1 Shining Moment For a 2-Sided State

There’s something I’d like to do before I die.

As lifelong ambitions go, it’s not decadent or even particularly grand. But it is something I have no control over, and so the self-actualized, better Spocks of my nature think it’s silly. They’d prefer I not talk about it, and prior to this writing, I never have.

Before I die, I’d like to wake up early in the morning and fight a searing headache to the local newsstand to buy a paper. The front-page will be one that might have gone to press in 1988 or 1993 or 2006, but didn’t; one that will have kept a frame above my workbench waiting for a very long time. The newsprint will be stamped with images of breathless young men and tearful old ones. And it will say that West Virginia University has won the National Championship.

I’ll be happy to do this in January or April—turf and hardwood being equally worthy stages in my view. But no matter how cold the air, or how thick the pollen, I’ll make the errand last as long as it possibly can. I won’t expect to do it again.

I’ll also never expect to fully understand why this matters or what makes me reluctant to admit just how much.

———

Being a West Virginian is complicated. It’s a small state in a geographically inconvenient region, in a country obsessed with big and easy. Those who live there can be among the warmest, largest-hearted humans on the planet. By turns, they can also become the most guarded and suspicious. Wikipedia is happy to provide in-depth reasons for both, but for now let’s just say the mountains keep in as much as they shut out.

Growing up a West Virginian is complicated too, especially if you did it during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Born on the bridge between commercial and information ages, I formed my self-image amidst the same media landscape as anyone, anywhere else in the country. MTV looks the same in St. Albans as it does in St. Louis. The Internet is identical. As a teenager I bought Nikes, ate McDonald’s, stared at Cindy Crawford, and emerged from it all as generically “American” as the next guy. I was just like everyone else.

Except I wasn’t. Because the first time I showed my passport to board an international flight, the airline agent leaned across the counter and pretended to be surprised that I was wearing shoes. And because  I spent an entire semester convincing my college roommate that I couldn’t find him a jar of moonshine during winter break. And because, after realizing he never had to ask me to vote for him again, the Vice President of the United States figured the best way to “loosen up” a press conference was to make an incest joke at my expense.

You learn quickly to roll your eyes at exchanges like these. “Ridiculous,” you say beneath your breath.

Except it isn’t. My state is one of the poorest in the union. Had I asked around that Christmas, I probably could have procured a jar on my roommates’ behalf. And I certainly can’t claim to have never dropped a kissing cousins reference.

Stereotypes may be nurtured by the imagination, but they are not born of it. Every place has a reputation to contend with, and it’s not surprising that people think these things of West Virginia. It’s frustrating, however, that this is all they think of West Virginia.

That is, of course, provided they think anything in the first place. It’s alarming, the number of people who treat the very existence and whereabouts of your state as if they were trick questions. Offense is rarely intended, but this too gets old. There are only so many times you can say “No, not like Richmond,” and keep smiling politely. There’s even an old joke that claims God must have anticipated this because he enabled us to jog a person’s geographical memory and vent our indignation in a single gesture. Should new acquaintances dismiss or struggle to place our state, we can simply present the back of our hand with its thumb and middle finger extended. Vulgarities aside, a truer likeness can’t be drawn.

Coincidence or not, the gesture speaks volumes about the split personality West Virginians share. One part of you longs to prove yourself to the rest of country; the other has learned better than to give a damn what it thinks.

———

Four years ago, West Virginia University hired Bob Huggins to lead its men’s basketball program. You’d think I’d have been thrilled. A two-time academic All-American during his own four years at WVU, Huggins had since become the fourth winningest active coach in the college game. Without question, the odds of me making that sweet, drawn-out trip to the newsstand improved the day he walked back into the Coliseum. So why did I hold my breath?

Bob Huggins is complicated too. He wins, but does so toting considerable baggage. Public battles with university presidents, an unforgiving demeanor on the bench, and an embarrassing DUI conviction have smudged the coach’s image. Further clouding the picture is his own reticence to present his side of these and other complex stories. He could have challenged the NCAA’s byzantine and often unjust method of computing graduation rates.[1] He could have brought a reasoned voice to the increasingly cacophonous debate about what it should mean to be a scholar-athlete in today’s culture. This is not, after all, a frivolous man. Certain things matter very deeply to Bob Huggins. It’s just that being understood isn’t one of them.

The guy simply cannot be bothered with matters of perception. Consider, for a moment, the comfort-at-all-costs sideline attire. When he grew tired of sweating through the dress shirts, neckties, and sport coats worn by his contemporaries, the coach took to calling the shots in a nylon tracksuit. This sounds bad; it looks even worse. And the symbolism is, much as I hate to admit, one of the things that gave me pause about Huggins’s tenure at WVU. If there was one thing my image-addled state didn’t need, it was our highest paid employee showing up for work in sweatpants, refusing to wear a tie.

———

Homesickness may not be contagious, but for a disproportionate number of West Virginia natives, it is chronic. Though recent strides have been made to counter a legacy of out-migration, my state has always faced a steeper climb than most. In this part of the world, opportunity calls long distance, and, more often than not, we accept the charges. It is not a coincidence that the voice in Country Roads is singing from somewhere else, nor is it surprising that there are tears in his eyes. Rear-view mirrors just seem to flatter their subjects in ways windshields can’t. Hearts do, indeed, grow fonder.

Like myself, many of the friends I grew up with now live elsewhere. It’s been this way for nearly ten years, long enough for a pattern to emerge in our phone calls and at our reunions.  Within minutes of hello we’re one-upping each other with the quirks of our respective settings. The Midwesterner tries to remember the last time he nudged the steering wheel more than ten degrees; the Southerner emails snapshots of decimated grocery aisles on the eve of a two-inch “blizzard.” We shake our heads, charmed and grateful for our experiences in the wider world, indebted to those who’ve adopted us and labored to extend a sense of belonging. Then we confess what can’t be said around our new colleagues, friends and spouses. We admit that something is, and will probably always be, missing; that we still glance into that rear-view mirror a little too often. It’s unlikely that any of us will return for more than a holiday visit or week’s vacation. And yet we’re even less likely to refer to any other place as “home.”

I know, I know. Hold the violins. Wistful as my song may be, it lacks the tragedy of a dirge and the injustice of a protest hymn. We shall not pretend to overcome. On the whole, my friends and I are a fortunate lot whose work and whereabouts were determined largely by choice. Live that kind of fairytale, and you can’t bitch because it didn’t come with ruby slippers.

Besides, who says cleats and high-tops aren’t every bit as enchanted?

You’d be amazed what a cable sports package and a cell phone full of faded accents can do to erase the miles. I talk more with the people of my childhood during half-times than I do the rest of the year. My mother and I rehash stats and commentary more intently than we plan Thanksgiving. New friends avoid spending Saturdays with me because I’m too preoccupied texting old ones.

After deconstructing a big win last season, a buddy put it best: “Move away,” he said, “and every game’s homecoming.”

———

I saw my first game at Mountaineer Field in 1986. It poured all four quarters. I don’t remember much about the game — I know we lost to a team called “Boston College,” but this didn’t leave much of an impression. Competition among new experiences was steep that day, and, for a six-year-old, it doesn’t get much more exotic than parking in someone’s yard and urinating in a giant trough. Beyond that, it’s all a cold, thundering, pruney, beautiful mess of a blur. Even the ponchos were blue and gold.

Since then there have been sunnier days in Morgantown. And though I’ve been present for a good many of them, like most West Virginians, I’ve lived out the majority of wins and losses via radio and television. Before moving away, it was effortless. In most small towns, you can walk down almost any street without missing a play as the broadcast echoes out nearly every door and window. I’m still waiting for someone to show me another state school that enjoys this singularity of focus from its population. Quite frankly, I just don’t believe it exists.

That could have to do with population itself. Only thirteen states have fewer people than mine. When there’s less of you, I guess it’s not as improbable to all be paying attention to same thing.

It could also be that little else is vying for bandwidth. There are no major league professional sports teams in West Virginia. We’re not a guaranteed stop for national music acts or theatre tours. And Marshall, the only other Division I school, has never been in a position to compete for allegiance.

It could be a combination of these factors and several more, but I’m inclined to believe it’s mainly just this one: For a state that’s unaccustomed to the country noticing anything but its mishaps, a sports program that gets positive national attention transcends sports. If you’re from West Virginia, Mountaineer athletics isn’t about being entertained. It’s about being represented.

I don’t believe the larger media makes a concerted effort to seek out the least of us. But for every Jessica Lynch, there are usually three Jesco Whites stumbling oafishly across the national stage. I’ve seen my state on the front page for mine disasters, meth labs, corruption scandals, class action suits, ecological trespasses, obesity indexes, and prison torture rings. Seeing it there for a championship—an admission from the rest of the country that, “yeah, you guys did this one thing better than all the rest of us this year”—wouldn’t even the score, but it wouldn’t hurt either.

Last year, as the NCAA tournament drew down to its Final Four, I was as optimistic as I’d ever been about this finally happening. But I was also still conflicted. “In two days that trophy could be on its way to Morgantown,” I thought. “But if so, a man in a track suit will be bringing it.”

What did that say about us? What would they say about us?

I didn’t have to wrestle either question long. In the semifinal, a Duke team that hadn’t played better all season, bested the Mountaineers in almost every metric and category including the one that sends you home. This would not be the year. The paper would not picture a triumphant West Virginia team or tell of an entire state’s elation.

I went out and bought one anyway.

There was another picture I wanted, an image of something else that occurred late in the losing effort, something that might mean even more than that championship scene, should they ever hang side-by-side in my garage.

This shot catches an imperfect man in an oddly perfect moment. It happened at the eleven-minute-mark when West Virginia forward Da’Sean Butler crumbled to the floor after tearing his ACL in a violent race to the goal. Collapsing with Butler were the team’s title hopes and, possibly, the professional career he’d worked nearly all his life for and had literally gotten to within days of. Watching the replay, you sense that everyone—on the court, in the stadium, on the other end of a television set—understands these things immediately. Butler too. His pain, though immense, is not enough to eclipse the larger implications, and as he screams, disappointment and fear are as distinct as the physical discomfort.

That’s when the man in the tracksuit lowers himself to the floor and, without thinking, wraps the weeping player in his arms.

It’s been said that Bob Huggins will do just about anything to get a player’s attention, and there have been innumerable episodes of vile language and snide challenges to substantiate that claim. But there is also the one you’re watching.

Cradling Butler’s head and pulling to within centimeters of his anguished face, Huggins issues a tender demand for eye contact, then uses his thumb to clear tears from the player’s cheeks. He speaks directly into Butler’s ear, saying, “I love you” and “don’t be sorry.” He gets as close as he needs to and stays there as long as it takes to calm the young man. It is pure, instinctual behavior from a coach who couldn’t be less concerned with how it will be interpreted. In this moment there are no fans, no critics, no reputation to uphold or excuse. There is only the player before him. The one he loves. The one who shouldn’t be sorry.

Days later, sports writers across the country discuss the exchange in their columns. A few jaded voices describe it as “awkward” or “uncomfortable,” but the overwhelming majority note its poignancy and commend the coach for a courageous display of intimacy rarely seen in men’s athletics. They acknowledge it as a personal triumph for Huggins. And still, they miss that it might also be the most fitting representation his state has ever received.

In that moment Bob Huggins proved himself to all of us. And it’s because he knew better than to give a damn what we thought in the first place.

———

After three newspapers and an online search, I finally find a photograph that does the moment justice. Taken from court level at a three-quarter angle, the shot marks the instant that connection was made. The eyes of both men say so, but the story lies as much in the unbroken space between them. It is just before the coach leans in to speak privately to his player, and there is still half a foot of nothing separating the two. Had the aperture opened a second earlier, it would show only chaos: one man reaching, the other alone. A second later and the tracksuit would have already enveloped Butler and blocked him from view. But as it is, the coach hovers, suspended above his player, and those six inches of nothing are perfectly preserved. Tracing the divide with your eyes, you instinctively look to pinpoint where attentions converge and the lifeline is grasped. The space between defines the moment. Staring into it, I shake my head and smile.

A tie would have gotten in the way.

—#—


[1] Under previous NCAA rules, universities did not get credit for athletes who completed degrees but began their career at other schools. Huggins is a prolific recruiter of junior college transfers.

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324 Comments

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324 responses to “1 Shining Moment For a 2-Sided State

  1. Kal

    Great article! I wasn’t born here, and have spent most of my life in other states. However, I went to HS and college here and recently moved back after being away for 26 years, but since my first visit at the age of 11 (I’m nearly 52 – my dad was born here), I’ve called it home. Married a girl from here, and we moved back to take care of our aging parents. I could never sum up my feelings for this state and WVU as well is this article. Can’t believe I’ve never seen it before, but so glad to have found it. I don’t cry after losses. Not one tear last night, just called the refs bad names and said a thank you prayer to Huggs and the team for a great year. I do sometimes get choked up after big wins, and when reading things like this about my state and teams, and I’m gonna ball my eyes out when we win that national championship.
    Oh, and it only works with the left hand.

  2. Heather

    I have read this before, and I just read the whole thing again. Huggs and the boys are playing this evening, and it would be awesome to get the win and keep dancing. Love this article. I remember this game. Good stuff and spot on.

  3. Carly

    Every year after we lose in the tournament, I read this article. I’m a 30 something West Virginian living and working in another state. I still closely follow WVU athletics and make it back to Morgantown as much as possible. Thank you for this article and the raw truth. I have made friends and colleagues read this to develop a better understanding of me. It’s just so true. All of it.

    • Hey Carly,

      Thanks so much for that. I usually still get a few responses each March, but none had hit my inbox yet this year. Thought maybe it had been forgotten, so it really meant a lot to hear from you that this still resonates. Here’s to a better showing next March, and to what makes home so special, regardless of final scores.

  4. Debbie Shahan

    This is an amazing article about our amazing state. Very well written, thank you for taking the time to share your feelings.

  5. James

    I like the article, but this guy and everyone else needs to get over What Huggins wears.

  6. Rhonda Shannon

    As a life long West Virginia gal, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! This is beautiful.

  7. Anita

    As a true West Virginian by heart, this brought tears. I moved from WV 11 years ago but still call it home. Thank you for a great article!

    • Really appreciate it Anita. Thanks for taking the time.

    • Jeff Thomas

      Great article! I moved away 19 years ago to south Georgia and still call WV my home. I make the trip to Morgantown each year for a football game and also a basketball game if possible, and I watch all of the other games on TV. I miss my friends and family there, but will always wear the BLUE AND GOLD here!

  8. Doug Paisley

    No comment needed…You have said it all…..and quite eloquently for “one of us” …Thank You

  9. jmwhetzel

    Thank you for this article. Honestly, thank you. It sums up a lot. I’m lucky enough to be at WVU now and grew up in this wonderful state. I don’t plan on leaving.

  10. As West Virginia transplant ; and now living in Pa. I will always call West Virginia my home sweet home.
    Your article was the pinnacle of pure cognitive reality. I appreciate your values for not only the state you champion for; but the educated thought process you give application to. I thank you wholeheartedly.

  11. I cried. Thanks for so poignantly describing the thoughts of most every Mountaineer. I love your writing style and passion that exudes from every line.

    Bravo, my friend.

  12. Rick

    Remarkably wonderful.

  13. greta cox

    Stereotypes are created for financial purposes. Period. We are not isolated by our mountains. We are isolated by our own belief in stereotypes created purposely by color writers in the 1930s and big buisness. Sensationalistic television programs keep the stupidity alive. Three cheers for Huggins and anyone who doesn’t buy into that fabricated nonsense.

  14. Greg Johnson

    Since this piece was written, and more than once, there should have been a paper with the headlines, “West Virginia University has won the National Championship”! Way to go Rifle Team! It’s their 17th title by the way!

  15. Charlie

    Spot on! Excellent article that truly captures what being a West Virginian is all about. As for the “moment” Huggs had with DeSean – that was truly a defining moment and did more for recruiting than any of us will ever realize.

  16. Mike Batz

    What a great read. Thank you for sharing. I always questioned Huggins attire but after reading this, I appreciate the guy more than I care about his attire.

    • Thanks Mike. I hear you. I’ve grown to feel pretty fortunate to have someone that doesn’t spout the same, generic coach-speak or sport the same old “coach-wear.”

  17. I don’t remember seeing this when it was written but my mom just shared it on Facebook and wooo boy I shouldn’t have read it at work. Or maybe she should have added a disclaimer “Grab a tissue.” I am also a native West Virginian and WVU alum but have been gone for over 10 years now. I echo so many of the sentiments in this piece. Growing up a West Virginian, at least at the time I did, was complicated. It still is, particularly for those of us who were never really accepted in our home state (but I am so glad to see that this is changing with LGBT-inclusive laws on the books in small towns across the state). But you’re right, it’s always home, even if there’s no going back.

  18. This is some great writing. You’ve nailed my sentiments completely. And, you’ve done it so eloquently. (“Rear-view mirrors just seem to flatter their subjects in ways windshields can’t.”)
    Because of various career paths, I’ve lived in Alabama as long now as I lived in West Virginia. Even though I am a Marshall graduate, I will be rooting for the Mountaineers tomorrow night as they face the daunting task of beating Kentucky.

  19. Brian

    So how many blunts did you smoke before binge writing this?!?! Not a single coherent thought. Just rambling.

  20. What a great post about an awesome team!!

  21. Awesome article on what it means to be a West Virginian. Loved it.

  22. Pingback: His Name is Michael Powelson | Esse Diem

  23. Folks, not to despair about those who move away. They can and are returning to West Virginia by the thousands. Those retiring from the Armed Forces after distinguished careers, those leaving long-time government careers, those retiring from teaching, working in factories and every other career you can name. I left Rowlesburg at age 18 for college. That was 1958. Went on to teach for 25 years at Boston University. Never moved back until recent years. Although many, many visits each meant a lot to my mother, after I retired I just had to return. I and many of my friends have made the leap. Rowlesburg has become a bit of an arts and historic attraction as a result. We are all trying hard to bring what we know to the table and contribute to the community. Volunteerism is ingrained in everyone living there. I have really had fun with adventure. I encourage others to take the plunge. You don’t have to cut your ties to the place you “temporarily” called home. Just move back to your WV roots, try to make a difference and have your other place to visit and spend quality time as well. It can be done and lots of us are doing it.

  24. Shawn

    Michael,
    This is a wonderful piece of writing and nostalgia. And, yes, I did real all of the replies to see anyone I knew had written. I guess I will have to forward it to my brothers living in Florida and Ohio. I grow weary of trying to defend my homeland here in Tarheelland. Central Florida before that. I hope to return to the hills that gave me life before I am planted in good mountain soil. I miss my sunny days on the banks of the Greenbrier River and Anthonty’s Creek, and the beautiful drive over Cheat Mountain on the Way to Motown. Keep up the good work.

  25. Stan Duncan

    I cannot imagine anyone using the English language to express what it means to be a West Virginian any better than the words I just read, felt, and identified with. The author could only be a West Virginian because nobody that is not a West Virginian can ever understand what we feel as sons and daughters of the Mountain State! For decades it has been a great sorrow of so many grandparents and parents to have to wave goodbye to the young who exodus these comforting mountains to journey in search of a job worthy of their talents. Though we are phsically removed from the sunrises that struggle to rise over the mountains our hearts are always calling us home. Sometimes we must first experience loss before we can appreciate what we took for granted as we struggled to maturity amidst the security of the hollows and peaks of West Virginia. We endure the jokes of ignorant people, but many of us with sharper tongues develop polished retorts. I make no apologies for the West Virginians that dug the coal that powered the industrial revolution, powered this nation through two world wars, and light the way for America still! Nor do I have to apologize for the brave parents who struggle to do more with less as they sacrifice to provide opportunity for their children in order that they can compete with the more affluent children of our nation. Since 1863 West Virginians have always answered the call of their nation and if you don’t think West Virginians are patriotic and know how to pay the price required of freedom count the numerous bridges and highways dedicated to our veterans and to those awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. So many ask the question, can you really ever go home? Some cannot and others only believe they will, I did! For 17 long years I missed the fog that rises from the New River and the long shadows cast by our mountains. There was always that empty longing for home and the sense of loss every holiday as I made the trek back to a house away from home. John Denver said it so well and in 2003 I pulled my pick-up into my mother’s driveway in Summers County with “Take Me Home Country Road” blaring from the CD player. Now I know what I appreciate and what a thrill and peaceful resolve I feel as once again I see the fog rise over the New and Greenbrier Rivers as I stand securely flanked by the mountains all West Virginians love. Come back when you can, we will keep a light on for you!

  26. Joe

    Just read this unique article and found a sense of pride in it that I have always carried and a native of the Mountain State! Slanted though it was, toward WVU, I can forgive the not mentioning of marshall University, the other great University of the state. Of all the things I miss living outside the state for the last 40 years, the people stand out the most! The natural beauty is a given and most all who view it agree! The people however often get left out! In the recent coal mine disaster just east of Charleston, two of the reporters noticed thast even those who had loved ones trapped inside the mine were offering food and common courtesy to the strangers there to report on the happenings! I am, and have always been, proud to be a West Virginian, born there by the Grace of God!

  27. Terri

    Thank you for putting it into words. Those majestic hills are the home of my heart!

  28. Sherrie

    Perfect. This article is simply perfect in describing how it feels to be a dislocated West Virginian. Now that I’m entering my 6th year with THE Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, I’m more aware than ever before about how great the distance between this place and home really is. I was raised in Clarksburg, graduated from Concord, and would give anything to be back there. I like my job here, I like my friends here, I even like my Buckeyes (they grow on ya, they really do), but I LOVE my Mountaineers and my West By God Virginia.

    Thank you for writing this!

  29. Jordan S

    Very enjoyable read. I sent the link out to all of my co workers who rib me with the “hillbilly” and “incest” jokes. I’m currently removed from the state and working in Maryland. When I speak of WV, I get excited and they question why. I just respond “you wouldn’t understand, it’s a West Virginia thing.”

    Great read and keep up the good work.

  30. K & T

    Michael,
    This is good stuff. Think we’ve shared it with about everyone we know. Thanks for sharing the beauty of West Virginia with us – both in college and via this article.
    K & T

  31. evan

    this article is what i think on a daily basis. i know people move away for jobs, but they can’t pay me enough to leave the place i call home. west v born and raised, 1979-present.

  32. bob Wissler

    Having worked in radio I had the pleasure ofbeing the board operator for Marshall basketball and football and they had pretty good seasons. I left to work at West Virginia radio and being a Met fan got the job of bring the Yankee games to West Virginia. I thought God was punishing me but then I thought on it qand said why not just enjoy the thrill of the game and as long as they don’t play the mets I can deal with it. So goes Marshall if they are on TV I will watch and yes root for them. But if they play against WVU my heart goes to the blue and gold. Just be happy your not a Pirate fan then you have very little to cheer about!

  33. Ray Glover

    Thank you for saying what so many of us feel but have been unable to express with anything except our emotions. Not unable because we are “uneducated hillbillies” but rather because most, hillbilly or not, just lack the gift of tying emotion, inspiration, heart and soul together so eloquently with words.
    Many have written thousands of words more and said so much less.
    Ya done good sir.

  34. Joe Friedl

    This powerful and moving article gave me emotions I have not felt since hearing “Country Roads” for the first time…or seeing “Coal” last night…or when I finally and truly understood why we seceded from the Confederacy…and what Montani Semper Liberi imparts to all of us…or when I heard Bobby Kennedy speak so eloquently in Madison about the sacrifices WV made in WWII…or when WVU beat Georgia and Oklahoma…and Duke in Washington, DC…and Athens HS won three State Basketball Championships in the ’50’s…and Marshall won its National Titles…and Concord University won its WVIAC Championships…and when I visit the graves of my dear friends and revered family members in West “By God” Virginia!

  35. Jay Bobinski

    Many have already said it, but I had to echo the sentiments stated. THE MOST accurate, insightful, personal and wonderful expression about West Virginians’ love of the university, the state and it’s sports. My only regret is that you stated practically everything I feel, and you said it better than I ever could! Bravo.

  36. David

    I really liked your article. I am also one who left Clarksburg in 1985 and not a day goes by that I don’t wish I still lived in WV. My parents still live there and I do get back there at least once a year. I love my home and I am always proud to be a Mountaineer. Like Coach Huggins, I really don’t care what the rest of the world thinks. Go Mountaineers!!

  37. Thanks Jason. Really dig your site. Easily the most difficult assignment someone in this field will face.

  38. Frank

    My friend, Penny, who still lives in Fairmont, WV, told me I had to read this or she would kick my @$$. And she is capable of doing it as well. I was WV born and raise, just outside of Charleston. I would tell you where, but unless you are from WV, you wouldn’t know where it is any way. I now live in Columbus, OH. I told a friend last week I so missed WV. The friend asked why didn’t I move back. My answer was simple. My dearest friends are in WV, but my job is in Columbus, OH. Enough said. I have often said WVU fans are better fans than Chicago Cub fans. After all, Chicago has won it all once and while that may be a very long time ago… it is still one more time than WVU has won it. While I agree with the author, that championship would be so sweet, there will never be a brighter shining moment than this one. After that, in my opinion, Huggy can wear whatever he chooses!

  39. Scott

    I left Clarksburg for the Navy in 1967. A few months later I flew home for a few days of leave. When the plane broke out of the clouds and I saw Bridgeport below me, I cried. I vowed I would return. I did four years later and have since only left for a few days at a time. I’m not really concerned about the stupid jokes, blank looks, and pats on the head because it speaks more about them than it does about us.

  40. WVU Dad

    I am reading this article in Kabul. I emailed the link to my son in London, a WVU exchange student. I am sure he will appreciate it as much as I do. While I am a long way from the Mountain State, reading this well-written article makes me feel right at home.

  41. Eric

    Awesome article, all the praise has been said in the above comments. Just a note about the track suit….I prefer it WAAAAYYY more than that horrid mustard colored three piece that Huggs broke out in his first season here. Long live the Nike sweats! 🙂

  42. George

    West Virginia born and raised. Presently a Iowa transplant. I still weep when I travel back to West Virginia and listen to “Country Roads Take Me Home.” You have to be from West Virginia to fully understand Michael’s article. I been watching WVU for over 50 years. I wore a Mountaineer hat in our local mall and ot the thumbs up and great comments from some Iowa High School Basketball Players. I proudly say, “Once a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer.”

  43. Zackary P

    Such a well-written and well thought-out piece. It covers things I’ve always thought and things I wish I would’ve thought, but you articulate it and tie it together in a perfect, couldn’t-have-said-it-better way. This is truly a moving and an inspiring piece of writing. Thanks a lot!

  44. JRH

    From another who is also looking in the rear view mirror…well said!

  45. sammano

    Good stuff, except for the completely unnecessary, arrogant, superfluous dig at Marshall. Did you happen to watch the WV-MU basketball game this year?? Or actually, the majority of the past several years?? Did you watch the football game this past fall, when WVU’s lack of respect for MU darn near caught up with them?? I am born & raised in northcentral WV and am a lifelong Mountaineer fan, but my degree is from Marshall. The disdain that Mountaineer fans have for Marshall is, ironically, very similar to how the rest of the country treats West Virginia. Last I looked the team with a national championship was Marshall, and while the pride you think you may possibly feel if WVU ever wins a title is in your imagination, the pride Herd fans feel for having seen their team actually win a national championship is very real. Great writing, but really…get over yourself.

    • Keri S.

      “And Marshall, the only other Division I school, has never been in a position to compete for allegiance”
      If you consider this a “dig”, you really need to grow some tougher skin. It’s not a dig at all, but the truth. Marshall has yet to be in a position to compete AT A DIVISON I level to be nationally relevant. I will take this no further as I don’t wish to get into this sort of debate after such a compelling, well-written and honest interpretation of being a West Virginian.

    • So...

      Why did you even read this? It’s pretty apparent what this article is about. Let’s face it, IAA doesn’t count and doesn’t even exist anymore.

    • BB

      Don’t ruin it by being a troll. Thanks.

    • eer4life

      Sammano- You should probably brush the dust off of that marshall degree you’re so proud of and try to remember some of the reading comprehension skills you learned in school.

      “And Marshall, the only other Division I school, has never been in a position to compete for allegiance”

      This line has NOTHING to do with WVU being better than Marshall, and it is certainly not an “unnecessary, arrogant, superfluous dig” at your alma mater. This line was intended to illustrate the FACT that simply based on numbers, WVU has always had and will always have a much larger fan following in the state. Be careful you not to hurt yourself when you fall off that ivory tower you sanctimonious dolt.

    • Kal

      Wow sammano, talk about the need to get over one’s self! If not for reading your comment, I probably would not even have remembered that the article had mentioned Marshall since it is not at all what the article is about.
      Like the author, I too live and work in another state now. Several years ago a colleague from that state observed to me that in general it seemed to him that most WVU fans rooted for MU when the Herd played other opponents, but that Herd fans seemed to intensely dislike and always root against WVU. I agreed with this. I and many WVU fans I know rooted for MU, and cheered their I-AA championship. We root for and take pride in the NFL sucsess of MU players especially a state native like Moss. However I doubt that people in the rest of the country associate an MU championship or their alumni in the NFL with the state of West Virginia which was of course the point of this article.
      Unfortunately my (and I suspect other WVU fan’s) admiration of MU sports has been eroded in recent years by this type of attitude by Herd fans as well as the meddling by politicians. But again, WAY off the subject of this wonderful article.

      • Alesa J.

        I agree that Sammano needs to get over it but I would just like to say that I am a graduate of MU and a hugh WVU fan. I love both schools and have many fellow MU friends that feel the same way I do. And when I was in college I always felt like WVU hated us more than we hated them. But maybe I would have felt differently if I had attended WVU.

      • James

        As a Marshall alum, I agree with you that sammano came off as very defensive, but I think you can understand why we have a chip on our shoulders when it comes to wvu. As the rest of the country dismisses WV as a state (and thus wvu), wvu dismisses Marshall, even if unintentionally. As you said many wvu fans say they root for Marshall when we’re not playing each other. That’s insulting to us. We’re treated with the “awww, that’s cute” kind of attitude. We understand that wvu is the flagship university of the state and will always be more popular and have more fans. We get that. Just keep in mind that we can be proud West Virginians and still “hate” wvu. Just like Auburn fans can be proud Alabamans and hate the Crimson Tide.
        The article was great, and I knew from the start that it would have a “wvu” theme, and I totally understand that. If I were a wvu fan I’d probably feel the same way, in that I wouldn’t take Marshall seriously either. All I’m asking is that wvu fans put themselves in our (Marshall fans/alums) position for a second and understand why we have a resentment of being overlooked. It’s a lot like being a West Virginian, a chip on our shoulder comes with the territory.
        Again, the article was excellent. I’m not being critical of it at all, just trying to give a Marshall perspective while trying to not sound TOO defensive 🙂

  46. Nancy Beach

    What a beautiful and well-written article that reminds us all of our feelings for WVa. I grew up not far from Morgantown in Pa. My father was the first to graduate from WVU. I will never forget the day he dropped me off at the administration building while he parked the car. I was 17 years old and felt I had just come home. I graduated and now live in Ohio. My WVU windsock has flown for 39 years! And yes…I have heard it all especially living in Buckeye territory. Yet, they all know the pride that is instilled in us when we talk about WVU, or wear our colors. And I wear them out here proudly! And my friends know that anytime ” Country Roads” is played, they need to sit silently because that is my moment. This was sentto me by a good friend that goes to all of the games. My son and I went to a game with her this year. I was in tears just seeing all the people that look just like me. It was a birthday gift from my son. (U of C grad when Huggs was there and loves him) He saw what I have talked about for years. It is inside of us..something that is always there and comes out when we cheer or defend or talk of college days with pride. I finally had to but a new windsock. There isn’t a person that goes by my house that doesn’t know where my loyalty lies and will be forever! Thank you Michael for reminding us and sharing.

  47. David Hoyt

    I was working for my hometown radio station in the early 70s when a
    listener’s son came home from the service and brought me an album he
    bought in Europe…John Denver’s “Poems, Prayers and Promises”
    After listening to “Country Roads”, I started playing it on the air.
    (this was at least six months before the album was even released in the
    USA) I was not prepared for the reaction the song engendered…it was
    our most requested song for over a year! Now, even after playing and
    hearing that song at least a half-million times, I still feel an urge to
    sing along. Such is the pride of Mountaineers. I don’t get to travel much
    anymore, but it always surprised me how many times I would hear that
    song being played by expatriated West Virginians in other states.
    “Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer”

  48. Greg

    Although I now call Carolina home WV will always be MY home. Great article and THANKS for showing the positive side of the Mountian State.

  49. Richard

    Michael, I have been gone from WV since 1955 when I left to go in the Navy. Now live in CA, but I never really left the state and still thrill to cross the border driving down I-79 from Pittsburgh. Can appreciate wanting to be a national champion but I am satisfied when we are in the top 25 so that I can get them on TV regularly.

  50. Floyd

    I’ve always believed the saying of: You can take the boy out of the mountains but you can’t take the mountains out of the boy. Your article says it all. I left the state in 1966 and still call WV home. Many of my relatives left for jobs during that time and quite a few including my mother have returned to retire or be buried at home.
    In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to educate the local newspaper editor about WV, hillbillies and rednecks every time he uses them in a disparaging way.
    From northern MN, thanks for writing an article which states it all. This former Welch native is looking to coming home once again.
    One more thing, I was shocked to find that the very first person responding was the brother of a friend of mine in Florida who has done so much to support Welch Maroon Wave alumni.

  51. N A Kirkham

    Beautiful article. A very beautiful article. An article filled with love and respect and devotion for “Home” and the wonderful people it contains.

  52. Isabel Bukac

    Thank you Michael. My heart and soul are deply ingrained in our West Virginia hills. Everytime I round the last curve driving down Bridge Rd. in Charleston I inwardly gasp at the gentle beauty that opens up with a veiw of the Kanawha river and the bend that is accentuated by our glistening gold-plated Capital dome. It is a verbally documented fact that we are the warmest and most friendly folks on the planet. And that has been verified by people who have travelled worldwide. I am a true native as my Mother’s family basically followed the Indians into this valley, thus your seniments regarding this so, very special spot on the Earth stirred the core of my being. When I drive back into WV, or fly into Yeager airport, I feel like I am returning to the womb. These magnificant hills, steaming with an amazing variety of botanticals and wildlife offer their human inhabitants a sense of safety and comfort. We West Virginians have a rare quality, we trust each other and would never hesitate to give the shirt of our back. I would never be fearful of breaking down anywhere in WV. I would just walk to the nearest house with the confidence that I would be welcomed with an open heart and a helping hand. We are clannish, independent and resourceful. Our abundant natural resources, gas, oil and coal sustain us. Over the centuries our rugged topography has kept us relatively isolated which has profoundly affected our way of life and in turn has contributed to our unique qualities of resilency and tenaciousness. From time to time I entertain the thought of moving out of WV but the thoughts are fleeting as I know way down in the depths of my being that I want to draw my last breaths in the comfort of my West Virginia mountains. I love this place. I would take up arms to defend WV and I don’t even know how to fire a gun!….Thank you Michael for your lovely, sensitive literary comittment to a place that is also very special to you! A national championship??……Yeah, wouldn’t we all like that, but we are just not use to being in first place in anything . And do you think maybe that helps us keep our secret that West Virginia IS Heaven, not “almost”…Love to a lover of WV!!! Issy

  53. Bonnie

    This is a wonderful story that makes me long for a place I lived for 15 years and was proud to call my home. I miss the people I met there and breathtaking views. I remember always saying that the heavens were so close to us there, you could almost touch them.

  54. Tom

    While we all do understand the focus on hardwood and turf, let us never, ever forget that we proud Mountainteers have a program nearly unprecedented in NCAA sports history. WVU Rifle Team has FOURTEEN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS, as well as numerous national individual awards!! (And an added note, has produced its fair share of Olympians and medal winners.) I could not be more proud!!

    • Tom

      I also can’t seem to use “sbell chek!!”
      Must’ve been the overwhelming desire to be stereotypical??
      Apologies , Mountaineers!!!

    • Mary Ellen

      I am also proud of those FOURTEEN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS for our always strong rifle team, Olympians, huge # of RHODES SCHOLARS (more than Harvard ) and Rhodes Scholars finalists. The outstanding students who compete for the Rhodes must be well rounded scholar/athletes like our new Athletic Director, Oliver Luck who was a finalist…..academically gifted and an NFL qurarterback who picked up a law degree in the off season….welcome home, Ollie !!!

  55. Harold "Connie" Collins

    Article was sent to me by my sister who lives in Florida. I grew up in Welch and now live in Bluefield. Love to travel but will never move from West Virginia. Must admit that I’m teary eyed after reading this. You’ve done a wonderful job of putting into words the feeling of being a West Virginian. For some reason God made West Virginia to stand out from the other states. Only fellow West Virginians will get what I mean when I say “we’re special”.
    Several years ago while on a driving trip out west I was amazed at how many people tooted there horn at me when they saw my WV tag. This was also back when CB radios were the “in thing” and several people would come across the CB radio with the “Country Roads” tune. I wonder if anything similar happens to people from other states. I doubt it.
    Thanks for the great article. You hit a homerun with this! A championship would be nice, but it couldn’t amke me any more proud than I was of Coach Huggins actions and of your beautiful description of the emotion it created in us. THANKS!!!

  56. Terri

    Beautiful sentiments and beautifully written! West Virginia will always be home. When asked where I’m from I reply that I live in Kentucky but am from West Virginia [BHS & WVU grad]. My children were raised in Kentucky but are still loyal Mountaineer fans. One of my children wore her WV jacket around the UK campus her freshman year there and was asked why she was wearing the WV logo. She told them it was because she liked football. Another daughter who attended U of L wore the WV logo to one of her phys. ed. classes the week of a WV-U of L football game and there was a U of L football player in her class. Their loyalty extends to Mountaineer basketball, too. Now I’m working on the grandchildren!

  57. Al

    this was excellent. Thank you for writing it.

  58. Keith Soltes

    Excellent writing. Made me homesick. Grew up in Helen, near Beckley. Live in Fl and wear WV hats and shirts weekly. A fellow WVn came up behind my pickup at a light, got out and shook my hand. We all can relate the bond we have. I get the jokes also. Because I am above average at most things, my friends here actually want to know all about my wounderful state. Years ago they teased me, but no more. 2012 “O” out, WV in.

  59. Betty Warden Powell

    I was born in a coal mining community in Raleigh County and left home when I was 18 years old to work for the government in Washington, D.C. Returned after two years, but unable to find a job, returned to Northern Virginia. Even though I have not actually lived in WV for fifty seven years, I still cannot call anywhere else “Home”. I return each summer for my High School and family reunions and to see all of my buddies that I still consider very close friends. I sing the West Virginia State Song “The West Virginia Hills” when I cross the state line. Thanks for the special article and hopefully enough people will read it to change their perspective on WV folks. Even though we talk with an unusual accent, we are not dumb!!!!

  60. Tawnie

    I too have moved I have been in Ga for 17yrs now but I still don’t call it home….. My parents and brother still live there and I love going HOME every chance I get I have Wv stuff on everything I drive down here and wear what a great article makes me want to go HOME!

  61. Dana

    I can only echo the sentiments expressed in all the foregoing responses, which confirm everything you wrote in your beautifully crafted, poignant essay. You describe perfectly what we Appalachian Studies scholars teach and write about as “love of place.” I, too, have been out and back a few times, and the first thing I say to any outsider is, “I’m from West Virginia,” and the second is, “I’m from a little town called Bramwell.” The basketball theme is dear to our hearts here, as our teams won the State A Championship in 1967 in a still-celebrated undefeated season, as well as in 1971 and 1988. The Bramwell Millionaires brought the people of our community together in a way nothing else could or has–small town, small school, big dreams of “going upstate” that were fulfilled. And basketball made us well-known beyond southern West Virginia. May I use your essay in my Appalachian Studies class at Virginia Tech? We spend so much time disputing the negative stereotypes–I want to use your writing to show what is “native and fine” about West Virginia and by extension, the rest of Appalachia. Thank you for creating this beautiful essay that is, in turn, producing so many special reflections.

  62. Elizabeth

    I don’t generally leave comments on things I read, but I felt like I had to on this. I was born in Morgantown 29 years ago, and I have never left. Maybe I was one of the fortunate ones to find a good job, and my entire family is around here, but I could never leave. Sure, I love to travel, but by the end of the vacation, I’m ready to be back home. I tear up every single time I hear “Country Roads” played, no matter where I hear it, the Colisuem, a bar, in another state or country. Gets me every time. My family is the ultimate Mountaineer fans, as I’m sure most families are. Christmas day was filled with a sea of gold and blue clothing, accessories, etc. As my dad says “you can never have too much WVU gear”. My Mountaineer flag stands proudly 12 months a year on my house. Being a Mountaineer is special, and no one gets that until you actually come here. But once you’re here, you’re home.

  63. Katie

    Hi,
    Thanks for writing this. Really well done. I am born and raised WV (Scott Depot!!) and have since moved to Utah for grad school and am staying for a bit. Proud WVU fan, my dog wears a Mountaineer collar. Fond memories of going to Morgantown for games in the fall, never a more beautiful season. Spent a couple seasons guiding rafts in the New River Gorge, bragging to guests about my state… that will truly be home for me. There is no where else I would dream of calling home. I love talking to people when they find out where I’m from (and no, that it’s not like Richmond) and they say, “Oh, I’ve driven through there! That’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.” And yes, that’s subjective and it might not be the most beautiful place in the country, but there is “something” about that place that people recognize. Makes them forget the sterotypes for a minute. People who are from there just know. I recently had to change my plates to Utah ones, but am searching for a great personalized plate to represent my home. Would love suggestions… if only I could get Wild and Wonderful into 7 letters…..

    **From the outside looking in you could never understand it. From the inside looking out you could never explain it…** ❤ Almost Heaven.

    Thanks Again.

    • Elizabeth

      I’ve been out west, Colorado, Sun Valley, Idaho, etc…and there are some tuly breathtaking landscapes, but I still think WV is the most beautiful state there is. Driving through Seneca Rocks in the fall, there is nothing like it. Can’t help you on making Wild and Wonderful shorter. What about Go eers?

    • HabibHaddad

      WVTLIDI

    • Shawn

      How about “LMSTHVN” for your license plate? Or if you have 2 cars, your could do “MOUNTA” and “INEERS” — it’s been done in WV already! :o)

  64. Billie Wiant

    You probably don’t need one more comment expressing how wonderful your post is, but here I am writing it anyway! 🙂 Thank you for so eloquently capturing how dear our great state is to us natives living outside it. Your post is touching, memory-inducing, and tugs at the heartstrings that make us proud Mountaineers. Keep writing from the heart, and gut!!!

  65. Sheri Hutson

    Dear Michael,
    What a wonderful article!!!! I’m proud of you! I’ll cherish it forever and I do plan to share it with others for the inspiring words. Thank you!
    Sheri Hutson

  66. David McCrum

    I live in VA now, and I’m guilty of being hooked on WVU athletics and of dreaming about that elusive championship. I’m also the guy who can’t help saying “Go Eers” anytime I see someone wearing the WV logo, and I get a warm feeling inside every time I see a car with WV plates. West Virginia will always be Home to me. I get sentimental (and hungry) just thinking about going Home for some buckwheat cakes and whole hog sausage…and for seeing the Mountaineers play on tv, something that’s too rare down here where I live now. John Denver sang it so well. Thanks for writing it so well.
    David

  67. Lea

    You may not remember this, Michael, but I have fond memories of going to a party at your house at OU. With a WVU flag on the wall and “Country Roads” on repeat, I thought, “He gets it.”
    After reading this, I thought, “He gets it and has managed to articulate it in a way that makes others get it too.”
    I haven’t been able to stop thinking or talking about this since I read it. I don’t know what else to say but thanks.

  68. Gary "Bopper" Saunders

    Michael, first of all, I’m a native of North Charleston, “Dog Town,” West Virginia, ’58 graduate of Stonewall Jackson and a ’62 and ’71 B.S. & M.A. graduate of the “U.” I was there on a baseball scholarship after helping S.J. win the “State,” in ’58. Our Mountaineer team was/is the only baseball team in Mountie history to go to 3 straight NCAA tournaments; six of us signed pro contracts when there were only 16 major league teams. We meet every year for reunion…usually at Lakeview. I was a Phi Sig when it was the best “Sig” chapter in the U.S. I was a Fi Batar Cappar along with 39 others and I was Gale Catlett’s and Paul Miller’s pledgemaster and signed Gale’s board and paddled him in front of 5000 at a Pitt thuse. I lived and breathed WVU then, and still do, now. I was also in Louisville when we lost by 1 to California in 1959 for the national championship, with Jerry screaming for a time-out but was not acknowledged by either of the 2 referees. I was also a fraternity brother of my beloved Jim “Shorty” Moss, great Mountie running back and younger brother of great Mountie running back, Bobby. “Shorty” was the offensive co-ordinator on the revered Marshall football team that crashed…killing all. I will never forget that day as I was walking down High Street and ran into another fraternity brother, the late WVU baseball coach, Dale “Slick” Ramsberg, who told me of the crash. That was devastating like the many mine disasters our state brothers have experienced. I was also at the great ’07 Fiesta Bowl with my oldest, Gary II, who had flown in to meet me in Arizona. I say all of this to let you get the “feel” of who I am…a Montani Semper Liberi Mountaineer. My wife, Jeannie, a Philadelphia native and ’69 WVU graduate, honored me with four children(3 boys and my youngest at 33 years, Michelle) and those 4 have, in turn, honored Jean and I with 14 grand children with # 15 on the way in August. When the Mountaineers play football or basketball, my sons are calling in from L. A.(Gary), Check, Va.(John), Wilmington, De.(Mike), and Michelle, Jean, and I, here at our Home in Hampton, Va., the oldest continuous English speaking city in the U.S., 1610. While we’re watching, our “grands” are yelling, “Let’s go-o-o-o Mountaineers!” I taught 38 years of American and British Literature, coached baseball, basketball(I am the first White guy to coach an all Black high school basketball team in the U.S, Farmville, Va….so said the N.Y. Times…1963-64), golf, tennis, track, football, and my favorite…debate. I have listened to Jack and the Mountaineers since the great Fred Schaus played. Even though we came to Hampton in 1973, I breathe blue and bleed old gold! Now, Michael, for you: I am a strong, no play, believer in OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, as are my kids and wife and I treasure HIS HOLY word, and while my favorite British writer is Christopher Marlowe(an atheist)and my favorite American writer was Scott Fitzgerald, I say was, because, Michael, you are now, my favorite American writer…bar none! Gary…”Oh those hills…beautiful hills”

    • Lucky for me, last night’s takeout was chockfull of sodium. That last bit begs for at least a few grains.

      Thank you nonetheless. Especially for sharing all you’ve seen.

  69. Geoff Coyle

    Michael, your expression of the emotions many in West Virginia feel was put perfectly. I grew up in Maryland, the son of a WVU alumnus who bred me to be a proud Mountaineer and to feel a connection with a state that I only visited on random Saturdays in the fall. The state pulled me in and everyone who knew me back home knew me as the biggest Mountaineers fan around. When I got to WVU, I served as a manager for the football team. I was a part of the team the year we lost to Pitt and watched our national title hopes fade away on Mountaineer Field. I have a Fiesta Bowl ring from that year and while I’m very proud of the team’s accomplishments in pulling back together to pull out that huge win over Oklahoma, I do not wear that ring. I know what could have been, so I keep the ring on a shelf in hopes that one day – long after my association with the team has ended – some group of Mountaineers will bring home the ring we should have gotten that season.

    I now work in the media and was privileged to follow the basketball team all the way through its run to the Final Four and sat on press row just a few feet behind the bench. I have twice been involved in watching from the sideline as my alma mater stumbled one game before the title bout.

    I intend to share your words with my friends who are scattered throughout the United States and after many years of my explaining have yet to grasp what it means to the people who call West Virginia “home,” as I do now.

  70. Kelly

    I am a native West Virginian who still lives in the state. My husband is a physician and I am a nurse. With malpractice costs the way they are in WV, we were seriously considering moving out of state to set up our practice. But the more we prayed for guidance and sought out various opportunities, WV was in our hearts and blood too much to leave. I am so thankful to have stayed and to be raising our 3 sons as WVians. I am a Marshall University grad and so am a little more partial to the “green and white” when it comes to sports but I do still root for the Mountaineers (when they aren’t playing The Herd). Like I said, I grew up in WV and due to much influence from my father, Mountaineer sports were ingrained in my very fiber. I used to tease my father that with all the tuition he paid to MU, he probably financed the building of Marshall’s new stadium but he refuses to wear the green/white clothes I purchase for him, trading them for the blue/gold of his “favorite” team. I do realize your article is mostly about WV sports but I think it also touches on the pride we as WVians feel in not only our sports teams but in our state as a whole. There are precious few people who can deny the pull of this state whether being born here or transplanted. Thank you for so poignantly sharing what so many of us feel in our hearts. God bless, Kelly

  71. Sandy Sabo

    You have a wonderful talent for writing. Hope that is what you do for a living. Too bad you had to leave our state. The article expresses my feelings about West Virginia and Bob Huggins so well. Thanks.

  72. keith reccius

    From my beoved youth growing up in ST. Albans ………Iam Wests Virginia born and West Virginia bred …….and when I DIE I’ll be West Virginia dead….. from the late great A L (Shorty) Hardman…Daily Mail sports writer years back …Gone but like Jack Fleming …….not forgotten ………….the only thing can keep Huggs form a NC is death……..and my u be waren the crown 20 minutes for the devil knows your dead coach……..the people of WVA now and then are all in for you baby…………

  73. Jenny Hines

    Thank you, thank you for writing this. You have managed to capture what I’ve grappled with expressing my entire life. I don’t live in West Virginia anymore, but it will always, always be home. And I will always, always be proud to be a Mountaineer.

  74. jt

    They forced me to move here, dragged me, kicking and screaming–and now you couldn’t force me to leave.

    Great article Mike, I read a article you wrote in when you were in High School, and I assumed you would be a pretty good writer someday. Great work.

  75. Katie

    Michael,

    Great article, so true. I left WV 15 years ago after graduation for opportunity and to use the college education I worked extremely hard for. I will never call another place home, my children visit with grandparents for at least three weeks in the summer in hopes to give them a glance of reality, love, dedication and pride. I am a proud mountaineer, I know the very reason I am successful today is due to my parents enstilling in me the vaules, work ethic, determination and ability to face adversity. I am looking forward to reading much more from you in the future. Thank you for representing our state with such Heart

  76. Raschell

    Wow! I love the way you wrote this! You are an excellent writer and you brought tears to my eyes! My husband and I adopted WV as our home after moving here at the end of 2003 for his job. We also adopted the Mountaineers as a team we would follow. We are both from the South and we were both guilty of not knowing much about WV. We fell in love immediately with West Virginia’s beauty and the Mountaineer Pride! We are proud to call it home and we feel the same things you described as if we were born here!

  77. Albert Zipp

    I was born in Texas. As an Army brat, I lived in several states and countries. My career has taken me to several more. Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always identified myself as a proud Texan.
    My wife and I moved to West Virginia in 2003, when I took a job in Clarksburg. Not too long ago we were able to take a cruise, which included several ports of call in Italy. We were standing on the deck, admiring the Amalfi coast, when we heard “Country Roads” on the ship’s sound system. We started singing along, as did a young Filipino member of the ship’s crew. She smiled, imagining a place that could be described as ‘almost heaven.’ We smiled, knowing that when the cruise ended we’d be going home there.
    Since then, we’ve bought some land south of Morgantown for a retirement home. My plan, some day, is to conduct an annual migration. We’ll winter in Texas, where we still have roots. And when the bluebonnets bloom, we’ll come home to West Virginia …which has planted roots in us.
    Thanks for a wonderful essay.

  78. Ann Randolph

    I am 72 years young. I was born in a hospital in Morgantown. I attended WVU for a year. Got married and moved to Va Beach Va. My oldest son was born in Morgantown, I am so proud to be a Mountaineer. People not feomWV have missed a lot not seeing the majestic mountains , the beautiful campus of WVU and all the greatest people in the US that live there.It will always be my home and we come to Morgantown every summer to go to Cheat Lake. I love West VIrginia. Proud to be a country girl.

  79. Beth

    Like most of us, I was tearful. As a classroom teacher, I try to impress upon children that if mere words on a piece of paper could move you to tears ( or laughter) – well, that’s awfully powerful. Also, through your words, I realize why I might never be able to forgive Rich Rod for his departure. : He was one of us. We felt as if we knew him. He was going to bring us to a national championship. We had so much faith. And he jumped ship. A fellow West Virginian! I’ll never get over it.

  80. Heather

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I am your age…born in 1980 WV. I spent half of my “growing up” years in WV and half in NC. I went to college in NC, but came back to WV a few months after graduating. I sometimes think about moving away again…more opportunity and such elsewhere, but I will never forget that WV is my home. I am, and have always been, proud to be from WV. Living in NC, I heard all the jokes about West Virginians and met so many people that couldn’t comprehend that WV was, in fact, a state and not just “western virginia.” I found myself taking up for “us” a lot, but it just came natural. I never even had to think about it. WV is and always will be my “home.” I am too waiting for the day we bring it home.

  81. Leo

    Interestingly enough, Da ‘Sean just today signed a contract with the Spurs!

  82. Dede

    It’s funny when you hear young people say they are leaving WV for a so called “better life”. But you always see them trying to get back to WV anyway possible a few years later! Have seen it repeatedly in my own family over & over again! Sometimes you have to miss something to really appreciate it! But one thing I will never miss is the idiotic things stupid people say about our beautiful state. I’ve had people not know that we are a state, where we are located & etc….And they think WE are dumb????I have family in adjoining states, that up to recent times have had a good economic life and now that they are experiencing some hard times are beside themselves. They don’t know what to do! Unlike the people of WV that have always had to struggle, and have become adapt to surviving with a smile & sense of humor…Something I don’t see it these people doing! So give me all your insults, bad humor and stupidity! I can take it and will survive in the beautiful state of West Virginia–with a smile!

  83. Mike Eros

    Thanks for putting into words what all mountaineers feel this March, and in Marches past. And for voicing a whole lot more, borne out of that lifelong kind of yearing for home that so many economically-exiled West Virginians feel. Who among us can ever feel truly home until we can again taste the cool humidity of the Allegheny in early summer, or get lost in time along creekbeds forgotten but for a few Indians and immigrants, since the birth of the Appalachians…

  84. Kristin

    Michael, this piece is amazing. I am a graduate student at West Virginia University about to graduate in May. As excited as I may be about graduating, the inevitable migration is right around the corner. Your article put into words the way I feel about my state and my school and I am sitting here fighting back tears knowing that I too will be joining the many who have had to leave this state for greener pastures. I have a feeling I will look to this article often as I adjust to a foreign town knowing it will never compare. Thank you.

  85. Debby

    Amazing article that truly captures what it means to be a West Virginian. One small note of correction. WV has several professional sports teams, including baseball and hockey. They just aren’t major league.

  86. After graduating from WVU I couldn’t wait to get out of the state and start my life. Now as I am nearing the end of it I’d love to get back. I’ve lived outside the state for far more years than I lived there growing up, but Wikipedia still classifies me as a West Virginia Writer. I’m proud of that. I once heard a phrase that summed up what it felt like to leave WV and feel what you’re writing about: hill haunted. That just about says it all. Thanks for the great piece.

    • What a wonderful expression. Thanks very much for reading. It really means a lot.

    • Mr. Appel, I think yours is one of the most reflective and meaningful comments to me personally here. Thank you for the term “hill haunted.”

      My parents had a good friend who got involved with drugs at a young age, and though he cleaned up, decades later he is still what my father terms “drug shadowed.” It’s a complex condition, as is a life of longing for the hills.

      I don’t know if you would have the time or interest, but I am working on my second year of a project I call Essays on Childhood. Your participation would be most welcome. You can see more about the project at http://www.essaysonchildhood.wordpress.com.

  87. John

    Absolutely brilliant. I read it early this morning, and I spent most of the day thinking about what you wrote. Like so many others, I think your writing captures how I feel about our state better than I could ever express in words. I grew up in southern WV and attended WVU for undergrad. My wife and I met there and moved to Pittsburgh to start our careers. I feel very fortunate to be only 70 miles north of home, but we still talk about moving back when we are ready to start a family. I usually feel silly saying it because I’ve never really been able to rationalize it, but I’ve always felt as if I’d be depriving my children of something if they were raised outside of West Virginia. I know that my wife, who is from PA, feels the same way. I realized as I read this that it’s everything that you felt as you wrote it and everything that I felt as I read it that I would be depriving them of. Thank you.

  88. This incredibly well written and heartfelt article has been passed to me through 3 West Virginians and I have passed it on to several more who I think will also be moved and touched by Michaels passion.
    He has managed to capture the sentiments of so many of us who are forever attached to our home state. I was raised in West Virginia and now make my living and my life in California. But West Virginia will forever be my home town. Every time I catch a plane to visit WV I always tell people I am going home. Obviously, Michael is an incredible story teller and I hope you will be doing more of that if you aren’t already. But there are so few of us West Virginians and we so rarely get to hear the positive comments. I listen to the hillbilly jokes and laugh with them and I really don’t mind, every state has some kind of jokes being made about their state. But I often think we could use a little bit better PR out there in the world. And then I think like Michael we can each be our own PR firm for the state spreading a positive and heartfelt message. I try that as often as possible. So, in a rare moment I publicly sign my name: Barbara Murray, formerly of Charleston WV.

    • Barb C

      Loved the article. I, too, was born, raised, and educated all in WV public schools (’69 WVU grad). I, too, have had to move “elsewhere” for my living. Did move back 1998-2006 and loved it. Still get SO proud seeing fellow WVians with our blue and gold in other states. I always try to give good PR to WV–even if it is only to say, “yes, we DO wear shoes,” or “yes, I can read!”
      Thanks for putting into words all the emotions we true ‘EERS feel.

  89. Tyler

    Man, you finally were able to put into words but what I felt for 20 years…I truly appreciate it.

  90. Diane E.

    Love the article. You’ve put into words what we all feel.

    My daughter lived and worked in Indianapolis, IN a few yrs. ago. She worked in a medical facility. A patient was making conversation with her one day and asked “where are you from?” My daughter replied, “WV.” The patient then said, “what part of VA?” My daughter said, “I don’t live in VA…I live in WV. West Virginia is a state.” The patient then said, “well, when did that happen?” Funny but sad.

  91. Julie

    Awesome article – as a former athlete and forever member of mountaineer nation – it made me really proud to read such an articulated view of an honest truth. I have lived all over the world for my job, but some of my favorite moments belong to the fact that ‘Take Me Home’ is the #1 karaoke song in Asia – people fight to sing it. And when they do, it always brings tears to my eyes… Thanks for the article – here’s to keeping it real for the Mountaineers and gaining a title.

  92. Thank you for your wonderful post, capturing the emotions of many of us who are from West Virginia. I grew up in the Northern Panhandle town of Wellsburg, and at age 10 moved across the Ohio to get to the big city of Steubenville, Ohio. My father and mother are from Wheeling, and my father’s parents immigrated to the state from Russia. I was the first in my family to graduate from WVU (MA 1976), although many others went there.

    I am proud to be from West Virginia, and do think of it as home.

  93. Carol

    God bless you, young man. You made a lot of people proud today.
    Thank you (and thank your parents for the great job they did with you).
    BHS ’71

  94. Brenda

    Beautifully written!!! I am so proud to be from WV!! When I met my husband and started into a relationship, I told him if he wanted to marry me, he would have to move from Virginia into W. Va. And I meant it! He tells the story how he cried (jokingly) when he put those WV plates on his car and he knows he better never tell a WV joke in mine or my family’s presence. He took me on a cruise to Hawaii for our honeymoon several years ago and on the very last day, the ship crew had a parade of flags on the top deck. All the way around the ship you could only see the sky meeting the water. A regae band was playing live music on the ship during the parade and of all things clear out in the ocean, they played “Take me Home Country Roads”. I started crying like a baby and said, “I want to go home and I want to go home NOW.” He couldn’t get me back to home to WV fast enough!!! This Almost Heaven WV state will always be home to me!!! Goooooooooooo Eeers!!!

    • Stephen

      Hey Bren……….thanks for your reply !!! Can’t wait to see you and Lar next month. And to echo your last sentiments,……..Let’s goooooooooooo Mountaineers !!!!!

  95. Azel

    Writing this from Southern California.

    I spent eight years in West Virginia when I was a kid, going to school in Charleston and Parkersburg. A long time ago. Those beautiful mountains and genuine people will forever be a part of my being.

    I went to college in Florida, but remain a staunch supporter of blue and gold athletics.

    Huggins can wear a bathrobe for all I care.

    Off subject a bit – mountain top removal mining saddens and infuriates me. But it doesn’t stop me from dreaming of moving back there someday when I retire.

    I’d like to be there when WVU hangs up its first National Championship banner in football or basketball. It will happen.

    I will never stop educating people about the wonders of West Virginia.

    Great piece! Had that state in my own rear view mirror too many times.

    Go Mountaineers!!

    • Mountaintop Removal is definitely an issue worthy of digression. If interested, these folks do extremely important work:
      http://www.ilovemountains.org/

    • Cheryl

      Mountain top removal is not the evil everyone likes to proclaim. There wouldn’t be an airport in Charleston if the top of the mountain hadn’t been leveled. There are a lot of malls, hospitals, airports, etc. that only exist because terrain was altered. All of this has an effect on the environment, too. Coal is King in WV and many of us make a living from it, whether taking off the top or digging a “hole” in the side of the mountain. Perhaps, before you talk of all the negative stereotypes about WV, you should look at the ones you have of her and her people. Why is it wrong to use the resources God gave us? Would you rather we use our mountains as repositories for spent nuclear fuel rods? Would you rather we populate our mountains with wind mills? If so, what do you propose we build them from if we don’t mine?

      I say God Bless West Virginia and God Bless Coal.

    • Amy

      Azel, my brother, sent me this article.
      Yes, indeed for eight of our young years, we grew up in WV. I actually attended WVU for a year before leaving the state – but I was always looking back.
      Have even taken to going back on a regular basis. I go to re-amaze myself with beauty of ‘Those West Virginia Hills’ thanks to a wonderful group of Carbide Kids who reunion on Blue Creek each July – Cliffside, Camelot & Carlisle – you know who you are. See you for the Big One in 2012.
      Saw John Dever sing ‘Country Roads’ on a flat bed truck next to that beautiful gold domed Capital on the banks of the Kanawha River.
      Wasn’t born there, probably won’t die there, but I’m from there – been the butt of many WV jokes over the years myself.
      Thanks Mom & Dad for taking us there – 1963. My eyes are stinging…

  96. oWhViUo

    AWESOME article. I’ve been a part of “is that close to Richmond” MANY times, even a few years ago when we were in Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma, it was, “what part of western Virginia are you folks from”?…. “no, sir, its West Virginia, we’ve had our own place since 1863″…”oh, okay, im sorry, so… Mason county? is that near Richmond?”… needless to say, we gave up.
    But thanks for the article, very true in every aspect.

  97. John in TX

    I just read this article in my office in Dallas, TX and I’ll have a heavy heart the rest of the day. I live a life that is beyond any expectations I could have conceived as a child of WV. The tragedy of my life is that my heart will forever be broken for West Virginia. Of course I am biased but this article is simply amazing and one that I’ll surely pass along. It’s tough to make a former Marine tear up several times in only one article. Too bad Stewart Mandel, Greg Luginbill, and Pat Forde can’t write so well.

  98. Matt

    I’m from Syracuse, N.Y. and have family in West Virginia and they know I pull for WVU ALL the time ! I was sad when Coach John B left your basketball program, however I said to my cousin ” You guys are getting 1 of the best in Coach Huggins ” What he did that night with Butler, proved it once again !! I’ve been a season ticket holder going back to Manley Field House, before the Dome and I could never see Boeheim consoling a player like that !! Boeheim doesn’t have the class of Huggins !! By the way, my relatives from WV were with me @ the Dome the game before Butler was injured, when WVU beat Kentucky and that’s the way SU fans should cheer for their team !! The place was the loudiest I’ve ever heard it !! Go Mountaineers !!

  99. June Aliff

    June Aliff
    March 25,2011

    As a very sr. citizen I am so delighted to at last read such a wonderfully positive article about my beloved West Virginia. Thank you so much.

  100. Tim

    Great article! You really summed up what it means means to be a Wild Wonderful West Virginian. The state where being proud of your heritage is as important as the pride we have for WVU. Huggins showed the depth of the love we have for our state and the EERs. And, oh my, what a great day it will be when that elusive national championship trophy finds its way to Morgontown. There will be no safe couches within our borders! Sorry for rambling, can’t help myself.

  101. Beth Kleckner

    Someone sent this post to me this morning and said, “You know you are from WV if you scroll through the comments to see if anyone you know posted something.” And I do know people who’ve commented. Though I don’t currently live in WV, your writing brought me back to my home among the hills. Thank you.

    • Susan

      I wondered if anyone else was looking thru the comments and finding people they know! Love this essay and the portrait it paints of the state and people I love. Thank you

  102. j.e.h.

    Signing on to Facebook this morning, I noticed a link that was shared and commented on by several of my friends who don’t even know each other. They do have one common bond, however; they all are West Virginians.

    Your article is triumphant.

    I grew up in Fairmont and like you, I am 30 years old. Since my early twenties I have compared West Virginia to the womb: you exhaust all that effort trying to get out but once you do, you spend the rest of your life trying to get back in.

    I just had to get out of West Virginia and move on to “bigger and better things” after high school and ended up in Pittsburgh for a year and a half of college. The call of my rolling hills was too strong even though I was only an hour or so away and transferred to WVU and spent the next three years in Morgantown. I didn’t want to move to bigger or better things after college, but as your article and your fans have expressed, to find a job, I had to go. After suffering through six years of hell living in the DC metro area, I have within the last year relocated with my husband to Roanoke, VA. It’s not West Virginia, but it’s not bad. Granted I have to put up with a lot of annoying VA Tech fans, but I see way more WV stickers, flags, and sweatshirts here than I ever did in Maryland. My husband who grew up in Maryland has become Mountaineer fan. I converted him. It makes me proud. As we were filling out our NCAA brackets this year I reminded him, I’m not just rooting for my school, I’m rooting for my state.

    Your article has moved me to tears. Thankfully it’s spring because I’m at work and can blame it on allergies.

    Thank you, sir, for your magical words and your understanding.

  103. Tammy

    Wonderful! Born in Chicago, I have been raised, and still live, in WV. You summed it all up very well- the frustration, and pride, of being a WVian. I have to admit to shedding a tear when I got to the portion regarding Huggs and Da’Sean. It was such a touching moment, and it did make me very proud. Would not have been the same if Huggs wasn’t “one of us”!

  104. Alyssa

    My dad was in the Air Force, so we moved around a lot. He retired when I was 10 and, by happenstance, we moved to West Virginia. All my life I had wanted to belong to a place – I fell right in love with the land and the people. I graduated from WVU in ’03 (before they were any good at sports ;), married an Englishman and moved abroad. I will never again live in WV, and it breaks my heart. I’ve not been back to Morgantown since 2003 – but if I close my eyes I can still smell the leaves turning and the sounds of Mountaineer Field. I can’t imagine a more perfect place in all the world.

    I’ve told my husband, when I die, scatter half my ashes off Cooper’s Rock, the other half should stay with him – pretty representative of how I’ve felt since I left home.

    Thank you. You have made my day.

  105. Louis Fish

    “Mountaineer athletics isn’t about being entertained. It’s about being represented.”

    That says it all. You nailed it. Best article on WVU I’ve ever read. Thank-you.

  106. MaryAnn

    Oh my gosh! What an incredible article. I was a Mountaineer mom in the 1990’s and I loved every minute that I spent in West Virginia and, to this day, am an enthusiastic supporter of WV athletics. My daughter shared this on FB and warned that it would be teary – and it was.

  107. Randy Jackson

    too long; didn’t read.

  108. T. Hedrick

    That was was an amazing read… I’m from a little town in Tucker county called Red Creek. As some have writen, i no longer reside in the great state of West Virginia. My search for the not so slow pased life has landed me just south of DC, and as a young lad i thought this is what i needed, wow dose this make me sad and happy at the same darn time. Dose that sound silly? As you will soon learn i’m not the writer or grammer/spelling wiz as Mike, but just wanted to say thanks for this pieace. The grass is the same shade on both sides !!! As the saying go’s, you somtimes don’t know what you have untill it is gone…

    Ps. I will bet the farm on that i’m the only man in the firehouse who will be crying myself to sleep this 24hr shift…LOL, sniff, sniff.

  109. Brian Fox

    Bookmarked for future reading. Thank you.

  110. Leslie

    Haven’t been back to read this since you first sent it to me, but I heard there were quite a few comments worth looking at. What I find the most amazing? With one article, you’ve opened the door to 120+ life stories. I love that people are so touched when reading this, they immediately share where they were born, moved, traveled, etc, and what happened along the way. Truly wonderful. I clearly don’t have the same writing talents, and therefore have no better words to express this, but I’m really proud of you.

    • I know. You wish you could trade stories and hear more from everyone. The range of experiences is truly humbling and yet the similarities are undeniable. Would have never thought this thing would be at 28,000 hits.

      Thanks for all the support.

  111. Brian

    Michael,
    What an incredibly well written piece. After reading it, I was blown away by how closely it echos my thoughts and feelings for West Virginia. I then read all the comments, and felt immense pride for my for my school, and my state.
    I’m sitting here typing this with the goosebumps still visible on my arms.
    I hope you have the same reaction from all the wonderful comments.
    This just became required reading for my 15 year old daughter. She may not understand right now what it means to be a Mountaineer, but when she does, she will surely remember this article.

    • Thanks Brian. And, yes, people’s comments and stories have been the best part of this experience. I’m only now getting time to really read them all. What a treasure trove of experiences.

  112. Judy

    I met my husband at WVU in 1969. We were both Pa natives but our hearts will always be in WV. So much so that when we retired 7 years ago we moved to WV and our sons both graduated from WVU. We are Home!!

  113. My husband and I have been “gone from home” for nine years now. Though his folks followed us out of the mountains, mine still remain and thus we have every opportunity to go visit. There’s no other place like it, that I’ve yet seen. While I can’t imagine ever being in a position to go back, our enormous blue and gold WV flag flies from the porch (one-upping the VA-Tech people with the medium flag around the subdivision!) and every time we drive around town, we see WV stickers on cars, t-shirts on pedestrians, ballcaps in the crowds.

    You’ve summed up well what so many of us feel in our hearts and why on the day after WVU actually WINS a National Championship, the newspapers will be sold out nationwide. Great writing!

  114. Cat

    Awesome article. Really touched the core of those of us who have moved away. You made me crya.

  115. Mary Frances

    Thank you for reminding me of that “shining moment” for all of West Virginia. I bawled my eyes out that day. That’s how connected we all feel in this area to anyone that represents all of us so proudly.

  116. Aaron

    The only word that does this article justice is AMAZING!!! Born and raised in Summersville, WV I dream of coming “home” one day! Almost Heaven… West Virginia!!!

  117. sally

    A wonderful aarticle. I will always remember that scene . It truly showed how much he cared for ” his boys”. It’s always a great day to be a Mountaineer!

  118. Seth Noorbakhsh

    A triumph for our state.

  119. Jeff

    I was born and raised in Parkersburg, and have sinced lived in Jersey, Philly, NYC, and currently Ohio. What you described in this piece is exactly what I struggle to convey to outsiders on a daily basis. I can still remember when my parents came to visit in NYC while I was attending school, and my step-father came back to my apartment exclaiming that “all the people here are #%holes”. “Why do you say that”? I asked. “Because I tried to say hi to about 10 different people on the way down the street and not one of them replied back”. haha I couldn’t get over the fact he didn’t understand NYC isn’t quite WV. As for a tear-jerk moment. My wife and I went to Aruba for our honeymoon a few years back, and as we were walking by the pool of the resort the DJ that was singing and entertaining a large crowd happened to notice my wife’s WVU purse. He immediately stopped the song he was singing and to the stunned crowd around him announced he had a better song for the great people walking by the pool. Of course my wife and I stopped dead in our tracks as hundreds of people were staring at us like we had some rare disease. It was then that this Aruban native with a heavy accent started to sing Take Me Home Country Road. What was better, was that his large crowd joined in half-way through the first verse. I admit my eyes got a little watery, and my wife who is not from WV kept asking “why did that upset you?”, and all I could reply was “That guy has probably never stepped foot in the US let alone WV, and he knew all the words to our song. 🙂

    • Stephenie

      LOVE IT!!!!!! Nothing else can make you feel so warm and tingly! I believe that to be a truly unique WVian experience!

    • Jenny

      That’s amazing – I had the same thing happen at a random piano bar in Zurich. Everyone I was with laughed about how happy I was when I heard him playing Country Roads for me.

      • Alex

        Same thing happened to me while I was studying abroad in Paris in 2007. Except it was a techno-version. Just as well. 🙂

      • I got married in October, and, though there was no question that CR would be a high point for some at the reception, it was heartwarming how universal the appeal turned out to be. My wife’s family and many of our friends are from SC, but that didn’t stop them from joining the circle and singing every lyric at the top of their lungs. What a gift that man gave us.

      • Chuck Bowman

        Ditto for me as well. In 2008 toured southern Ireland with thirteen family members and every band in every pub from Gallway to Dublin played Country Roads for us when they found out where we were from.
        (And you’ve never really experienced it until a pub of drunken Irishmen full of Guinness are singing it to you at the top of their lungs with an arm around you shoulder—-I can still feel the love….)

  120. Karen

    I’m a journalist in New York City, a native of West Virginia, and a very proud Mountaineer grad and fan. Without knowing me, you’ve summarized every emotion I’ve ever felt about home. Yes, HOME. Because, even though I’ll never be able to live there and have the career I’ve dreamed of, West Virginia is and will always be the place that defines me.

  121. Tom Matlack

    Great post. What sport and manhood is all about. You captured it perfectly.
    Tom Matlack
    Founder
    http://www.goodmenproject.com

  122. Ack

    I am a WVU graduate from the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, and I am a life-long citizen of the state. This was a great article that incorporates much symbolism and foreshadowing. I am the biggest sports fan you will ever meet. I went to school during all four years of Pat White, saw some great teams under belein and a few more under Huggins. I feel my time there was during some of the best history and lure of Mountaineer History. I am proud to be West Virginian and the state’s university only allows me to relish in it under national spotlight. I admire the company that you work for that you feel comfortable enough to write this article, and they will see the tremendous support from th mountain state that you deserve for this article. Thanks again, ACK

  123. john

    An absoulte wonderful piece. You manage to convey in words what many natives feel in our hearts. At age 33, I have spent the past three years in southwest Missouri for a job opportunity that was not avaliable in West “by god,” and I find myself in amusement here when it snows 2 inches and the grocery stores are bare. On weekends, I tend to “seek out” a curvy road down in the heart of the Ozarks–just so it will remind me of home. Acquantinces will also look at me funny when I tell stories of someone passing me in traffic with WV plates and me speeding up trying to make contact with them. (the springfield/branson, missouri area seems to draw the older wv population as a vacation destination.
    Michael–you paint a vivid description with words what it is like to love “wild & wonderful.”

  124. Jack Stansbury

    Thank you so much for such a heartfelt piece. I am one of those you described as having left the state, but I always look back. One of my high school students this year likes to wear WVU shirts and hoodies to school. He wants to go to Medical School at WVU, and maybe play for the football team. I just saw another student with a West Virginia Wesleyan College jacket on! That was my college back in the mid-70’s.

    WVU has a great tradition in sports over the years. My grandfather was Harry Adams Stansbury, who was Athletic Director back in the 1920’s. He raised money to build the fieldhouse (Stansbury Fieldhouse) and to build the first stadium. Many people thought he was crazy back then when he wanted to have so many seats in it (something like 35,000). But he knew about West Virginians and how much they would love coming to games. The still do.

    Jack

    • Thanks Jack. I attended the WVU basketball camp as a kid and we always got a real thrill scrimmaging at Stansbury, “where that dude from the NBA logo played.”

      • Jack Stansbury

        Yeah, that Dude played some good games at the fieldhouse! I felt a lot of pride when I saw Sports Illustrated 100 best basketball players issue some time back. Jerry was #10. #1 in my heart though. My uncle Sam (I believe it was Sam) played on the team back in the 50’s, before Jerry came on the team.

        Of course, there’s the story of my grandfather and the javelin. He was walking around the WVU track field one day and someone yelled, “Look out!”. He knew enough to turn his head 90 degrees from where the sound came from. Someone had thrown a javelin and it went through his neck and out the other side. It knocked him over. Some guys helped him up, and since they couldn’t fit him in a car with a javelin in his neck, they walked him to the hospital. The first doctor that tried to pull it out fainted. The second doctor put his feet up against Grandaddy’s neck and pulled it out. He then took a piece of wire and huge cotton ball, soaked it in some kind of disinfectant, and pulled it through his neck back and forth to clean out the wound. After bandaging him up, he walked back home, said Hi to Nana, and walked outside to work in the field. He was in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for that. (Yes, true story!) Us West Virginians are tough!

      • Why that hasn’t earned a statue on campus is beyond me. Unbelievable. Thank you so much for sharing.

  125. Michelle

    Michael ,
    Truly a fantastic piece! I no longer live IN WV but still have many friends and family that do . I visit as much as possible. My sons love going there. I met my husband at WVU (who of course is from Jersey lol) and his love of the state is as big as mine. You said it absolutely perfectly. Why is this article brilliant? I hit every emotion while reading it and could picture what you were saying..PS I also grew up in SA.Keep writing even if it isnt on WV ! Also this piece is flying up all over my FB just thought you should know:)

  126. stephanie

    One of the best articles I have ever read! What a wonderful depiction of this state so we call home. I have ask many times why the coach never dressed like the rest. I never really thought negative of his decision, but its true some times a tie just gets in the way.

  127. Sandy

    Michael,

    Very poignant piece. I have move away and back again three times–family health issues. I do need to correct you on one point in your article. Our beloved West Virginia University Mountaineers have won 14 NCAA Championships–the Rifle team. The same team former University President David Hardesty dropped from WVU sponsorship. The same team who functioned as a club for a couple of years and has since been re-affirmed as a sanctioned WVU team only after the WV legislature forced Hardesty to re-activate the group.

    Thanks again for the great read.

  128. Mary

    Great essay. For someone who never seems to get over her bout of homesickness, you almost made me cry.

  129. Mollie

    Grew up in central WV, WVU undergrad, WVU medical school, and WVU family medicine residency. I loved this article. There is an excellent book out there that covers these themes, At Home in the Heart of Appalachia by John O’Brien. This writing ranks up there, in my book, with his and that of Denise Giardina in perfectly capturing the thoughts and feelings so many of us WV natives have, but can’t find the words to express. Bravo.

  130. Man, this was PERFECT. An absolutely great article. Had to stop reading it at work, too emotional.

    This needs to be in the Daily Mail or Gazette or something bigger like USA Today or ESPN.

    Awesome, just awesome.

  131. Michael Adams

    Having become one of the statistics of those who grew up in W. Va. but had opportunity knock in the Lone Star State, I found great appreciation to what you have written. I have since become panicked in 2 inches of snow and at one time would have been horrified of a tornado. I do get homesick. Very homesick. And as much Burnt Orange flows through my veins, even as a Marshall University graduate I find myself cheering for Blue and Gold (except when they play the Herd, but you can surely understand). Still, my roots belong in Wild and Wonderful, even know they have been uprooted to the grand state of Texas. I really enjoyed this article.

  132. Dennis

    Michael I enojoyed your article and will be sharing it with my wife who when Rich Rod left for Michigan she couldnt understand why I was upset or mad. At that point I thought Rich was the best chance for WVU and WV to win the national title you disrcibed. I have lived in many cities in WV for the first 35 years of my life and then got married and moved to PA. Each time I cross that stateline into WV I sigh and say I’m home. Thanks for helping me and everyone else who could not put the true WV exoerience into words so they could understand.

  133. Sue

    Michael, your writing is wonderful. I’m glad I had the chance to read it. I am not a fan of basketball, but I’m supportive of the men and women in the Blue and Gold. Let’s goo mountineers!
    I am a West Virginian that never lived outside the state and will never leave. My husband and I joke about retiring to Florida. It won’t change a thing, I will always carry WV with me.

  134. Bill Patrick

    An absolutely superb portrait of what it means to be from WV. I am a native of St. Albans that has lived in several countries and seen a good part of the globe. There is no place like it on earth and it truly becomes part of the very being of those of us that are born there or find our way there by circumstance. I am only ‘home’ when I’m there and I long to return when I’m away. I always, always sing “Almost Heaven” when I cross the border and my family joins in. Your piece really honed in on this mysterious unity of longing that displaced mountaineers feel about their true home. Thank you!

  135. Doug Harvey

    Outstanding, well thought out, and to the point………….ONCE A MOUNTAINEER, ALWAYS A MOUNTAINEER……….no matter where you live!

  136. Jennifer

    Great story! My favorite line is, “a tie would have gotten in the way”

  137. irolwvugrad

    Amazing article with a depth and truth only a true West Virginian would understand. We travel with WVU shirts and hats and have yet to go some place without meeting someone new or shout of a “Let’s go Mountianeers!” across the way from some stranger that loves your home state as much as you do. Indescribeable feeling. Let’s Gooo!…… Mountaineers!

  138. Malinda

    Like many others, this article brought tears to my eyes! I’ve lived out of the state for most of my life, and I consider NYC home, but West Virginia will always be Home. As I grow older, the desire to move back is growing ever stronger… As I said when I posted this on my FB page, this perfectly articulates why I’m a crazy WVU fan even though I didn’t go there and haven’t lived in the state since I was 13… and why I’ve been home 8 times in the last 6 months (even though it’s a 9-hour drive)!

  139. Chuck Steele

    PERFECT!

  140. EERS 2 Ya

    Wow, great read!!! My favorite quote is:

    If you’re from West Virginia, Mountaineer athletics isn’t about being entertained. It’s about being represented.

  141. Incredible article. Being West Virginian is a blessing that no one else will ever understand; it’s like being born into, what others view as a dysfunctional family, but only the members know how perfect and loving that family is. And I love the bigger lesson of this story: don’t care what other think and don’t strive to be understood, that’s how we should all live our lives!

    • Bob Wissler

      When I told my family who lived on Long Island which was 10 minutes away from the beach we were moving to West Virginia my kids were in shock they thought that the bathroome were outside and so and so forth. I was at work and the family was out in Bridgeport looking around. They had stoped to eat and yes it was a big mac and they took it to the family van. My son when he was finished opened the window and threw out his trash. A Man beeped his horn and pulled aside of us and they rolled down the windows he said we don’t litter down here and yes we still had new York plates on the van. My wife pulled over and got out with Nick to pick up the trash and the man said thank you and enjoy your visit. Well little did he know we had moved into his state and we had a lot to learn. By the way my daughter Heather is a good friend of the writer of this essay and I Bob Wissler is the 71 year old father who just loves living here! Thanks again for the great essay I sent it to a good friend in new York!

  142. ANM

    This is extremely well written, while reading this article I laughed, nodded my head and even had watery eyes. As a Parkersburg, WV native that wanted to get as far away from this state as possible after I graduated high school, but there is nowhere else in this world I’d rather be than right here in good ole’ West “BY GOD” Virginia! After serving 6 years in the Air Force, stationed all over the world I always carried my blue and gold t-shirts and sweatshirts with me, some people asked me where West Virginia was, others were thrilled to death that there was actually another WV native in their presence and others cracked the usual jokes about marrying cousins, wearing shoes and the whole nine yards. I never once let this bother me because I knew if the people that were making such comments had visited this great state they’d fall in love with it. I’ve had quite a few friends I was stationed with in the military actually come to West Virgina and low and behold, they loved it! And have came back on numerous occasions to get away from the “city” but of coarse I still get made fun of for saying “Ya’ll” “Pop” “Buggy” “Holler”

  143. Keturah Frye

    I was born and raised in Almost Heaven. As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to leave. I did move a few times, and never felt “at home” anywhere until we moved to Germany. Believe it or not (if you have ever been there, you know), Germany loves West Virginia. Hearing John Denver’s voice at Biergartens and clubs as well as on the radio made it seem even more like home. Coming back “Home” was our choice, but one we always knew to expect. Once you have had the taste of WV, nothing else is the same. Pepperoni Rolls still amaze my out-of-state friends (they LOVE them), and they can’t get over that Mountaineer SPIRIT!!! I bleed Blue and Gold, and am not afraid to show it. God loves WV, and so do I!!!

    Thanks for a very well written article and summing up the emotions of being a MOUNTAINEER!!!

  144. Ryan

    As an Air Force officer currently deployed to Afghanistan, I haven’t seen my home state of West Virginia since June of 2010. Everyone here talks about missing their friends, their families, their pets. I’m the only one that talks about missing his state.

    Absolute perfect article about what it means to be a Mountaineer.

    • Bob Wissler

      thank you for your service my son just left active service in the Navy he had one of those jobe that his family could not know about so now after 7 years of active service he is now in the reserves awaiting for an appointment to OCS and yes in closing Senator Byrd had given hima appointment to the Naval Academy but he said he did not wish to spend all that time in the service. So it’s people like you that defend our country and if you look it up most service personell come from WV!

    • Thanks Ryan — on a number of levels.

  145. Denise Harper

    Michael, absolutely, the best article I have ever read. Amazing writer that you are and most importantly, knowing how to express the love of WV. God Bless You and Yours 🙂

  146. Kristy

    I am a native West Virginian whose dad was a coal miner, and I grew up in a trailer on a dirt road. I’m the proud owner of a jar of moonshine right now. I joined the military just after high school and haven’t lived there since. My accent has faded over the years but comes out thick as ever from time to time, and no, I will NEVER call any other place “home.” This is beautiful!

  147. Ryan Withers

    Loved the article. I’m a West Virginia that has lived outside the state and country for almost ten years. I recently moved back home and I am wrestling with the duality of our state. Your article truly struck a chord with me. Thank you.

  148. Jim from Keyser

    Re-posted. Just great. Even for a kid born a thousand miles away in beautiful, sunny Miami — WV is home. The one thing he missed was talking about how “…time moves slower when it has to maneuver through the peaks and hollers, making summer bike rides longer and fishing adventures linger; weekend camping trips seem to have left us with weeks of memories and ‘everyone knew everyone’ because they had plenty of chances to share rides at the county fair.”

  149. Tad

    Nice job!

    We can all relate, I’m sure. I lived in Chicago for 5 years and was always in the battle of “Yes! West Virginia really is a state!”

    So many people would debate me and say, “No, it’s just the western part of Virginia.” Seriously! And these people were educated… people I worked with, folks who had decent incomes. And they were serious, not just jaggin’ me.

    Then, one day, this homeless, slightly off, albiet slightly famous Chicagoan dubbed ‘The Driver’ (because he would sprint along side of traffic on Michigan Ave. with one arm on a pretend steering wheel and the other hand resting on the invisible car window ledge, weaving in and out of traffic on foot) tapped on my car window in a parking lot and said:

    “Hey, you got any change? Got a sandwich?”
    I reply- “Nope, sorry…”
    “I see you’re from West Virginia! Huntington? Charleston?”
    “Uhhhh…Fairmont, actually…” I said slightly stunned
    “Great! Have a great day!” he exclaimed as he drove is invisible ride back down Lincoln Ave.

    • Funniest thing I’ve heard today. Have to admit I was similarly charmed in Chicago last summer. We were crossing the bridge on State St. at 8:15 on a Sunday morning when my wife pointed out a panhandler whose sign read “Proceeds To Fund Jack Daniels’ Product Testing.”

      Part of me still thinks that kind of honesty and irreverence deserved a buck.

  150. Judi Evans

    Michael,
    You have such a way with the written word…you capture a depth of feeling and emotion and leave the reader longing for more. I am a West Virginian and at times have felt “less than” because my husband and I “chose” to come back after leaving for quite some time. It was, however, a great place to raise children and there is something to be said for deep roots and strong connections…and if we lived in the “city” I’m sure my husbands patients wouldn’t keep me supplied with fresh vegetables, blueberries and homemade goodies.
    I just noticed your name…M. Powelson. Are you the son of Jackie and Jeff?
    The nephew of my dear friend ,MB? If so, I am so proud of you and feel honored to be able to claim a small connection to you…and if not, well, I am proud of you anyway and wish you well…You have a brilliant career ahead of you if you continue to write from your heart!

  151. 73mountie

    Thank you for a wonderfully written article. You have summed up the exact feelings that Mountaineers the world over have expressed for years. Thank you and MONTANI SEMPER LIBERI!!

  152. Enough, already, with the nostalgia. Michael’s wonderful writing is not about attending WVU, not about sports, not about moonshine, nor is it even about Huggins or Butler. This piece is about summoning the courage to do what is right even while knowing you will be criticized and misunderstood.

    This is why it is so powerful; art transcends place and time.

    • Randy, I had as similar feeling when I first read it too, but it’s difficult to deny at pushing 100 comments that the post touches people in their love of West Virginia and all of the conflicting emotions that come with it. That’s not all it does, and it depends on your attachments, but I think it does do that and evidence shows does it very well….. (my original comment yesterday was in your line of thinking).

    • Luke

      I believe a good piece of writing can be seen from many angles. There is certainly a place for the larger lesson of summoning courage for the sake of righteousness; however, if that were all it were about, wouldn’t the article be trite? One of so many others of its kind?

      The details of this situation are by nature nostalgic. I believe these details, Michael’s attachment to his – our – home state, set it apart from anything so run-of-the-mill as doing the right thing despite what others think. The story is certainly there, but reconciliation and nostalgia both have their place. Neither deserve to be devalued in the circumstance.

      I will always have the mixed feelings Michael captures so eloquently and perfectly. This piece puts them into words in a way I could never do and may never read again. By comparison I have heard many times that I should do the right thing despite what others may think. It’s a good message, but the perfect snapshot of my emotions is why I am a huge fan of this article.
      My personal favorite? — “It is not a coincidence that the voice in Country Roads is singing from somewhere else, nor is it surprising that there are tears in his eyes. ” And yet… “Rear-view mirrors just seem to flatter their subjects in ways windshields can’t.”

      Many thanks for the article. I’ve shared it as well.

  153. Tina

    Several of my friends posted a link to this on FB, and I’m so glad they did! I’m on the opposite side though-a Jersey girl brought to North Central WV by her parents in 1979. After the initial culture shock (what’s “pop”? oh, SODA!) I acclimated quite well. I love this state. And even though I know with a bachelor’s degree and 13 years paralegal experience, I could make $50,000.00 a year somewhere else, I’ll live paycheck to paycheck like most others in the area to stay right where I am-on my 1/2 acre at the end of a dead end road with deer and squirrel galore. I wouldn’t go back to Jersey for all the money in the world. And of course-LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MOUNTAINEERS!!! 🙂

  154. Ml

    Brilliantly written . As a 30 yr old born and raised in WV, undergrad and grad school at WVU and now transplanted to SC, you have poignantly said what I frequently cannot but would like to. Can you post a link to the pic though?

  155. Do Jones

    Beautifully written. You’ve captured perfectly the conflicted hope that is “home”. Thank you!

  156. Todd

    Thanks for writing this. It was truly a pleasure to read and makes me proud to be a Mountaineer!

  157. James

    Excellent words. After 23 years of Air Force life, 34 countries and counting, West Virginia and her folks remain with me. Thanks and well said!

    PS Rocking the nylon is still better than Huggs’ gold suit! GO EERS!

  158. Bob Wissler

    Thank You God Bless West Virginia!

  159. connie

    I grew up in Ohio where 22 of 23 families were from West Virginia. Every one of them talked about coming home when they retired. When I had an opportunity to move here twenty years ago, I took it. I’ve never looked back. I was born in Clarksburg but had lived here only six months before we moved. My dad told me as a child that he was taught Reading, Writing and Route to Akron as a child.

  160. Bridget Boothe

    You couldn’t have said it better! Tears filled my eyes as I read it. The parts about the state really hit home. Thanks so much for sharing! LETS GOOO MOUNTAINEERS!

  161. Karen

    Wonderful article. Thank you for writing how everyone feels.

    Another great publicaton to bring WV into your hearts on a monthly bases is “Wonderful West Virginia.”

  162. Cliff H

    As a born and raised West Virginian who grew up in Westover and now lives in a country that until a few years ago I’m sure no one could find(here’s a hint, I now live in middle-earth), this story really made me feel homesick for the first time in a long time. I’ll say this though, as much as the stereotypes follow us around in the US, I hare to say it but they are international. Granted, it’s fun to play that to your advantage at times. 🙂 in any case, thanks for this article. It is brilliantly written and almost made me hear the parties in Sunnyside I used to hear across the river 🙂

  163. JT

    I was touched by your article in so many ways. I remember how when I was in college at Xavier, it always seemed that the sun was shining brighter and longer when I was driving back to WV for the weekend or a break, and that it was always raining when I was headed back to Cincinnati. My wife and I like to say that there’s magic in the Mountains, because even when we were living just a few miles away in Lexington, KY, it just felt different when you crossed the bridge at Catlettsburg. I am 33 years old, and I still honk my horn repeatedly when I cross the border – every single time. I have been around the world and managed to find a connection to WV nearly everywhere I have ever gone, and 9/10 times, that connection is 2-3 degrees from family. There is something special about us, something people other places just do not have in their constitution. And that’s just my reaction to half of your article. Great piece. Thank you.

  164. Fantastic work. If you’re not getting paid to write yet you should be. Really hit home for me because I’m 31, originally from SAlbans, living out of state (TN) and I’ll be damned if my first trip to Mountaineer Field wasn’t that same BC game. I actually went to UK (no architecture school in WV) & my buddies have never understood why I cling so much to my home team & friends. I think this post will help them understand. Keep it up!

    • Sorry, I actually grew up in Bridgeport. Didn’t intend to imply otherwise — just used St. Albans as a reference of any/all WV towns to make the St. Louis parallel. Probably need to rethink that sentence as others have had the same takeaway.

      Anyhow, thanks for the comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      Best,
      – M

  165. Russell

    Now in sunny FL and today was wear your sports shirt day to work. Of course I had on the Gold and Blue and found out that two others in the room were also native West Virginians. My mom and dad have both passed and I don’t know if I will ever be back, but I do know that West Virginia will never leave me!!! Thank you for writing such a wonderful article!

  166. David

    Decent article…. but you don’t speak for everyone from WV…. I lived there for the forst 18 yrs of my life…. All I could think was… God I hate this place…. Moved to the Best coast and haven’t looked back…. WV still sucks and so does Pat White!!!!

    • Fair enough sir. Would never claim, or attempt, to speak for everyone from anywhere.

      Thanks for reading though.

    • eer4life

      Growing up in WV, I was often taught that when you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Sorry you feel the way that you do. Perhaps a few more years and a little more maturity may change your mind.

    • Jim

      Born and raised in the eastern panhandle, but lived on the “Left Coast” from ’67 to ’73. Could not wait to get Home to raise my kids. @ David, you have my sincere condolences…

    • Someone has a problem lying to themselves. If you said WV sucks, I could accept your opinion.

      But Pat White sucks? The leading rusher for a QB in NCAA history? Let’s be serious, now you’re just lying to yourself.

    • Phil

      Obviously a Marshall fan.

  167. Incredible! I grew up in Tennessee, but went to Morgantown for grad school and the place left its mark on me. I love your state. Thanks for sharing it with me through your writing.

  168. Susan

    This was great!

    I will admit I am wiping tears from my eyes.

  169. SD

    Count me in among those who were moved to tears. Incredibly done. Thank you.

    • jordan jarrett

      I found this to be very true! Great article! Found myself smiling numerous times because some of your observations were so on point. Need a sequel. I lived in NC for 4 years and felt so great to get back home in the oddly shaped state that i call heaven.

      West Virginians always take pride in the Wild n Wonderful. No place like it.
      Lets GOO EER’s

  170. Shannon

    I felt like you were in my head – except you said it much better than I ever could. Of course, I bleed blue & gold (2 time alum and huge fan) but the parts about the state really hit home. I posted the link on Facebook with a note saying “Pretty much sums it up for every West Virginian…If you care to understand me better and you aren’t from WV, then read this!” Thanks for writing this for every West Virginian, near and far.

  171. SCMountaineers

    Awesome article…LETS GO MOUNTAINEERS!!!

  172. Josh

    Bravo sir! That was a fantastic article. I’m an SA native myself, and after leaving home for 3 years for my wife’s work, we were fortunate enough to move back to WV. I think leaving makes you appreciate it more. Everyone in Florida knew my wife and I would move back home well before we admitted it to ourselves. We’ve been back for 3 years and added a son to our family, and I couldn’t think of a better place to raise a kid. He’s about 9 months old now, and I’m pretty sure he’s learned all the words to “Country Roads” and “Hail West Virginia”.

  173. Amy Weintraub

    As a Spencer, WV native who lived out-of-state for 14 years then moved back in 1999 while in my early 30s, I totally agree and relate with your astute observations. Good stuff!!!! Let’s Go, Mountaineers!

  174. eer4life

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant! You have encapsulated everything that we all, as proud West Virginians, wish we could articulate when confronted with disparaging comments or outright fabrications about our state.

    I hope this piece gets distributed to the statewide print media for publication. And at the risk of beating a deceased horse, if you are not currently being compensated for your gift of the written word, you absolutely should be. Thank you for writing this!

  175. As someone who moved to West Virginia after college and attended WVU for graduate school. This post sums up my (some would say) irrational emotional attachment to WVU athletics.

    I was accepted by the people of West Virginia for who I was. They held me during dark times in my life and they celebrated with me in the bright spots in my life.

    I AM a West Virginian, by heart if not by birth.

    There is a quote that I love, “Thus, it is with those nurtured in Appalachia—they leave, but they look back, remembering pleasant things. The land has claimed them, and its ties will not be severed.” –Maurice Brooks

    Thank you

    I also intend to post this everywhere I can think of

    http://www.twitter.com/ggbolt16, oregonbolt.wordpress.com, http://www.facebook.com/ggbolt16

  176. Andrea

    This is absolutely amazing. Your brilliant post confirms what I have long suspected- we West Virginians really are different. It’s in our blood. I’m thankful that you could put it in print. I’m reminded of a quote, “From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it.” You, sir, have found a way to explain it and touch a lot of (gold and blue bleeding) hearts.

  177. Jennifer Lawrence

    Beautiful piece Michael. I hope your doing well. Drop me a line some time, I’d love to hear how you’re doing.
    Jen

  178. Representing in Northern Arizona

    Excellent piece, Michael!

    My friends tease me all the time about wearing Mountaineer gear all the time, especially my faded flying WV sweatshirt. I keep telling ’em “I’m representing” and “Just watch–somebody from West Virginia will come up to me.” And they do!

    Our Peeps are EVERYWHERE!

    • You are correct, sir. Got honked at crossing the street in downtown Greenville, SC just days ago. Told my wife it must be on account of my looks, but I don’t think she bought it.

  179. Linda

    I’m not a West Virginia native but moved there when I was 10. As a college grad, moved to NY nad they all held their breath as I walked thru the door. They had never met someone from WV! They waited until I spoke and shook my hand and said WOW we understand you. I asked them if they were waiting for my wagon, adn the hay between my teeth! It’s so funny to me that people think we are so different. I live in WV once again and am a HUGE WV sports fan! There is nothing like it!!!! Can’t wait for the first game of football or basketball when the excitement of the year is in the air! The way you wrote out that scene also brought a tear to my eye, and I too wait for the day that the rest of the country will see us as equal to them. Maybe sports will be the way they will see it!

    • Bob Wissler

      Wow I was concerned that this article was making fun of my adopted state being born and bred in Brooklyn,New York I talk funny and miss a good pizza in place of that I love all things West Virgina. My two adult children grew up here and yes both have moved and now my daughter wants me to move to Indiana. I told her I want to live and die in West Virginia. Since moving here I have been luckly enough to mee Senator Byrd, Senator Rockfellow, Joe Manchin came to the radio station that I worked at. last but not least Bob Huggins during halftime at the football game. Yes he was in that sweat suit and we spoke about sports and before I knew it the third quater was almost over. So this old man loves this state but gets upset when there is a shortage of good jobs and we tax everthing that moves. In closing I would like to thank the Barker Brothers who we hired to re-paint our kitchen, they promised me some deer meat and were half way to the house when they relizes they forgot so they turned around and went back to retrive it. This is West Virginia it cares! Thank You Heather for this great read. From your old dad!

  180. onesharpdame

    Excellent commentary. As a life-long resident of another bottom of the list state, you expressed my own feelings on what it is like to deal with others’ surprise at your literacy and indoor plumbing. Well done.

  181. Susan

    Nice. Have you heard of the WVWriters contest?

  182. Martin Wiseman

    Right on-my exact sentiments and WV pride! But, I am getting a little more concerned about the national championships as I am seventy-seven. Guess what Div. 1 school has the most football victories without a national championship-you’re right! I go back to the days in Ansted where I LISTENED to Jack Flemming. It didn’t get any better than that with the likes of Fred Wyant, Tom Allman, Bob Orders, Mac Isner, Red Holmes, Ken Alessi, to mention a few . Precious memories! Go EERS ! (And hurry)

  183. David

    A wonderful piece of work. I have layed on the rocks of the new river when I was supposed to be in class at Tech, and marveled at my state. I worked in her mines, darnk some of that out of the jar, and walked many mile on a tree covered mud road. My heart hurts when I hear or read of people making the crude remarks and disparaging comments about our people. May God bless you and keep you close for putting so many of our feelings in writing.
    Thank you very much for sharing.

  184. Krista

    I lived in WV through high school and university, my parents still live there. It is home, and I long to go back to live.

  185. ellpeee

    Excellent. Simply excellent.

  186. Elizabeth

    Really beautiful. Thank you for writing this.

  187. Mark Dalessandro

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I’m not native to West Virginia; I was born in Maryland, and I grew up about 75 miles northeast of Morgantown in Pennsylvania. I probably would have attended Pitt, Penn State, or my father’s alma mater, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, if I hadn’t taken a road trip during high school with four other seniors. We were permitted one excused day from school to visit a college, and I chose to get in the car going to WVU. Probably a combination of the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism sounding so impressive, the drinking age then being 18, the fact that an out-of-state student could attend WVU back then for about the price of an in-state PA school, and the friendly vibe of the campus pushed WVU easily to the top of my wish list after that day. I felt like I have been accepted to Penn (Harvard to a kid from PA) when my acceptance letter arrived a few months later. Four of us who traveled down to Mo’town in the car that day graduated from WVU, and the driver of that car was my roommate all four years of undergrad. As for my decision to attend WVU, I’ve never regretted it. I ended up getting my master’s degree there, worked there for awhile after a 12-year stint in Washington, D.C., and now I’m trying to complete my doctoral dissertation for another WVU degree while living in Arizona. I tried three other grad schools over the years, but I dropped out of every one of them; they just weren’t WVU. Even now I think about perhaps moving back someday. I’m not a native, but I consider myself a West Virginian, and I know the draw of the mountains, love the sway of the country roads, and feel the pain of those stereotypes. I guess I forgot to mention that I married a WV native whom I met in a Martin Hall classroom, and our two boys were born at the WVU Hospital. I still consider Mo’town to be the best college town in America, and I don’t think WVU gets nearly enough credit for the number of people it makes into West Virginians every year. Go Mountaineers!

  188. Ryan L

    This is amazing writing right here. I’m right there with ya…30 years old, transplanted from WV, sports nut for both teams.
    My girlfriend thinks I’m looney when I see someone with a WVU hat on or a WV license plate (I’m in CA, was in FL) and decide to go strike up a conversation with them. People from other states don’t do that, apparently, but every time I talk to a stranger from WV, it takes me home if just for a bit.
    I shutter when someone mentions Jesco White, curse Rich Rod, and loved it when Leo DiCaprio was photographed with a WVU hat on.

    Great piece that I’m recommending to everyone. Thank you for writing this. And for the record, I’m now liking our chances in football too… That day may be sooner than we all think!

  189. Shawn Morgan

    This is a beautiful piece of writing! Made me cry…..and I’ve been lucky enough to live and work here my whole life. Will share on fb right away.

    You wouldn’t happen to be related to the Harrison County Powelsons, would you?

  190. Jason

    There are people who talk and yap online and there are people who WRITE. This was some seriously amazing writing. Really, really beautiful.

    I’m not from, nor did I grow up in, West Virginia although I’ve spent many a summer there both as a child and now in my adult life. My parents are West Virginia high school sweethearts and yes, I bore the brunt of some of those jokes too. I’m not sure I can ever be quite as connected to West Virginia as someone who grew up there, but this piece pulled at the heartstrings a little bit anyway.

    I hope writing is what you do for a living. If it’s not, it should be.

  191. Jeff

    Well said! You captured many of the sentiments I have felt over the years after leaving WV, right down to the hire of Bob Huggins. I was fortunate to make the trek to Indy from Colorado for the Final Four last year. As much as I was disappointed by the loss to Duke and the missed opportunity for a Championship, I don’t believe it would have been any more memorable than the scene you described so eloquently above. A perfect illustration not only of a man, but of a people. Thanks.

  192. Very well done! I found you when friends posted your link on Facebook. I’m a native West Virginian but (don’t hate me) have never been deeply attached to WVU on a personal level. That said, I was right there with you in that Huggins moment when it happened. It captures something about the best of who we can be, and the genuine compassion and humility that transcends what people think they see when they look at us as a people. It’s a sort of “wash each others feet” approach that only happens when things are real. Thanks for a great essay. I’ll be sharing it, too!

  193. Natalie Aliff

    I wanted to let you know that I’ve shared this with Da’Sean and the Huggins family and all have been moved to tears. You did an amazing job at putting what every West Virginian feels into words. This is a very special piece that hopefully will reach the hearts of Mountaineers around the country. Thanks for sharing!

  194. JRW

    Thank you for so perfectly venting and otherwise expressing many of the same thoughts I have had over a period of 57 years. This could not have been written any better. Well done on all counts.

  195. Bryan

    Thanks from SoCal for a great article, that was my moment for Huggy as well. My Dad and I truly felt the state and the bball team had lost a great one in Beilein. Would love to hear you opinions on the turf side as well.

  196. M.J. Ahmed

    Wow. Beautiful piece. Thank you for writing this.

  197. John

    Wow!
    Teardrops in my eyes. I miss home so much you have me crying.

  198. Rockup

    You have taken exactly how I feel and managed to put it on paper in a beautiful and eloquent way. I was born in WV and went to WVU. I then spent 3 years in Ohio and now live in WA but WV is still, and probably always will be, my home and I love it.

  199. Renee

    I have tried to put into words how proud I am to be from West Virginia, often defending the ridiculous jokes and snide remarks, while also explaining why it was necessary for me to leave. I knew I wasn’t alone, but wow…your words…amazing. Thank you.

  200. Michael:

    Save the sports plight, (which I’m totally on board with) your saga about our disproportionate ratio of emigrants out of West Virginia is something I deal with and think about every day. I encourage you and all your followers re-posting and commenting to subscribe to WV LIVING Magazine and rediscover what it means to actually LIVE in the Mountain State. We’re sold in over 25 states and Canada, and the spring issue is out there just waiting to get picked up by folks looking for something other than a three-sentence news article or another Boone County drug documentary. Bravo, sir.
    http://www.wvlivingmagazine.com/store_locator.htm

  201. Jordan D. Simpson

    Excellent article! There is simply no place like home; it is ALWAYS a GREAT day to be a Mountaineer!

  202. Chris

    Michael, your description of that moment between Da’Sean and Huggs made me tear up. Absolutely brilliant piece all around, bravo! I echo David’s sentiments above. BTW, I’m a native of southern West Virginia and WVU Alumni, and current WVU employee. And now if you’ll excuse me, I must go paint my face Gold and Blue.

  203. Denise Omstead

    You are an amazing writer! You have nailed the feeling completely. I grew up in West Virginia, went to college there too, now I live in Alaska and I know exactly what you mean about staying connected through WVU sports. Facebook is pretty great for that too… that’s how I saw your arcticle, from an old college friend and fellow West Virginian. Thank you for writing this. I’m going to share it with others. Seriously, like others on here have said, if you’re not writing for a living you should be. All the best to you and long live West Virginia pride!

  204. Amanda

    Wow. Touching.

  205. Dave H

    A pitch-perfect piece. Thanks for the tears.

  206. This is perfect. So glad my friend shared it. So enjoyable to read. Please keep writing.

    I am a 29-year-old West Virginia native. Left and came back recently.

    You too can come home. Lord knows the Gazette could use writing like this.

  207. Matt

    Great read, from someone who wants to come back home. Thanks.

  208. Cam Huffman

    I, like you, am a 30-year-old West Virginia native, and I’m now living outside the state as a sports editor in South Carolina. I read hundreds of stories per week, and I have to say this is one of the most descriptive, heartfelt pieces I have ever read. You truly have a talent, and I, like others, would encourage you to see how far it can take you. This piece expresses my experiences and thoughts better than I could do myself, and I thank you for sharing it with us.

  209. Molly

    Perfection. Thanks for the tears from this native WVian sitting in her cube in Charlotte.

    SPOT ON.

  210. Rachel

    “For a state that’s unaccustomed to the country noticing anything but its mishaps, a sports program that gets positive national attention transcends sports.If you’re from West Virginia, Mountaineer athletics isn’t about being entertained. It’s about being represented.”

    SO TRUE! I’ve often thought about this myself but never put it so eloquently. Thanks for your essay.

  211. Evan Fedorko

    astounding essay. thank’s for sharing.

    yrs-
    Evan!

  212. Michael Goode

    I’m 30 yrs old, a native West Virginian, now living in upstate NY. This article had me fighting back tears for most of it, giving me the feeling “that I shouldve been home yesterday.”. So well spoken, especially the reference to our one handed geographical description. Wherever you may be, its a great day to be a Mountaineer!

  213. Tim Gardner

    Michael P you are amazing. Fantastic piece!

  214. Pearhead

    OK. So you snuck in my back door via a aunty share.

    M….this is the best one-two punch lace-up of gut feeling and flesh memories I’ve read in a big while. A blend that turns the page universal.

    Have you shopped this beyond F&F? If not…I’d be proud to.
    /D

  215. David

    Dude. Whoa. Questions you need to ask yourself…..Am I in the correct profesion? Do I enjoy my work as much as I did writing this piece? Could I write something this good on a subject that is not something I love this much? Am I being adequately compensated? In reading Bill Simmons, Tony Kornheiser, and Frank Rich, how do I compare?

    • Whoa squared. I really do appreciate this. It’s probably gonna cost me some sleep over the next few nights…but I really do appreciate it.

      Thanks for reading.

      • David

        Cathy Monetti sent me your article – she was in my wedding. If you’re 52 like me, you don’t have much time left to make something happen. If you’re 30, you should be building a writing portfolio and thinking big. WTF else would you do? Hard to be happy getting paid for art. The formulaic world of commercial writing, or political writing, numbs a soul. But it does pay the bills. So if you want to get paid for art, you gotta write a book or a column or a blog. So get inspired and get on with it. Ok, rock on.

  216. Lorie Gardner

    I enjoyed reading this so much, I may even start watching basketball. Brilliant.

  217. Joanne Wilson

    Michael,
    I so enjoyed reading this. Laughed out loud several times. My love of USC and the gut yearning for a National Championship being described by a much younger West Virginia Mountaineer is amazing. I felt every word. Dang, boy, you are good……

  218. I came of age in Wise, VA (neo WV) in the early ’70’s. I am a former basketball player. I am a writer.

    This piece is one my favorite things that I have ever read, anywhere, ever.

    Thank you.

  219. Amazing writing! I am from southwest Virginia, and I totally get all of what you’re saying. Can’t wait to read more from you.

  220. I don’t know of anyone who could have said it better, Michael. Anyone who wants to know what West Virginia means to us, needs to read this. Go Mountaineers!!

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