Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Ode to Loyalty

I’m glad I am a loyal fan, and not a fair-weather fan. I was born a West Virginian, and much of my identity is tied to my native state. I spent four years at its flagship institution of higher learning and have attended most home games since my student days (when I often watched from the grassy bowl behind the north end zone where the luxury boxes are today). However, my dad had taken me to games at old Mountaineer Field long before the new stadium was built.

Fair-weather fans spent the last week griping about our football team. They didn’t bother to go to the stadium yesterday. Long ago I quit checking out message boards and some fan sites because I hate listening to them. Their negative attitudes and energies probably affect other parts of their lives. I just can’t imagine it being much fun to be one of them.

Instead, I support my team whether they win or lose. They are my team. They represent my home state—and I can’t change that. Although this particular essay focuses on football, it really applies to all WVU teams—I try to support all of them (and loved watching the volleyball team get their first Big 12 victory on Friday night at the Coliseum). It is better when they win, but sometimes they lose—and I’ve learned to accept that. I think life is better that way.

Life often has its ups and downs, just like sports teams. You have to be able to survive the bad to enjoy the good. Losing can be character building. I believe winning every single time would corrupt your soul. Plus, there are few things better than when you are the underdog and surprise the big dogs. Yesterday was one of those moments.

Oklahoma State was undefeated and the highest ranked Big 12 team. They had a bye last weekend and probably watched the Mountaineers lay an egg against Maryland that Saturday. Being the loyal fans we are, we had followed our team to Baltimore and (except for a brief part of the first quarter) sat through most of that game in a miserable rain. It wasn’t fun!

Unlike the fair-weather fans, I wasn’t clamoring to fire the coach. I wasn’t griping about the players, or complaining about the Athletic Director. Things simply aren’t that bad. Some so-called fans have been spoiled by West Virginia’s successes during this new century. I’ve been around long enough to know it isn’t always that way. I’ve learned that suffering through the realities of a losing season helps make you appreciate the winning seasons that much more. I’ll never forget how great it was to finally beat Penn State!

Good fans give their teams some slack. It takes time and nobody wins every game (not even our multi-time NCAA Championship rifle team—which I have also watched). Hang in there during rough times, and often your loyalty will be rewarded. It may not be as soon as you want, but life moves in cycles, and your day will come. This is one of the life lessons that sports can teach you, and why sports became a part of collegiate education.

There are still a lot of games left, and this year’s team still has a lot of things they need to work on to be a consistently strong team. Hopefully they will continue to improve. They may or may not make it to a bowl game again this year—but I’ll be supporting them every step of the way. Plus, if they don’t, there is always next year!

In the meantime, you will find me at the stadium, cheering along with thousands of others to support our team. I hope many of you will join me, because all these student athletes wearing the West Virginia uniforms deserve our support.

Finally, I just want to point out to the fair-weather fans that they missed one of the greatest moments in the life of a fan. There is nothing better after a big win than singing “Country Roads” with an entire stadium. I will long treasure that moment yesterday, hugging Anna on one side and my daughter on the other, as we swayed together while belting out this signature song for West Virginia after a stressful but ultimately satisfying day. I’m glad I was there! Montani Semper Liberi!

I didn't take any pictures at the football game yesterday, but here is a picture of the big volleyball game Friday night. At the end of each timeout, the team members all join together with hands pointing skyward--all for one and one for all! Go Mountaineers!

1 comment:

  1. If you liked this story, be sure to check out the posting I made earlier this year at