College football fans in West Virginia have always been "a house divided" when it comes to cheering on the state's only two FBS (Football Bowl Subdivsion) football teams.
Most of the fine folks in West Virginia will lean toward being a West Virginia Mountaineers fan and despising the Thundering Herd of Marshall. Others will choose to trample any Mountaineer that steps in the way of the Herd.
Still, many fans want to see both teams do well, at least until the two teams compete against each other.
Saying that, it is not always easy for a football fan from West Virginia to support any team other than the one in which he or she truly holds to heart.
I, myself fall into the last of the three categories, with WVU being the team I choose to put at the top of my list.
I have attended football games at Mountaineer Field for a few years and have been quite proud of the support that is given to the home team. However, there have been a couple times in which I was disappointed in the fans for failure to show courtesy to the visiting team.
I recall the—three overtime—victory over the Louisville Cardinals in 2005 in Morgantown. I purchased my tickets late and was seated in the visitors section, with the fans for the UofL.
As you may recall, those of us clad in old gold and blue were not too happy for most of the game. Though their team was certainly headed toward victory, the Cardinal fans were quite courteous in their banter.
As the score began to rise in the home team's favor, the visiting fans did not lose their cool—though their team ended up losing the game.
They were courteous and congratulatory as John Denver's "Country Roads" played on the loudspeaker—following the WVU victory.
I was quite impressed until—while walking through the crowd toward the car—I heard several students from WVU's "Mountaineer Maniacs" yell profanities in a derogatory manner—at the Louisville fans.
I was now quite embarrassed.
It was at that point I realized that maybe the younger Mountaineer fans could use a lesson in humility.
That would indeed happen in years to come, with games against Pitt, South Florida and Louisville—the following season.
I say all of that to say this.
I have never been as proud—of all of the Mountaineer fans—as I am, following the game in Morgantown on Oct. 24th, 2009.
The visiting UConn Huskies had just lost their star cornerback—Jasper Howard—to a violent incident the prior Saturday.
After a record-setting victory performance against Louisville, Howard was stabbed to death—following a Homecoming Dance on the UConn campus.
The UConn team and fans came to Milan Puskar Stadium with more than heavy hearts—having not even laid to rest the body of their fallen teammate, friend, and brother.
The Mountaineer fans, including the student section—Mountaineer Maniacs—were more than affable.
Prior to the game, wristbands and pins were handed out in memory of the slain football player. There was a moment of silence as the teams stood face to face in the middle of the field and chills went over by body as the whole stadium was filled with cheers as the Huskies emerged from the locker room.
The players from West Virginia wore a decal displaying the number six —Howard’s jersey number—on their helmets.
The video board displayed a picture of Jasper Howard and both Huskies and Mountaineers fans held up six fingers, during the playing of "Country Roads" following the West Virginia victory.
I was touched as I exited the stadium and was able to exchange a high five and a "good game" greeting with a UCONN fan.
This time, it was much more rewarding sitting in the visitor's section.
Thank you Mountaineers fans. Thank you Huskies fans. Thank you Jasper Howard.
"It's a great day to be a Mountaineer, wherever you may be"