After the Mountainjeers fall silent …

By J.M. Comer

I’d like to take the time, as a diversion, to revisit my experience as an Auburn fan visiting Morgantown, W.Va., in October for the first ever Tiger-Mountaineer meeting.

I hope that at this point, as the “Season of DEATH” lies smoking in ruins, that this observation will not be seen as sour grapes.

In fact since I moved to the mid-Atlantic region and before this season’s meeting of Auburn and West Virginia, I’d always rooted for the Mountaineers (the reason is sort of like the way I relate to people from New Jersey) — because people from Alabama, like West Virginia and New Jersey, seem to be the butt of jokes. People turn their noses down on us all. I can sympathize and relate to our shared regional plight.

I met three awesome Mountaineer fans. That’s it. Please see the photo below for one such awesome fan.

mountaineer
Big Sexy gives a Mountaineer superfan a little taste of the tiger before the game.

Superfan (not the real school mascot Mountaineer! He made the getup himself) drove down from Pittsburgh to see his team. I didn’t ask if he killed a beast, skinned it and tanned his own leather for the costume. He was kind enough to pose for countless photos. He was sharp as a tack. He had witty retorts. Auburn fans shared beers with him and I’m pretty sure that an Auburn fan sold or gave him a ticket because he was sitting in the visiting section once the game started. I can’t say enough good things about this dude. Learn from the master. He will lead you through the wilderness. A true Mountaineer.

Another great Mountaineer fan, around the age of 50 or so, and his wife asked about the whole “War Eagle” thing. He sat in a Jeep, wearing a black beret and drinking a tall Miller Light. We went back and forth in our pregame predictions and left smiling. A good guy.

Another older Mountaineer gentleman in his 70s stopped us and asked if we were finding our way around all right. He gave us directions to a restaurant that the Auburn Alumni Club was gathering. It was still daylight at this point in the evening. I think this older gentleman feared for our safety, glancing nervously over our shoulders at the setting sun. I think he wanted to warn us of what we were in for. Like the folks at the “Slaughtered Lamb” said:

werewolf
“Boys, keep off the moors. Stay on the road.”

So to those three people, I thought I’d tip my hat to you. Thanks for being courteous fans.

Also, the Mountaineer fans in the stadium were an impressive sight. We, as Auburn fans, could learn a few things from their enthusiasm. It looked like every man, woman and child wore yellow and stood the entire game. West Virginia’s first-down cheer is fun to watch and it seemed everyone in the place took part (and believe me, I got to see it in action a lot). In sharp contrast the Auburn woman behind me in the stands (she looked to be in good health) asked me not to stand so much when Auburn was successful. She couldn’t see because she sat on her ass the whole game. I decided to move, I was so pissed off at her request.

I’m sure that a football game in West Virginia is the only show for miles around. People get INTO it. They blow off some steam.

But I have to offer criticism. MUCH CRITICISM: To the other thousands of fans that offered us the “creative” greeting of “Fuck you” (I thought it was your team’s official university-sanctioned cheer since I heard it so much) that acted like they hadn’t seen a real woman in years (I guess they are hard to come by in that shitburgh town you call home), if you are fortunate enough to come to see Auburn play and beat your team next year, please take notes on how a visiting team is treated at the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

I know that most will say, “That’s the way visiting fans are treated all over. You bought the ticket, take the ride. Haven’t you ever visited Baton Rouge or Gainesville?”

I have visited Gainesville as a visiting fan. I plan to visit Baton Rouge someday. At night, if I can. I’ve seen both sets of fans in Auburn and never seen the sort of stuff that went on that cold night in October.

Auburn has a history with the teams of the SEC. There is a rivalry there. Fans are passionate when rivalries are involved.

This year, Auburn played West Virginia FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

Also, THERE WAS NOTHING AT STAKE in the game. Both teams were limping into the contest.

My conclusion: I know its been said many times before, I think West Virginia fans are just assholes, by and large.

But why? Is it a chip on their shoulder? It can’t be because of Auburn’s stature in this particular instance. The past few years the Mountaineers have been just as successful, if not MORE successful than the football program at Auburn.

Did the average Mountaineer fan see the Auburn fan as some blue-blood visitors? If so, they are very mistaken. It was a match up of a historical agriculture school vs. a school built from coal mining. Both schools are a lot alike. (Their fans? Not so much.)

Is it an SEC vs. Big East thing? Maybe. Mountaineer fans, were you representing the pricks of your conference that night? You did a fine job if that was your intention. You beat us soundly on the field. Why the extracurricular activity?

My theory at this point is that Mountaineer fans have observed and adopted the antics and methods of Philadelphia sport fans (spend some time around a large group of Eagles fans and you’ll understand). Philly is not too far away to the east (over the mountains and through the woods and you are there). Are Pittsburgh sports fans the same way? It’s the closer city, but I really like most of the Steeler fans that I’ve met. And I love, love, love Pittsburgh. It’s a great town.

Another theory that I’ve got rattling around in my brain: The average Mountaineer fan doesn’t know any better. The mountain campus is very insular. It’s bred into them. “Son, don’t eat the whole pepperoni roll. Save half of it to throw at the visitors. You’ll make your old man proud.” Years and years of seeing the prickish behavior of their forefathers … it’s all they know.

Auburn fans, on Sept. 19, 2009, I implore you to take the ignorant West Virginia masses in arm as they visit. Please show them how to tailgate and how fans down South interact. It can be done with passion AND good humor. It’s the Auburn way. And after our Auburn Tigers whip the Mountaineers to a nothing more than an coonskin cap on a pile of animal skin, please show them no ill will as they file past to their cars. It will be a long drive home for them.

War Eagle!

11 Comments

Filed under Diversions / Investigations, Features, General

11 responses to “After the Mountainjeers fall silent …

  1. B2theB

    It should also be noted that your “superfan” sporting the WVU t-shirt on his hip is proudly flaunting the logo of a company headquarted only 30 miles from Auburn. WDE and thanks for helping our economy “superfan!”

  2. Brick

    As someone who has family that live about 40 miles from Morgantown, I can attest to the fact that not all Mountaineer fans are assholes. Like you pointed out, most Steeler fans are well behaved, especially compared to Philly fans, and since most Mountaineer fans are also Steeler fans, I doubt that explains their behavior.

    My thought is that most of the West Virginia faithful were reacting to our defensive coordinator, Paul Rhoads. Rhoads, you might remember, was the DC for the Mountaineers bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Panthers, last year. If that isn’t enough to rile them up, all WV fans need to do is think about the Backyard Brawl from last year.

    West Virginia entered the game ranked #1 in the Coaches Poll and #2 in the BCS standings. All they had to do was beat a mediocre Pitt team to get a spot in the BCS Championship Game. All Rhoads’ defense did was hold the Mountaineers, who at that time had the nation’s best offense in terms of ppg, to only 9 points in a 13-9 Pitt victory that crushed any chance of the Mountaineers playing for the national title. Since Auburn became home to the very man who cost the Mountaineers so much, I think all the hostility they feel towards Rhoads was passed onto Auburn’s football team and fans. Right or wrong, in the minds of the Mountaineers we are guilty by association or accessories after the fact.

  3. Robert

    Every time my folks and I attend Auburn games, we try to tell some of the visitors “Welcome to Auburn! Glad you’re here!”, etc. Most look at us, horrified that the opposing fans would be nice, even courteous, to them, especially the fans from other SEC schools.

    Do many of them return greetings? The older ones do, the younger ones have been heard to hurl a few obscenities at my folks, followed by myself requesting (nicely, through a tight grin!) to act like normal humans and return a greeting nicely!

    Oh, looks like Mr. Mountaineer already was on his ration of moonshine, looking for more!

  4. BD

    As an Auburn Alum who attended this game, I couldn’t agree with you more about the WVU fans. We went to Penn State vs Ohio State that Sat night and OSU fans were MILD in comparison to the jerks in Morgantown. I wasn’t expecting the friendliest atmosphere, but boy they must live very bitter lives.

  5. Jamie

    I’m a Pittsburgh native (and yes, I bleed Black & Gold) and I have to say that Morgantown is just a weird little patch of humanity. It’s 90 miles from Pittsburgh, but it feels like a whole world away. And WVU feels like everyone’s stepchild, based on its location. When I was growing up in Pgh and looking at colleges, it was well-known that WVU was the college of last resort for people who couldn’t get into any other school. So there’s that.

    I’ve lived in Alabama for several years now and have a daughter who will graduate from Auburn next year. Auburn and WVU are just a world apart in terms of atmosphere. It’s rolling Toomer’s Corner vs. burning sofas in Morgantown.

    Thanks for the kind words about Pittsburgh. It is a cool city with great sports fans. And like Auburn vs. WVU, it is COMPLETELY different from Philly (ugh).

  6. Brick — Your theory on hostility directed toward Paul Rhoads sounds better than any that I listed. I forgot all about that aspect of it.

    Robert — The older folks in Morgantown were at least quiet.

    BD — I was hoping to have a good time in Morgantown myself. I seriously doubt I’ll ever go back there.

    Jamie — I try to spread the word about Pittsburgh. I go there for a weekend at least once a year. I like to go up to Mount Washington and take in the spectacular scene — the rivers, yellow bridges, stadiums and downtown. No one believes me when I say that the city is beautiful. And PNC Park is one of the best baseball stadiums in the country. What a great experience. The city closes off Roberto Clemente Bridge and you can walk over from downtown. Sometimes there are post-game fireworks shot from a barge in the river. A great view of downtown and the river from the upper seats behind the first base side. It’s my second favorite baseball stadium behind Camden Yards.

  7. Trey

    Good read. I’m a big Auburn fan and live in Tampa, FL. I attended a South Florida home game this past season when they played Kansas. It was a great game but I witnessed some of the same actions you seen WVU fans displaying. I think a big part of it is the fact that USF doesn’t play their games at a campus site. Meaning the selling of beer is legal and boy does it flow.

  8. aumd87

    I was at that game and those are my feelings exactly. I’ve never been treated so badly at an away game, even at Alabama or LSU. Hopefully Auburn fans give them a better welcome here next year.

  9. Robert

    J.M.- I gotta agree about the beauty of Pittsburgh. Went there in August of last year and was absolutely awed by the beauty of the city from Mount Washington, along the appropriately named Grandview Ave.

    Stayed in a hotel right behind PNC and down the street from Heinz Field. Great location! I wanna go back!

  10. Jamie

    JM,

    So true about PNC Park. I always think that it’s too bad the team isn’t better, because the ballpark is so cool. We get back there every summer to visit the family.

    I’m sure all those WVU fans who venture to Auburn next year will have a far more pleasant time than you had on their turf. Maybe they will learn something about how to treat visitors.

  11. Anthony

    Hello All,

    If you have made it all the way to my comment perhaps you will be rewarded by my different perspective.
    I was at that game also, a WVU senior at the time. I must concur that there is a diffence between Auburn and Morgantown. At WVU, you root for the mountaineers. period. I don’t percieve booing an opposing team and its fans as a rude thing. But I’m talking a playful “booo,” not F you. I would say the majority of the fans drink on gamedays, and that probably explains the F you’s. If you come to Morgantown any other day not wearing any other college paraphernalia, I would be very surprised if you still said the people were rude.

    Congrats on the big win over us this year, JM. It really stings. My uncle made the trip, and he came back telling a tale of extreme niceness. And you know what, that is awesome. I think you guys got a great thing going down there with the nicety. Southern hospitality, I get it. But I just gotta say, thats not what you get in Morgantown on gameday. I am actually surprised that I am finding at other colleges, school pride does not manifest itself as absolute hatred for your opposition.

    Like I said before, its a gameday thing. If you come to Morgantown on peaceful, non-sport-related business and you are not wearing an Auburn Tigers tie or whatever, you will be welcomed with open arms. You can even stay at my place.

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