A year ago I celebrated my Christmas with a bang, so to speak.
At least, that’s what they tell me.
I don’t remember it, of course, having passed out while driving on I-79 and rolled my Ford Focus four or five times.
The state trooper who came on the scene, a friend of mine, approached the scene, took a look at the car and later told me he thought to himself, “No one is getting out of this alive.”
But, in truth, the Ford people had built themselves a pretty good car, for my injuries were far less than anyone would have imagined. In fact, I even kept writing my stories out of my bed in Ruby while undergoing tests.
In one way, I even considered the beating my body took as it rolled over and over in that tumbling automobile worth it, for it kept me from attending the Pinstripe Bowl in New York and having to watch another West Virginia University football disaster.
Things like a car accident that could have brought an end to one’s existence at holiday time often lead to a bit of soul searching, and I certainly was no exception.
And, as I began looking back on a life in which sports were always the most dominating aspect, from the moment Bobby Thomson hit his “Shot Heard Round the World,” an event that made such an impression on a 10-year-old that 13 years later he would name his son Robert Thomson, I began questioning the role sports played not only in my life but in the lives of so many others.
With me, sports had turned from an obsession into a profession. If I couldn’t hit a curve ball, I sure could describe one, and because of that I was able to live out a rich and rewarding career.
The problem was it had become more life than career, but I was being paid to immerse myself in sports— knowing how many base hits Pete Rose collected in his career, knowing how many touchdown passes Geno Smith threw against Baylor, knowing Tavon Austin’s 40-yard dash time was an expected part of the gig.
What I couldn’t understand was how fans could find this as important as I did and to be so involved that their happiness would seem to hinge on the result of a football game or, this thing that is called fantasy football, on how they could find themselves rooting against one team while at the same time rooting for its quarterback to throw five touchdown passes.
When you are lying in a hospital bed late at night, unable to sleep because thoughts are running through your mind faster than even Austin can go, you wonder about such things.
As this year went by, much changed in the outlook that I had adopted.
Indeed, there was a transition taking place that gave me insight into the minds of those who considered themselves fans, the very same people who had been reading my articles over the years.
Often articles that seemed to be reasonable and on point to me were looked upon by fans as an attack rather critique of something that obviously was wrong to anyone looking through an unprejudiced eye.
Slowly as the year went by, a year that was now being viewed by me as overtime, I came to see and understand the attachment fans had to sports.
Watching what transpired over the summer in Pittsburgh with the Pirates was as uplifting a turnabout for an entire community as I had ever seen and could not have been matched by anything, not even the discovery of a vein of gold running beneath the Boulevard of the Allies.
Conversely, having seen the change in our own community that Rich Rodriguez’s football and John Beilein’s basketball had brought, to see the depression that has set in due to the slide of both those sports over the past two seasons has demonstrated the power sports has over the mood of an entire community.
But it is even more than that. To watch a friend, Jill Sammartino, a recent WVU graduate from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., rooting for her team, the Dallas Cowboys, at that, other friends at WVU such as Melissa Becker of Cincinnati wearing her Bengals’ jersey on football Sundays and demanding that Reds’ games be playing in the restaurant in which she worked offered a view you don’t get from the press box.
Even in a college town like Morgantown, where you would often run into academic types, it seemed that many of them would enjoy talking about Garrett Ford rather than Sigmund Freud.
Sports, it turns out, are a strong fiber within our society, something more than just a pastime or a Saturday social. They help shape what a community is and how it sees itself, so much so that it is unclear if sporting teams take on the identity of the community or the community takes on the identity of the sporting teams.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.
A year ago I celebrated my Christmas with a bang, so to speak.
East’s Postlewait, North’s Latocha toss no-hitters
Tori Postlewait made a deal with her great-uncle, Kenny Carpenter, before her freshman season.
If the Bees’ pitcher tossed a no-hitter, Carpenter promised to give her $20.
Well, it took four years, but it’s finally time for Postlewait’s great-uncle to pay up.
East tennis splits with Polar Bears
Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont split a pair of tennis matches Thursday, with Fairmont Senior winning the boys’ match and East Fairmont taking the girls’ competition.
In the Bees’ 6-1 girls’ victory, Cara Laswell took second singles, 8-2. Erica Gorman won third singles, 8-1. And Carrington Reese won fourth singles, 8-3.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules
At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.
McCutchen, Alvarez lead Pirates over Brewers
Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma
Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.
FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing
Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.
University hands Huskies first loss; East edges Elkins
The mercy rule has been a familiar part of North Marion’s softball season.
Through the first seven games, the Huskies regularly pounded their opponents with stingy defense, sharp pitching and timely hitting. Rarely did a game go all seven innings for the previously undefeated team.
Huggins signs junior college guard
Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
Pirates shut out by Reds’ Cueto, 4-0
Johnny Cueto was on his game, and the only thing that the Pirates could do was watch.
Cueto pitched his third career shutout against the team that beat him in the NL wild card game, and Joey Votto hit a two-run homer that led the Cincinnati Reds over the Pirates 4-0 Wednesday for their first winning series this season.
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