, I have attended every home game for five straight years, three in the student section, and the only thing I've seen thrown on the field was a ham sandwhich. I also attended many games growing up and have asked my dad, but we can't recall too many other instances of out of contol behavior. Now in all honesty the old man wasn't really paying attention as he was looking for babies to toss off of the upperdeck.

5. Does it matter? I would say yes. On the good side, it is a source of intimidation, especially at night. Anyone attending a night game has felt that electric feel in the air of barely controlled alcoholism and rage with a hint of fear. There is also always the chance of seeing someone impaled. I would never want to temper the passion of our fanbase as we have great traveling fans for such a small and poor state.

But on the bad side, it makes the school look bad and that only hurts the value of a WVU diploma. Worse yet, some teams won't come here to play simply based upon reputation. But the worst aspect is constantly having to defend ourselves against fans from other schools, even if the stories are blatently untrue. Recently, the reputation reached a point of diminishing returns, i.e. it is now hurting the school and team more than it is worth as our teams are now constantly in the top 25, but how do we combat 1 and 2?

Any suggestions?


Dyer said...

"3...We happen to have one of the best looking group of female fans in the country..."

My goodness, yes! I often wondered myself what the cameraman's fascination is with those funny lookin tree-climbers from Wrong Turn. Why they insist to televise them over hot Mountie girls is beyond me.

On to the real issue. As far as combating the far-fetched negativity, there really isn't much the school and it's fans can do on their own to revive the name. Being a *gasp!* Seminoles fan, I know this from experience. You kind of just have to sit back and wait for another school within the conference to become the jackasses. (Which, by the way, thanks for the Hurricanes.)

letsplaytummysticks said...

Oh, Rutgers with your endless supply of Jersey boys you may be only hope.

And for the lack of females on TV, I'm not originally from WV, but visited here and played some WV teams in high school fb and bball. Our teams always enjoyed in engaging in normal stereotypes in trashtalking until you looked around at the cheerleaders. I believe it is some secret deal where WV men keep the stereotypes alive to have all the women for themselves. And yes there is a sister joke there somewhere.

As for FSU. No problem with them anymore, except for the coach stealing. I'm tired of being your j.v. coaching program. BTW Tricket will be worth a win or two by himself.

Anonymous said...

We happen to have one of the best looking groups of female fans in the country and they never get shown. Instead, the production crew repeatedly shows the guy who looks like he spent all day hunting deer with a switchblade and wearing the deer carcuss for a hat.

You see the fucking guy sitting next to me at the Maryland game whoo couldnt speak english ( or swallow his own spit??? Better yet, Did you smell him .. I mean... DAMN

letsplaytummysticks said...

And I'm sure he made it on ESPN when he was "dancing" to Cotten-Eyed Joe.

Which reminds me, who do I have to get laid to get rid of that damn song?