Tag Archives: West Virginia

Matt’s Favorite of the Big 12: West Virginia

by Matt Waller


Image courtesy of Flickr user pcscheid

After what I wrote yesterday regarding Kansas State’s inferiority complex and some of its fans’ attempts to deflect negative stereotypes onto West Virginia, it should be no surprise that today I’m picking West Virginia as my favorite team in the Big 12. It’s a no brainer. I grew up in West Virginia during the tail end of the Nehlen era and almost the entirety of the Rich Rod era. It was a solid stretch for the WVU program. After high school, I left West Virginia to attend Notre Dame. Some West Virginians actually consider this an unforgivable breach of loyalty and identity, and I’ve talked to people who’ve told me I can never be considered a “true” WVU fan again. That’s fine, I guess — I’m still allowed to shotgun Natty Lights in the Blue Lot when I make it back to Morgantown, right? Regardless of how I’m viewed by those back home who consider me a traitor, I’ll still be preaching the Gospel According to Dana here in Chicago to anyone who’ll listen.

What’s great about being a WVU fan? First, drinking. That goes without saying and requires no elaboration.

But being a WVU fan and seeing WVU succeed on the field is also something that gives many West Virginians, and I certainly include myself here, an unmatched sense of pride in the state. Sure, the vast majority of the roster is made up of kids from Florida, Texas, and other states (though in the rare cases where a West Virginian plays a notable role on the team, he becomes a veritable folk-hero-Mountaineer-demigod, and rightfully so). But the fact is that these out-of-state players come to WVU and knowingly choose to represent the state of West Virginia (Is it naive of me to think that? Probably, but whatever.); once a player gets to Morgantown, the state considers him a de facto West Virginian, and that’s that. We’re talking instant first-name basis familiarity.  Stedman, Tavon, and Geno may as well have grown up in Parkersburg, Clarksburg, and Martinsburg (rather than Miramar and Baltimore).

It’s odd (and maybe sad, I’m not sure), but the West Virginia athletic program is currently one of the only vehicles through which the state is able to garner positive national attention for itself on a regular basis (though of course, the program gets its fair share of negative attention as well). Ask someone from outside of West Virginia to tell you something positive about the state, and the answer will likely involve Pat White, Steve Slaton, or Major Harris. (The answer is not likely to involve education, median income, or health.) In addition to living with the real shortcomings of the current state of affairs in WV (and they are manifold, to be sure), West Virginians — both current residents and expats — also have to deal with outsiders’ imagined notions of the state. This basically involves having to prove to people  that you still have teeth and that you are able to read, and it often involves saying, “No, I have never met the banjo kid from Deliverance, and did you know that that movie/novel is actually set in Georgia?” That’s what happens when a.) a state has a certain historical reputation, and b.) people have little incentive to visit the state and be proven otherwise. So it goes.

All of that isn’t to say that all West Virginians actually care about outside perceptions; I can assure you that many don’t (this is paradoxically a great strength and a major weakness of the state as a whole). But still, the “backward” image persists and the stereotypes prevail, and autumn Saturdays give West Virginia — and West Virginians — a rare opportunity for superiority on the national stage. West Virginia football brings the state (excepting Marshall fans) together in a way that little else does. Most West Virginians are fiercely independent, skeptical, and even cynical (there’s no sense in trying to romanticize it any other way). But Saturdays in the fall bring everyone from Bluefield to Wheeling together in the hopes that their team will deliver the blows on behalf of a state so used to receiving them.

Oh yeah, there’s also Dana Holgerson and one of the most exciting offenses in college football. There’s also the fact that WVU has won three BCS bowls over major programs (Georgia, Oklahoma, Clemson). There’s also the legendary Quincy Wilson touchdown against Miami in 2002 (see below), which is one of my greatest football memories ever. I could go on for a while, but I think I’ll go drink a beer and watch some highlights.

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Matt’s Least Favorite of the Big 12: Kansas State

Editor’s Note: Another week, another conference. This time, Matt and Vincent talk about favorites and least favorites in the Big 12.

By Matt Waller

Having grown up in West Virginia and been a lifelong WVU fan, most of my WVU-related hatred (which is different from my ND-related hatred; more on that in the Big 10 week) is reserved for old Big East rivals, namely Pitt and Virginia Tech. But now that WVU is in the Big 12, new rivalries will emerge. Since WVU is so geographically removed from the rest of the conference, its new rivalries will develop based on something other than geographic proximity, unlike what happened in the Big East with the Pitt and VT rivalries. What will spur the new rivalries? And who is emerging as a potential new rival? My vote for the new rival is Kansas State, because I think KSU sees a little too much of itself in the tired stereotypes about WVU and is responding by directing a bunch of hate WVU’s way. Looking at some comments from the KSU fanbase on the fan forum www.goemaw.com (it seems like a real font of wisdom) leading up to last year’s game against WVU (see below: click the image and then enlarge it to make it readable), I’ve gotta say: KSU, thou doth protest too much.

I know it’s rash to generalize about an entire school based on the comments of some select idiot fans in an online forum, but in this case, I couldn’t help it. The comments in the screenshot below have officially made Kansas State my least favorite team in the Big 12. To quickly summarize the comment thread: the original poster wonders if Kansas State traveling to Morgantown to play WVU will irreparably tarnish KSU’s image, now that KSU has “spent far too many years building it up to be in line with the notre dame and alabamas of the world” (I can’t tell if this is a serious comment or not, considering it took Big 12 games being shown on FX to get KSU anything resembling consistent airtime…). What results a pretty massive troll-job involving a series of comments in which KSU fans decry WVU in an attempt to defend their own notions of KSU as an elite program (“I say let’s give them a break. They’ve never played anyone as elite as us before.” Note: In the prior seven seasons, WVU had won three BCS bowls, against Georgia, Oklahoma, and Clemson.) and elite academic institution. The comments are, of course, full of the usual stereotypes: toothless hillbillies, poor, drug addicted, etc. It’s hard to tell who is being serious and who isn’t being serious in their comments, but it’s pretty absurd nonetheless.


Could it be, though, that Kansas State fans realize that their own town/program/fanbase/school have reputations very similar to WVU’s and, correspondingly, they need to deflect those ideas onto someone else? That’d be my guess (this post gives a quick summary of the irony involved in this whole thing). Both KSU and WVU are located in small, out-of-the way towns; neither school is academically remarkable; both programs are fairly new to the “elite” ranks of college football (though WVU, unfortunately, appears to be falling out of that category pretty quickly)  and are concerned with how to project themselves; both too often end up being the butt of jokes. So, perhaps a new rivalry will be defined by a shared loathing arising from each school seeing the worst of itself in the other. I’m sure that, like WVU fans, most KSU fans are decent, respectful people whose reputation gets sullied by the actions of just a few. I’ll also add that I very much respect what Bill Stewart has done to establish KSU as a legit college football program. Either way, unless something changes dramatically, KSU has earned its place as my least favorite team in the Big 12. And I must say, it feels good to have someone to replace Pitt in my ranks of the disliked.

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