Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Parsons Out!

"Metronews’ Allan Taylor reports that WVU and long-time Deputy Director of Athletics Mike Parsons are parting company, and it’s not an amicable separation."

How to react? Relief? Elation? The mere satisfaction that something going wrong for years has finally been addressed?

Nobody has been harder on Oliver Luck than me but full marks to him for tending his own back garden and getting rid of the dead wood.

Parsons was the quintessential blowhard, issuing pompous proclamations that conflicted with reality. His focus was on his agenda and to hell with anyone with a legitimate disagreement.  The grapevine, so active in a college town, usually had the information first and accurate already, which made Parsons' PR twaddle even more risible. The only question remaining was, did Parsons himself believe it?  If so, he was unfit for purpose.

Forget the radio kerfluffle (and believe me I'd take MSN back in a heartbeat), Parsons' legacy will be the dagger plunged into Rich Rodriguez's back and allowing Ed Pastilong to take the resulting heat although Pastilong was far from blameless.  Rod's requests could have been evaluated and responded to individually.  If an NCAA rule prohibited something, then Parsons could have said so.  But Parsons seemed to take everything quite personally and so they chose to go to war and lost a quality coach and someone who loved the university and the state with every fiber of his being.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

WVU Consumed By Anger

As the pig-in-a-poke known as Big 12 membership continues to disappoint on several fronts, WVU fans are mad.

Some are strictly mad about losing regardless of conference or opponent of the day. These are also known as New Jerseyans, whose sports loyalties are usually tied solely to W-L records. Postgame analysis limited to attribution error-flavored 'We won - the opponent sucks' or 'They lost - they suck (in reference to 'their' team). They know nothing of history, tradition, or loyalty.  They arrive in Morgantown a) with inferior grades and test scores, b) a lack of funds (or an unwillingness to spend them) that would enable them to attend the plethora of schools in NJ and along the East Coast, and c) a desire to continue their fellow New Jerseyans' tradition of treating Morgantown as their personal dumpster, ashtray and bong.  Four or five years of beer pong, I'm Shmacked and blazing up and off they go.

Football, when they can be bothered to get out of bed to attend a game, is an afterthought - a long way down from its longstanding status as most visible demonstration of school spirit. But many of these students couldn't find Morgantown on a map prior to their junior or senior years in high school.  Buying tickets is too easy by half - click a mouse and that's it.  Camping out for tickets is so 20th Century, even though it's the kind of shared experience that creates a bond as well as an incentive to use a hard-won ticket.

A losing team is not worthy of their nicotine-stained, beer-soaked, selfie-taking presence.  They're mad, even if they're not sure why. They've posted all manner of duckface snaps on Facebook and Twitter in their WVU gear but their enthusiasm isn't enough to make the arduous trek to the stadium


WV true believers - at the university and throughout the state - are also mad.  Oliver Luck, the Teflon AD, is still regarded as a demigod because, well, he's intelligent.  The arrival - at an institution of higher learning chock full of advanced degrees - of one more intelligent person shouldn't be headline news but West Virginians, for all their positive qualities, are far too susceptible to the Cult of Celebrity.  The Cult has propelled a cliche-spouting, remarkably unremarkable Natalie Tennant into statewide office simply because she, er, put on some fringed buckskins and jumped around two decades ago.  So desperate are we for someone famous to disprove the stereotypes about West Virginia that any name appearing in large font becomes our Avenging Angel.  To extend the biblical metaphor, Oliver Luck is both an Avenging Angel (despite his origins in, er, Cleveland, Ohio) and a Prodigal Son.  He is, therefore, doubly insulated from criticism.

But when the football team loses, people get mad.  And if they can't direct their anger at the man who engineered the move to the Big 12 (actually, he's praised daily for his horse-trading), they will focus on the coach.

The coach, Dana Hologorsen, is an easy target.  Sold as a combination of James Dean, Jimmy Buffett and Sid Gillman, he has proven to be quite a bit more mundane than any screen, music or football icon. He's had injury problems, recruiting problems, in-game execution problems, assistant coaching problems and self-made problems when it comes to interaction with the fans.  All WVU fans want is to love their coach and get a fraction of it in return. When Rich Rodriguez returned home we had 7 years of mutual WV ecstasy. Spot The Ball and all that.

But when Rod left, we really got mad and we've been mad ever since. Even a nice guy like Bill Stewart got mad the night of the Fiesta Bowl and pep-talked his team to a staggering win.  But the fans were still mad at losing to Pitt and a shot at the national championship and eventually got mad at Stewart, along with newly-installed Oliver Luck who was mad, too, and ordered a coaching change of historically sloppy proportions. It made Obamacare look like D-Day.  Stewart, despite his gentle nature, got mad that his dream job was taken from him in agonizing slow motion and mad that he had to put a brave face on it all via the coercion of contract terms.  He then got mad when the new coach had a public (despite a desperate cover-up) incident of belligerent drunkenness and received a mere slap on the wrist - mad enough to ask a journalist or two to go beyond the official press releases and expose Holgorsen's true colors.  Eventually, Stewart was completely out.  And still mad. Mad enough that the poor man suffered a fatal stress-related heart attack, leaving his beloved only son without a father.

And now Holgorsen is mad that results have gone against him, that his team can't or won't demonstrate a working knowledge of his system or football in general, mad that the fans are mad, mad at the media. 

The media are mad at the coach for his haughty attitude.  They are mad at Oliver Luck's Berlin Wall of non-communication except for the rare press release. Some of them are mad that their monopoly - contractual or otherwise - on access to athletic coaches and broadcasting of games has been broken up.

Fans who like the Big 12 are mad at fans who liked the Big East. Fans who like(d) neither are mad WVU isn't in the ACC or SEC and mad that WVU is viewed as academically inferior and therefore unworthy of membership (despite the existence of member schools like Mississippi State, which is literally a cow college and has the deafening bells to prove it).

And so there is Anger - lots of it and with a capital A.  But with no bowl game and no football activity at all until spring, all that Anger has been bottled under extreme pressure and capped.  The Anger is now bouncing around, its particles colliding at high speed.  The Anger may fade over the bleak winter months.  It may be stilled partially by a resurgent basketball program, but it will still there in amounts large or small come August 2014.  Will the colliding particles produce useful energy or merely an uncontrolled reaction i.e. an explosion or a meltdown?

Monday, December 31, 2012

The DP phones it in to end 2012

The December 31 issue of The Dominion Post has a whopping 24 pages.  That's 3.125 cents per page at the newsstand price of 75 cents.  7 of those pages are full-color ads, leaving an even more whopping 17 pages.  That's 4.4 cents per page, much of it for wire copy you read on the internet yesterday.  One can only wonder what the Jan 1 2013 issue will bring.  Probably more of the same.

Most of the full-color ad pages are for - you guessed it - car dealerships.  They have 'clearance' sales all year long.  Who is doing the buying for these dealerships and why do they keep their jobs if the cars don't sell anywhere near full price?  Clothes I can understand.  Retailers are forced to buy size runs and the Small and Medium shirts are left on the shelf waiting for the increasingly rare skinny males to buy them.  But cars fit everyone.  If you have a lotful of previously unsellable cars perhaps you should ask your wife to pick out the colors, since your sense of fashion is obviously a marketplace failure.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If You Luck, er, Lock Them In They Will Stay Home

WVU Athletic Director can do no wrong in the eyes of many.  The old guard are still in thrall to his days as player when he and then-new coach Don Nehlen led WVU out of the dark ages with new uniforms, a new logo (the now-ubiquitous flying WV), a new stadium, and at least a puncher's chance of competing.

Those who know Luck only as a sports business executive praise his hiring of go-go offensive wunderkind Dana Holgorsen and his deft maneuvers through the college conference minefield as guided WVU to a soft landing in the prestigious Big 12.

Luck disapproved of frequently-sparse 2nd half attendance as the masses returned to the Blue Lot to enjoy additional refreshments.  And so he banned the longstanding practice of issuing passouts i.e. allowing ticket holders to exit and return at will.  His brain wave was fourfold:

1) Keep people in the stands by banning re-entry
2) Sell alcohol in the stadium to stifle protests against access to tailgate supplies
3) Claim that it was an attempt to control consumption
4) Turn alcohol into a nice little earner to pay the aforementioned offensive wunderkind and his staff

For a season and a half it worked a treat.  Alcohol sales brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars and the cameras didn't advertise the fact that 'loyal' fans were absent late in games, regardless of opponent.  Most fans drank in moderation.

But 2012 has been a season of two halves.  A spectacular 5-0 start and national media attention in the form of poll rankings and Heisman Trophy hype for QB Geno Smith have been replaced by a 5-game losing streak and lots of head-scratching by coaches, players, fans and media alike.

Meanwhile, the grand in-stadium booze experiment has gone off the rails.  Overconsumption is now a regular occurrence along with a surprising and unprecedented number of shouting and shoving matches in seating sections where previously genteel season ticket holders are in the majority.  Despite University police, state troopers, and security flunkies glowering into the stands, many are uncowed and freely express their displeasure in hands-on fashion with those seated nearby. 

The prohibition against re-entry has, in delayed fashion, convinced many that, if the game isn't fun and the tailgate inaccessible, it's not worth the bother of fighting traffic to and from the game on Morgantown's inadequate road system.  The team's on-field implosion will be blamed but those making such excuses ignore the fact that college football bluebloods like Oklahoma coming to town for the first time still failed to draw.

West Virginians are independent-minded.  Montani Semper Liberi is not just a Latin phrase on a flag.  Cut them and they will bleed - but more likely they will take steps to avoid being cut in the first place.  The tailgate and stadium experience has been monetized while being devalued.  Fans are voting with their feet.  West Virginia football is still an unending topic of conversation throughout the state but that no longer equates to a full house.

Oliver Luck can stop them leaving but he's powerless to force them to attend in the first place.  Will this cold hard reality penetrate the shell of hearty self-congratulation at Mountaineer Field?



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bill Stewart 1952-2012 Rest In Peace

Tragic news as Bill Stewart, former WVU head coach and one-man tourism and recruiting dynamo for West Virginia and WVU, died May 21 of a sudden heart attack.

We had many mutual friends but considering the number of friends Stew had that may not be much of a distinguishing mark for me!

Football seems unimportant right now but it was his life and despite the messy end to his tenure he got to enjoy one night of unbridled joy and fulfillment.

Condolences to his family.


Monday, May 14, 2012

In Which The DP Misses The Point

Hell hath no fury like an Obama-intoxicated editorial board scorned.

The Dominion Post is upset - angry, even - regarding the significant number of votes cast for Keith Judd, a Texas inmate, on Democratic primary ballots.  They are wagging their finger and flinging the usual scolds employed by the press when they disapprove of election results:  informed electorate, responsible, lax ballot laws, red flags, etc.  Note the contrast with media-approved results, when we see terms like democracy, direct participation, the people have spoken, groundswell, popular support, etc.

They are upset that the AP, which costs them money, didn't provide the full story on Keith Judd.  In this they get to share our opinion of the terminally feckless AP, at least for a day.

But nowhere in their huffy editorial will you find the word 'protest' - which is unfortunate for the DP because that's exactly what this vote was.  To anyone paying attention (and not still in the tank for Obama), those who voted for Judd did so not because they want a Texas inmate to appear on the ballot in a general election or because they want him to serve as president, but because they don't want Barack Obama to appear on the ballot again.  These are lifelong registered Democrats - the 'working families' of union agitprop - who want to maintain their party affiliation but who also want to express their disdain for the current occupant of the White House.  Like Ronald Reagan, they see their party leaving them.

The DP also ignores the clever humor of fellow West Virginians.  Many cast their vote for Keith Judd with a twinkle in the eye.  They knew that a significant number of anybody-but-Obama votes would draw attention in this once-reliable blue state, and that a significant number of votes for a felon would draw even more attention to their disapproval of Obama's policies and performance.

The DP demands that people 'vote intelligently' - in this case, establishment candidates.  But what is more intelligent - and creative - than individuals subverting a rigged and/or flawed system while adhering to the rules of that system?  And what is more democratic (small d) or Democratic (big D) than expressing their displeasure via an election?

Does this make West Virginians a laughingstock?  Quite the contrary.  It gives West Virginians the opportunity to make a loud and clear statement about the candidates and to disrupt, at least temporarily, the lazy lockstep coverage of this president and this election - the same coverage willingly reprinted by the Dominion Post.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's come to this

The city of Morgantown will be devoting four - FOUR - police officers on bicycles to patrol a - street? avenue? boulevard? - no, a trail. Are they looking for rapists, muggers, or murderers? No, they are looking for helmets - specifically, those goofy tapered bicycle helmets. In the over-the-top spirit of SAAAFETY everywhere, adults moving 5 mph and already operating under the premise of assumed risk will be warned and possibly cited by police if the adults lack a helmet.

Violence on High Street? Fires burning throughout the student housing areas? I'm Shmacked? We'll jawbone those issues to death but preventing them is apparently beyond the reach of the local constabulary. Bike helmets in broad daylight? That's more their speed.