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.
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:
“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.