The Times West Virginian

August 31, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Football takes over your life

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Do not look at the calendar today.

Look into your heart.

True, the calendar says it’s August and the thermometer says it’s 85 degrees, but your heart knows it’s football season.

You had a preview, maybe, on Thursday night, when Ol’ Miss pulled off a miracle on top of Vanderbilt’s own miracle, the cameras showing both the sheer delight that can only come in a college football finish like that and the horror on every single Vanderbilt fans’ face as their world turned upside down.

And then, if you could wait until maybe 2 a.m., you would have Rutgers fall to Fresno State, 52-51, in overtime, another tribute to the game that college football has become, pinball in real life. Fresno threw no fewer than 73 passes.

Another game like that and they might be ready for the Big 12.

OK, the leaves haven’t begun to turn yet, but the autumn colors will be out in full force, autumn colors in this neck of the woods being old gold and blue.

The RV has been cleaned out, the WVU stickers applied where needed, the WVU flag put in its place and the beer put on ice along with the burgers and hot dogs for a morning of tailgating.

Ah, tailgating, America’s game.

In Morgantown, it’s more than party, more even than a way of life.

It’s a way of living, and with the first game there is so much to catch up on with friends and family and when you see that family walking by wearing William & Mary colors, what better way to make a new friend than over one of your cold beers, a dog and talk about your team and theirs.

What does football do?

It takes over your life, that’s what it does.

Friday may have been a disaster at work. It’s Aug. 31 and the rent may be due, the cable bill overdue, but now it’s Saturday and West Virginia football and all those thoughts and worries disappear, slip into those dark recesses of the mind that are not to be tapped when you are busy tapping a new keg and caught up in a conversation over whether Clint Trickett or Paul Millard should play quarterback.

Oh, you’ll talk about memories … about Sam Huff and Major Harris and Pat White. You’ll laugh thinking of Owen Schmitt breaking his facemask or Wes Ours powering into the end zone. You’ll talk about your favorite kick return from Tavon Austin and you’ll even talk about Don Nehlen and Rich Rodriguez.

That’s the way it is. Sports is very much yesterday’s memories, as much, perhaps, as it is today’s game, which will become yesterday’s memory soon enough.

You, the fan, are waiting for the next star to be born, as is the coaching staff.

Somewhere in that WVU locker room which is filled with wide-eyed kids is the next Pat White or Steve Slaton or Geno Smith.

He’s the one who will send you off to the Book Exchange or the local sporting goods store to pick up a jersey with his number on it, maybe Karl Joseph and his No. 8 jersey in the style … maybe white, maybe gold, maybe blue.

It might be the quarterback’s jersey, too, but right now you don’t know who that might be and you probably know their numbers yet, either.

That will come.

What you want today is a good game, although your definition of a good game is far different than that of a casual fan.

A good game is 56-0 to you, if West Virginia has the 56 points.

That Vandy-Ol’ Miss game, with the lead changing hands twice in the last 80 seconds, may have been a good game if you took the points or went to Ol’ Miss, but you won’t find it among too many Vanderbilt fans’ list of favorites.

So get ready for some football. Seek out the Mountaineer, go wild when the sound of the musket reverberates throughout Milan Puskar Stadium and enjoy singing “Country Roads” when it’s over.

Monday comes far too quickly and the next home football game is a couple of weeks away, so let it all hang out today.

Introduce the new freshmen to West Virginia football as you live it.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.