Thursday, April 26, 2012

Proud to be a public servant

The General Services Administration (GSA) hit the news first with their shameful conference excesses in Las Vegas, and then the Secret Service gets caught with prostitutes while traveling in Columbia. It’s never a good time for government employees to do stupid things, but in today’s economy and political climate, it is even worse. As a government employee myself, the behaviors displayed in these incidents during the past week make me sick.

I just want to urge everyone to realize that for every screw-up like these idiots perpetrated, there are lots of dedicated public servants who realize we are working with taxpayers’ dollars. I make every effort to reduce travel expenses when I must go somewhere for work.

I’m actually on travel as I write this. I’m sitting in a suburban Holiday Inn after riding a low-cost bus to DC (see my previous Megabus essay at This clean but basic hotel is in an “office park” area with nothing interesting nearby. However, it does offer a free shuttle van to the subway station about 15 minutes away. The only advantage to staying here is that the rates are about half of the authorized amount to stay in the DC area. I’m saving big bucks by riding the Megabus to Union Station, catching a Red Line Metro train, transferring to the Green Line, riding to the end of the line, and then calling for the shuttle bus to drive me several miles to the hotel. [Please note that I don’t report all the expenses I could, such as the cost of the subway fares, nor do I seek overtime pay if traveling requires a longer day—technically, I could claim these expenses, but this is part of my personal effort to cut costs.]

I consider it a privilege to be a public servant. I was always interested in government, and I’m proud to do my best for my fellow taxpayers. I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s degree in public administration, and a law degree. Had I only been interested in money, I could have earned a lot more in a traditional legal career, but I chose the public sector. I’m proud to work for the American government and to serve my fellow citizens.

I learned about government from intelligent and, indeed, patriotic teachers from high school through college and grad/law school. Unlike some people who landed a federal job just because it was a steady job during a time when jobs are in short supply, I trained and longed for the opportunity to work for my government. [Some of you may recall the essay I wrote ( about taking my oath of office.]

I know American history, I realize the sacrifices that others have made, and I understand how we have progressed over time (I also made sure my students learned some of these things in my part-time job teaching college classes). I may be biased, but I think those of us whose educational background prepared us to be public servants do a better job than other college majors can do as government employees. In my mind, MPAs make better government employees than MBAs.

Thus, please don’t assume that every horror story you hear about government employees wasting your tax dollars applies to all of us. There are lots of dedicated employees who don’t make the news, because the vast majority of us are NOT wasting taxpayer money.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A dozen of my favorite Mountaineer plays

After writing about my favorite dozen Mountaineer games (see previous blog posting below), I decided to also write about the dozen best plays that come to mind for me. As with the best games, it was hard to limit it to just twelve, but despite lots of other good ones, these are the ones that mean the most to me.

1. The 1988 Penn State game at Mountaineer Field saw the most memorable play ever. Major Harris actually rolled the wrong way, forcing him to elude seven tacklers without blockers, and he did it. In Mountaineer lore, this run is known simply as “The Play” and deserves this simple title.

2. This huge victory over Penn State included another memorable play. With a big lead at the end of the second quarter, Nehlen called a simple draw play to run off the last few seconds before halftime. However, Undra Johnson was able to run about 70 yards to add one more touchdown to our insurmountable lead. After getting kicked around by PSU since 1955 (aside from a close victory in 1984), they needed a good beatdown. A game this great deserves two of the greatest plays.

3. One of the most outstanding debuts was when Amos Zereoue got his very first collegiate carry in 1996. It was an away game against Pitt, and his first run went for 69 yards and a touchdown. We knew he would be a good running back from the very start.

4. The Mountaineers played the Hurricanes in Miami in 2003, and almost knocked off Miami thanks to an incredible catch and run. Quincy Wilson caught a screen pass, ran through some tacklers, and then absolutely crushed a defensive back who tried to stop him (even leaping over him after the initial hit). This incredible touchdown run was bittersweet, however, because Kellen Winslow made a circus catch not long afterwards allowing Miami to retake the lead as the game ended.

5. Against Rutgers on a rainy day in Jersey back in 2007, the Mountaineers won big. As always in the Pat White/Steve Slaton era, there were numerous great plays, but one stands out, even though it wasn’t a touchdown. WVU’s big fullback, Owen Schmitt, actually jumped over top of a Rutgers defender who, as a result, completely missed him. It wasn’t the only time that Owen displayed his vertical jumping talents, but it was the most memorable.

6. After upsetting Pitt on their home field in 2002, the Panthers were seeking revenge in the 2003 edition of the “Backyard Brawl.” However, WVU beat them again on this Thanksgiving night, and the best play was an unbelievable catch in the endzone on a fourth down play just before halftime by native West Virginian John Pennington.

7. Another native West Virginian in 1994 had a game winning catch—from a native West Virginian quarterback, no less! The Backyard Brawl was crazy that year, with the lead going back and forth, but with a few seconds left in the game, Chad Johnston found Zack Abraham with a long bomb that won the game.

8. WVU’s undefeated season in 1993 almost didn’t happen, as BC held at 14-10 lead with about a minute to go at Boston in the season finale. However, receiver Ed Hill made an incredible catch in the end zone to give us a 17-14 victory (the same 17-14 score as several of our other biggest victories, like the Pitt game in 1975, or the Penn State game in 1984, or the Miami game in 1993—another fantastic game during that undefeated season).

9. In 1983, Jeff Hostetler beat Pitt with a bootleg run at the end of the game at Mountaineer Field. Pitt was a huge power in those days, and except for the 1975 upset at Old Mountaineer Field, they generally beat us. This play was an incredible memory for those of us who were there, as “Hoss” got down on a knee in the end zone to give thanks.

10. The 1983 victory at Boston College saw a touchdown on a fake punt. Fullback Ron Wolfley took advantage of BC’s alignment to call for the snap to go to him rather than the punter. He rambled for 67 yards to help us beat Doug Flutie on his home turf. [Of course, the fake punt in the 2006 Sugar Bowl also comes to mind.]

11. The 2007 Gator Bowl saw the “frozen line” touchdown in our win against Georgia Tech. The offensive line had been coached to keep their stance if someone jumped offside, but the center could snap the ball early if an opponent jumped—in order to get a penalty. It often confused the other side to see our lineman not move, but even though there is an offsides flag, the play is supposed to continue. In this case, Tito Gonzales streaked down the sidelines, and Pat White threw the bomb. It was a memorable touchdown!

12. In 2002, just as Rodriguez was getting the Mountaineers successful again, we played 12th ranked Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. With only about a minute to go, the Gobblers were ready to take the lead, with the ball just a few inches short of the goal line. However, Grant Wiley slashed through the line and tackled their runner several yards deep in the backfield on fourth down. It was an incredible defensive play that saved the game for us.
The view from our seats of the "Pride of West Virginia" marching band in the "Flying WV" formation at Mountaineer Field before a night game.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A dozen of my favorite Mountaineer games

I’m still savoring the WVU victory in the Orange Bowl a few months back. I was fortunate to see that game in person, and it was wonderful. I’ve attended ten WVU bowl games, and six of them were losses, so I thoroughly appreciate it when they win.

I got thinking recently about WVU football (now that basketball season is over), and decided to make a few lists to share with my friends. Here is my list of the dozen best WVU games I’ve ever seen. Not all of them were viewed in person, but all of them have special meaning to me.

1. Orange Bowl 2012 – This was part of a “bucket list” trip for me, as we drove all the way to Key West before coming back to Miami for the game. It was great to see so many things “go right” for my team. While there were many highlights, I was pleased to see Willie Millhouse get a touchdown. He was a walk-on who transferred from Duquesne for his senior season because he felt he could play football at a top level school.

2. Syracuse 1988 – This was the last game of the ’88 season, and Syracuse was having a good year as well. By winning the game, WVU had completed its first undefeated season. The players had already headed to the locker room, but the crowd was still cheering. So Coach Nehlen brought the team back out to take a “victory lap” around the walls of the stadium. It was a magical night!

3. Penn State 1988 – After enduring a loss each season to Penn State since 1955, it was cathartic to finally beat the Nittany Lions in 1984. But this overwhelming victory a few years later included an all-time classic that is referred to simply as “the play,” when Major Harris eluded about half a dozen PSU tacklers on his way to the end zone. Best of all, it was broadcast on national TV, and proved that WVU had a powerful team that year.

4. Oklahoma 1982 – This was an away game, so I didn’t see it in person. However, WVU fans were glued to their radios to hear Jack and Woody call this big game. After defeating the Florida Gators in the Peach Bowl at the end of the previous season, everyone had high hopes for this opener, even if it was against perennial powerhouse Oklahoma (and on their home turf). I was a student then, and walked from my apartment to law school by going by the Facilities Building at the end of the stadium. One day prior to the Oklahoma game, I just happened to cross paths with Coach Nehlen. I got to speak briefly with him, wishing him luck against the Sooners. I spent that Saturday afternoon washing and waxing my 1975 Datsun B-210 hatchback, while I listened to the game. It was so incredible that we knocked off the Sooners!

5. 2000 Music City Bowl – WVU was invited to play nearby Ol’ Miss in Nashville. Coach Nehlen had already announced his retirement, so we were all hoping he could get a victory in his final game. I’ll never forget our big fullback Wes Ours rambling for a long touchdown in the first half. We had a big lead at halftime, and had held their star running back Deuce McCallister in check, but later in the second half, the Rebels put a freshman quarterback into the game who displayed a lot of talent got them back in the game. WVU ended up winning the game, but their quarterback went on to become an NFL star. His name was Eli Manning (his dad Archie had also gone to Ol’ Miss). One thing I remember about this game is how WVU fans were so prevalent at the parade the night before, but the Rebel fans rolled in on gameday, outnumbering us. I also remember freezing at the game! After the game, we walked across the river and went to a Nashville Predators hockey game. It was a fun trip!

6. Pitt 1975 – I’ve written before about where I was during this classic Mountaineer game (see Although I wasn’t inside the stadium, we could hear the roar of the crowd. It was great to beat the Pitt Panthers and their star running back Tony Dorsett (regardless of how he pronounced his name at that time).

7. Gator Bowl 2007 – After going to Jacksonville and previously seeing us get beat by Maryland and Florida State, it was fantastic to finally see a victory. It was a close and exciting game with Georgia Tech, which made the win that much better. The best part was stopping in Savannah on the way home, and having more than one native make a comment (when seeing our WVU gear) that it seems we always win (after beating the Georgia Bulldogs the previous year). [By the way, we had not attended that Sugar Bowl game in Atlanta because we were on a cruise ship—which also had a lot of Georgia Bulldog fans. Unfortunately, the game was not televised on the ship, so we were all relegated to reading the scores that scroll through on the bottom of ESPN. I was elated that we won, but it was exasperating to “watch” a game through the score crawler!]

8. Meineke Bowl 2008 – In a packed stadium, WVU and the North Carolina Tarheels put on a close game, but Pat White and company came out on top in his final game as a Mountaineer. There were enough folks from West Virginia to keep this from being a “home game” for UNC. I’ve written a previous blog posting about this game at One of the best parts of this day was that it was a double victory—the basketball upset Ohio State on television that night.

9. Peach Bowl 1969 – The Mountaineers defeated South Carolina on a rainy night in Georgia. What makes this game so memorable to me was that it was the first time I ever got to see the Mountaineers. The game was televised, and I seem to remember watching it at my grandmother’s house. I had often listened to the Mountaineers on the radio, but this was my first time to see them on TV. In the coming seasons, I would get my chance to see them play in person at Old Mountaineer Field.

10. USF 2008 – This was the final regular season game of the year, and was Pat White’s final game at Mountaineer Field. Although the visiting team normally wears white, USF had graciously agreed to allow WVU to wear their white jerseys as a tribute to White. The game was designated as a “Whiteout” with fans encouraged to wear white (instead of the normal school colors) to honor Pat White for his outstanding career. Unfortunately, the weather was terribly cold and snowing that night. The ground crew actually swept a large number 5 from the snow on the field as their tribute to him. Luckily, we had prepared for the game by making a run to Gabriel’s to buy cheap and super large white t-shirts to wear over our winter coats. It was great to win the game, but it was even better to get back home and thaw out.

11. Fiesta Bowl 2008 – I didn’t attend this game in person, but watched on TV as the Mountaineers upset the heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners. No one thought we could do it, but we did it. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time we defeat the Sooners, now that we are in their conference. One of my favorite memories from this game was Owen Schmitt running for one of his touchdowns in his last game. He was a very special Mountaineer!

12. The Flutie Games – I’m bending the rules by counting these four games as one, because we beat Boston College star quarterback Doug Flutie each year. His years coincided with my years as a student at WVU. In 1981, he was not a starter, and didn’t factor into the game (I think he did get some plays at the end of the game, which was not televised from Boston, so I listened to Jack and Woody). By his sophomore year, he was already getting some national attention as this short QB with a rifle arm, but we beat him at Mountaineer Field. The next year, he was getting even more attention, and ABC televised the game from Boston (we watched at a sports bar in the Cheat Lake area). I remember them interviewing the House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill, who was in attendance to see another BC win behind the leadership of Doug Flutie. However, WVU pulled the upset that day. Finally, in the 1984 season (when he went on to win the Heisman Trophy), he came to Morgantown expecting to win but lost a hard-fought game. I was there in person, but also listening to the local coverage of the game, and can still recall how excited Jack Fleming was during the numerous sacks we got—“They got Flutie! They got Flutie!” Doug Flutie still admits that he has one regret in his career—that he never beat West Virginia (

This shows a sea of gold-clad fans outside the stadium awaiting the "Mountaineer Mantrip"--the team's entrance walk before the game. [I added some red arrows showing the pathway for the team.]