A couple of years ago, I made the statement to my wife that my priorities in this life were faith, family, and football—in that order. She immediately questioned my order on a couple of them.
I made the case that family and football are almost the same thing.
When I was a child, my father and older brother cheered for the Cleveland Browns. My younger brother and I were fans of the Bengals. After church on Sundays—and I did say after church—we would sit there and watch the games on television.
In two football games every year, the Bengals and the Browns played each other. During these games, there was a lot of fun, laughs, and good-natured ribbing. I guess you could say we were “talking trash” even before they actually coined the term for what we were doing. These were truly some of the best times I remember as a child, all of us together in one room at one time.
Football and family were inseparable. They went together like sausage and pepperoni.
Every year, I scratch and scrape to purchase a pair of season tickets to watch West Virginia football. From my earliest days, my dad instilled in me a love for Mountaineer football. Clearly they are my favorite team.
Although I occasionally take a friend to one game a season, my other ticket is generally used by a member of my family. My children go with me. My dad goes with me. My wife usually pulls rank on everyone else by claiming the homecoming game as exclusively her own.
Football does not just belong to me; It belongs to my family.
It is my hope that one day that I can also introduce my grandchildren to the wonders of Mountaineer Field and the love that I have for my team. Football and family are inseparable.
Outside Touchdown Terrace in Morgantown, there is an engraved brick that honors my late mother. It was a Christmas gift to my father, something to immortalize a wonderful woman in a place my family has so many fond memories. I never go to Morgantown without seeing that brick and thinking of my dear mom.
Football and family are inseparable.
I remember the game in 1984 when Doug Flutie, the eventual Heisman winner, failed to beat the West Virginia Mountaineers in his last visit to Morgantown. After Boston College went ahead 20-6 right before halftime, the Mountaineers won the game 21-20. My dad took me to that game.
I remember the great touchdown run by Major Harris against Penn State in 1988 on a broken play. The Mountaineers won that game 51-30. I took my dad to that game. And we still talk about it twenty years later.
West Virginia defeated Syracuse in 1988 in the final game of the year to complete an undefeated season. I took my brother-in-law to that game and watched the Mountaineer players come back out of the locker room and do a victory lap around the field and shake hands with the people in the stands. It was a scene I will never forget.
On a chilly day in Morgantown in 1993, Don Nehlen’s Mountaineer squad beat the hated Miami Hurricanes 17-14. My brother-in-law, a Miami fan, was there to watch it with me.
My wife and I were at the Louisville game in 2005, when West Virginia waged a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. When the starting quarterback was injured, Pat White entered the game and became a legend. The Mountaineers won that game in three overtimes. She was new to the idea of being hugged by total strangers.
My daughter and I were in Morgantown in 2006, when Jarrett Brown, the back-up quarterback to Pat White, led the Mountaineers to a triple overtime victory over Rutgers.
The last two road games that West Virginia has played in Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, my son and I were there to see those two Mountaineer victories. I have never been to a Mountaineer game in Cincinnati with anyone else. That is something special that we share.
My other son went with us, and introduced his young wife to Mountaineer football, in a victory over Connecticut one night in chilly Morgantown.
These great moments in Mountaineer history are remembered fondly by me, not just because they happened to my favorite team. I remember them because I shared these great moments with precious members of my family.
Football and family are inseparable.
The long passes, the great runs, the super catches, the goal line stands, the interceptions returned for touchdowns, the sacked quarterbacks, and the sounds of the packed stadium—all of these things are forever imprinted on my mind.
However, I am also unable to forget the ones who shared these moments with me.
It matters not what football team you root for, many of you also share dozens of your favorite football memories with your loved ones. The great games and the marvelous memories—they go hand-in-hand.
The memories take you to another time. The memories take you to another place. And best of all, the memories often take you home.
That is because football and family are inseparable.