All right, sports fans, this week will be the fourth installment of the “Friends of Coal Bowl,” a football game, pitting the West Virginia Mountaineers against the Marshall Thundering Herd.
Now, why aren’t you on your feet cheering? Aren’t you excited? Aren’t you pumped?
Perhaps you are simply proving the point of my whole column, that nobody outside the state of West Virginia really cares anything about this series.
Occasionally, you will even hear someone—generally West Virginia governor, Joe Manchin—saying, “This series is good for the state.”
Perhaps somebody will actually attempt to explain that statement to me.
I just don’t buy it!
Only in the political arena—not in the football stadium—does that statement truly make any sense.
Moreover, I completely reject the idea that this series does anything significant for the Mountain State whatsoever.
All it does is give the fans of one program a year’s bragging rights over the fans of the other’s program.
If West Virginia is playing in Morgantown and Marshall is playing in Huntington on the same football Saturday, then their respective cities and businesses stand to gain more money from that situation, than from having those two in-state programs playing on the same day, in the same town.
Obviously, bringing a couple of visiting programs into the state on a football Saturday would generate the infusion of more out-of-state money into the state and local economies, than by scheduling a meeting of in-state rivals.
Those are clearly the facts.
Although the current situation will obviously not continue indefinitely, Marshall has never beaten the Mountaineers in football.
Unlike the West Virginia-Pitt matchups, this football series has no real national implications. It has not been competitive; it does not look to be competitive at any point in the near future.
It is for those reasons that nobody outside the state of West Virginia has any real interest in televising this football game.
Unlike some West Virginia fans, I certainly have nothing against the Marshall football program. In fact, as a native-born West Virginian, I proudly admit to pulling for the Thundering Herd since the days of my early childhood. Even today, I still root for them in eleven football games a season.
But not this week.
Moreover, if you have read one of my earlier columns, then you will know that I am someone who still remembers the Marshall plane crash. I was greatly touched by the tragedy and the impact it made on all our lives at that time.
And like many of us, I was thrilled to see Matthew McConaughey and Hollywood revisit the tragedy and the triumph of the Marshal experience. It was a great and inspirational movie. It was a fitting memorial to a dark day in collegiate sports.
When Marshall won their first I-AA football championship, in 1992, over a Jim Tressel-coached Youngstown State, I was sitting right there in front of my television, happily enjoying that proud moment for all West Virginians! And I couldn’t watch the celebrations on the field without thinking of another time, when the people of Huntington thought they might never smile again.
As a proud West Virginian of that era, Marshall is special to me.
Should West Virginia play Marshall?
Playing this game probably makes as much sense as playing any other out-of-conference game with a non-BCS foe. I certainly have no problem with it, unless of course, it takes away another home game from the Mountaineer football schedule.
If this game is going to be played, then it should be scheduled by the officials of both schools, without any outside interference from the governor.
The game is important to West Virginia in much the same way that the East Carolina game was important to them. Other than that, it holds no real significance.
Nashville’s country music recording artist, John Anderson, recorded a song that states, “I’m just an old lump of coal now, Lord, but I’m going to be a diamond some day.”
We are only kidding ourselves if we think that anybody outside the state really gives two cents about this football game West Virginia and Marshall!
This lump of coal is certainly a long way from making a trip to the jeweler’s!