By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Sometimes you hit a nerve, as we did a while back when we wrote about the wide reach of West Virginia University’s flying WV logo.
It has meant a lot to a lot of people.
John Olesky is a long-ago graduate who is now a retired journalist and has spent much of his time traveling the world and seeing up close and personal the power of the flying WV.
“I’ve been to 52 countries, and I wear clothing with the flying WV logo to all of them. I am continually amazed, but no longer surprised, at the reactions I get to the flying WV. Australia. Egypt. Thailand. China. All over Europe.
“Heck, I’ve been to small islands and my flying WV gets a “Let’s go, Mountaineers!” response.
“Often, it’s a fellow WVU grad. Or a transplanted West Virginian, like me (I live in Tallmadge, Ohio, which is adjacent to Akron). At other times, it was the fan of a rival Big East school (pre-Big 12, of course). Sometimes it’s just someone not connected with WVU or its conference, but who recognizes the logo.
“Now that WVU is in the Big 12, I expect the same reaction from league rivals’ fans.
“The flying WV ranks up there with Notre Dame’s logo in recognition factor. Maybe even more recognizable than Ohio State’s “O” with the marijuana plant (or so the buckeye leaves seem to me).
For such a small state tucked into the mountains, it is indeed a phenomenon.”
Indeed it is.
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And then there was the column noting that Tavon Austin, Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey are taking WVU down a different path of NFL football than it had traditionally taken.
Bob Mummey, a 1966 WVU graduate now from Cave Creek, Ariz., agreed, although he found one area of disagreement on our All-WVU NFL team.
“Certainly there’s some wiggle room on the WVU All-Pro team,” he wrote. “I’d wiggle Jim Braxton into you group. I would take him over Joe Marconi. Jim’s stats were a little better and he made the path for all of O.J.’s records.”
Can’t say he’s wrong, although the stats were startlingly similar.
Braxton gained only nine more rushing yards in his career than did Marconi, while Marconi had five more TD. Marconi played 11 years, Braxton 8. Braxton caught eight more passes, and in average rushing yards, Braxton finished at 3.9 and Marconi at 4.1.
In ’63, Marconi’s Bears won NFL championship, and he was the team’s leading rusher, albeit with just 469 yards.
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This basketball season past I did a column on how Matt Wells, who runs WVU’s marketing, spends so much effort on creating a fun atmosphere at the Coliseum, win or lose, and how that is very dependent upon whom he selects to sing the national anthem and to perform at halftime.
The column centered upon the favorite act of almost everyone, that being the Red Panda Acrobat, who delights young and old by flipping dishes on to her head with her feet while astride an 8-foot-tall unicycle.
Turns out her following stretches far beyond the Coliseum.
Will Leitch of the wonderful SportsonEarth.com website named her the top halftime act in the NBA and spoke to her about what goes into it, and you can see the interview on a podcast on that site.
This is what he wrote, though:
“If you don’t know, the Red Panda is the greatest halftime act on Earth. It is difficult to overstate how terrific the Red Panda’s act is. To describe the act simply as what it is can’t do it justice, but I shall try regardless.
“Basically, the Red Panda is an acrobat who rides around on a unicycle, balancing plates on her feet and then flipping the plates onto her head. See? Told you I couldn’t do it justice. That’s amazing, right? It shouldn’t be physically possible to do that. I’m pretty certain it’s magic.”
It isn’t magic, but it’s often better than the game being played by the teams who are supposed to be the main attractions, especially in the NBA.
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Nobody asked me, but this may be the year the Pirates finally break through and contend after two decades of despair.
They have a star in Andrew McCutchen but, as important, another budding star in Starling Marte.
Add in some solid starting pitching that may be very good if Francisco Liriano is back to full strength and a shutdown bullpen and they may have to go some to screw this one up.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.