The Times West Virginian


July 4, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Celebrate every day like it’s the Fourth of July

MORGANTOWN — Happy birthday, America.

Here is my gift to you:

“Nighttime in Morgantown, West Virginia, on the campus of West Virginia University. Halloween weekend and the goblin riding in on a broom is wearing a sport coat, a sweater and red tie. His graying hair is parted neatly on the left side and topping off a prominent nose and persistent frown is a pair of eye glasses, the trademark of one of the most successful football coaches — Joe Paterno.

“Joe is accompanied here by a frightening group of white-clad ghosts, the No. 2-ranked and undefeated Nittany Lions of Penn State, a frightening scene.

“But Don Nehlen’s Mountaineers enjoy walking in where angels fear to tread. So tonight, in ideal autumn weather, they will meet the invaders. They will do battle as prohibitive underdog but they will play this game with the knowledge that anything can happen in football. On any given night, on any given field, it can happen, and they want it to happen tonight.

“It will be our pleasure to describe the action as these two old rivals get together. So light up your pumpkins, put on your scariest Halloween mask, and keep that radio close by as the hills of West Virginia resound with the sounds of Gold and Blue football as the West Virginia Mountaineers are on the air.”

— Jack Fleming’s introduction to the 1986 renewal of the West Virginia-Penn State football game.

o o o o o o

Does it get any more American than that?

Jack Fleming’s legendary voice, the one that rang out through America on Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” as the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Oakland Raiders during the 1972 playoffs. Joe Paterno, Don Nehlen, West Virginia, Penn State, football ... and freedom.

Think of it; every day is really the Fourth of July.

Be it in the cold of winter, the rain of spring, the searing heat of summer ... we are Americans and we are free.

It started with an idea, with a country that wanted to be in and of itself, that believed in this thing called democracy.

If we fight wars — and we do — it is because we were born of war, a war to rid the colonies of oppression, to establish a nation built on liberty and justice for all.

The paper we celebrate is the Declaration of Independence.

Independence ... off on our own, able to create our own history, our own destiny.

And through it all, sports has been such an important part of the overall picture.

You saw it just this week, America against the world in World Cup soccer.

Yes, it’s a British game ... a game that belongs to the world, but it is a game in which once again the pride America has in itself, in its people soared to amazing heights.

There was Jesse Owens embarrassing Adolf Hitler at his Olympics in 1936 ... there was Babe Ruth and Red Grange and Willie Mays and Bill Russell and a skinny kid out of a place called Cabin Creek named Jerry West showing just how much opportunity there was in America if you worked and did things the right way.

At a time when we are as divided as we’ve ever been politically, where we have Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals ... where we agree on nothing short of the fact that it is America first, in politics, in war and in sport.

Today is a baseball day, our national pastime at midseason. It is the summer game, but a game with a thread that runs clear back into the Civil War ... a game where America became the melting pot that it is.

It went from a sport of total segregation to one that is played across the world. If it didn’t happen as fast as you can say Jackie Robinson, it happened because of him, and in his way he loomed as large as Martin Luther King Jr. in changing our world.

The Fourth of July?

Hot dogs and hamburgers. Parades. Family. Softball games.


This is my favorite holiday, perhaps because it isn’t a commercial one.

We don’t exchange gifts; we exchange love. Love of America and what it stands for.

It is the kind of day Jack Fleming should have introduced every year, a day for golf and swimming and tennis.

Talk about the hills of West Virginia resonating with the sound of blue and gold football, today from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, from the sandy beaches of Florida to the snow atop Mount McKinley, from the Great Lakes to Lake Pontchartrain our land resonates with these sounds:

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
  • Wheeling holds off Post 17 rally in state tourney opener

    Wheeling Post 1 pitcher Mo Felt nearly went the distance in a 7-6 victory over Fairmont Post 17 on Tuesday afternoon at the West Virginia American Legion Baseball State Tournament at Hawley Field.

    July 30, 2014

  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.
    The Pete Dye course, ranked No. 45 on Golf Digest’s ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Courses and No. 9 on Golfweek’s ranking of Best Modern Courses, will host 160 of the best junior golfers from 40 states during the 72-hole stroke play event.

    July 30, 2014

  • Scott sees swift title contention for Lakers

    Byron Scott was a key component of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Showtime teams, a smooth shooting guard with sizzling competitive fire. He believes his purple-and-gold championship pedigree makes him the ideal coach to return the struggling 16-time champions to NBA contention.
    “This organization is all about championships, period,” Scott said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships. We look at (NBA) championships. And we know we have some work ahead of us, but I’m excited. ... I love challenges anyway, so this is going to be fun.”

    July 30, 2014

  • Opinion: People running NCAA may not be bumbling idiots

    Two down, one big one to go.
    And with it a growing realization that maybe the people running the NCAA aren’t the bumbling idiots everyone has been making them out to be.
    The NCAA’s agreement Tuesday to create a $70 million fund to diagnose concussions and brain injuries does more than just give some former and current athletes a bit of peace of mind — if no real money. It also extricates the organization from another serious threat to its existence, one that could have potentially bankrupted it if everyone who ever suffered a concussion playing college sports were somehow able to cash in.

    July 30, 2014

  • Steelers Camp Footbal_time2.jpg Bell looking for more decisive, productive season

    Le’Veon Bell kept watching the tape over and over, equal parts pleased and puzzled by what he saw.
    There were times during his rookie season when the Pittsburgh Steelers running back would place his hand on an offensive lineman’s back and wait patiently for the hole to open.
    Sometimes, one would appear. Sometimes it wouldn’t, mainly because whatever sliver of daylight existed had already been swallowed by darkness while Bell was still trying to read the blocks in front of him.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • smallwood-wendell(1)-2.jpg Charges against Smallwood dropped

     West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.
    It took him only three words to say what was on his mind: “God is Good.” Smallwood is now free to return to West Virginia and rejoin his Mountaineer teammates when they open camp for the 2014 season Thursday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • dungy0725 (1).jpg Rice, Dungy sideshows stain NFL

    The National Football League guards its reputation as aggressively as lineman are paid to protect a quarterback.
    So, as training camp opens around the country, how odd is it to see Commissioner Roger Goodell’s 32-team NFL empire battling bad headlines and stinging criticism from all quarters?
    Anyone want to talk to the new quarterback for his early assessment of playing with the best and biggest players in the land? That would be business as usual. Nothing has been routine about the early days of camp this season.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Post 17 #7 Post 2 #12 mw.JPG DeVaul wraps up final season as Post 17’s leader

    If you were to ask players on Fairmont American Legion Post 17’s roster who they looked up to, you’d find a familiar pattern.
    Sure, you may get some Andrew McCutchens or some Derek Jeters as replies. But if you want to find out the real answer, just look into the dugout.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
Auto Racing Photos
Auto Racing Breaking News
Auto Racing Standings