Sunday, June 1, 2008

52 52 52 Week #15: West Virginia

In which I examine crappy local sports journalism on a state-by-state basis, progressing through the states in terms of an alphabetical ordering of the heights of their tallest points. Because I can.

Going to have to be honest here, folks - West Virginia is not my favorite state right now. Much as my favorite college (that I don't actually, you know, attend) keeps raiding the place for coaches, I'm a little ticked at the Mountain State...

(Wait a damn minute...that's really West Virginia's nickname? Really? Because, you know, there are other states with proper mountains and everything. Out West, mostly. I mean, I know their team is the Mountaineers, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised, exactly, but seriously? Well, OK, moving on then.)

...and the big reason why I'm pissed is this probably at least a little out-of-context clip I saw on The Daily Show. Look, I'm a freedom-loving guy; I don't care who you vote for (except those LaRouche assholes, of course) but for the love of all that's good and true about humanity come up with a better reason than this:

Hopefully West Virginia can rehabilitate itself with a cool highpoint and some good local journalism. We'll start with Spruce Knob, which stands at the I-guess-that's-sort-of-a-mountain height of 4861 feet. Hit me with your best shot, Spruce Knob...

1. Wikipedia claims "its summit has a definite alpine feel", explaining: "The upper few hundred feet of the mountain are covered in a dense spruce forest, a relict boreal forest environment similar to forests found in northern New England and Canada." Like New England and Canada, eh? I think we just found out who voted for Obama in the West Virginia primary.

2. It's called "Spruce Knob" because of that dense spruce forest Wikipedia won't shut up about, and "knob" is just the term used in the southern Appalachians for the highest point on a ridge. So apparently it wasn't called "knob" as part of some elaborate dick joke. Wait, Wikipedia says a synonym for "knob" is "dome." Dome? Oh you southern Appalachian folks and your infantile sex humor. You'll win me back yet!

3. It was apparently the first place designated as a National Recreation Area, established back in 1965. Recreation in 1965, you say? More like procreation in 1969!!! Heh, heh...I'm so immature.

My thanks to Spruce Knob for really stepping up on the dick joke front - it's appreciated more than it can ever know (because it's, you know, inanimate and all).

Hey, you remember at the beginning of the post when I said this...

Much as my favorite college (that I don't actually, you know, attend) keeps raiding the place for coaches

Yeah, you remember that? I mean, it was only about fifteen sentences ago. Of course, I'm also trying to play to that whole Leonard Shelby from Memento crowd, so I try not to assume anything memory-wise. Anyway, the reason why I dredge that back up is I had no idea when I made passing reference to the whole Rich Rodriguez (and, to a much, much, much lesser extent, John Beilein) thing that that is still apparently the only thing West Virginian sports columnists have any interest in. Seriously...

From The Times West Virginian: "Rodriguez’s agent all about selling dreams"
From The Charleston Daily Mail: "Rodriguez's battle with WVU headed for mediation" (Technically from the AP, but they're running with it, so I'm counting it)
From The Charleston Gazette: "Deposition transcript? Now that is just Rich" (It's a pun! Get it?)

And those are just the ones I didn't need to work hard to find. Put it this way - big lawsuit going on or not, West Virginia is maybe just a little too interested in the trials and tribulations of the new general of the maize and blue. Or however you want to quasi-poetically describe the man. And Dave Poe (rather charmingly spelled "dave poe" in the byline) of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel has had enough...

Rich Rodriguez.

That would be his name, yes. That'd be the opening paragraph, by the way. An impressive start, I'd say.

He’s been gone from the Mountain State sports scene for nearly six months, but his name still evokes more emotion with West Virginia University sports fans than any other.

The rest of the nation doesn’t understand that. Their view is the Mountaineer football coach left for a better job at Michigan and that WVU fans should get over it.

Not exactly. Maybe I'm just trying to be an ultra-sensitive and understanding Michigan fan, but I'd say that Rodriguez left for a better job, the way he left stunk to high heaven, and it's fair that WVU fans were upset. Note the emphasis on "were" there. Yeah, it's probably time to get over it, considering they won the bowl game and Bill Stewart's a hero and everything is perfect and beautiful blah blah blah...

Life isn’t that simple, especially when millions of lives and dollars are involved.

I won't dispute millions of dollars, but if I may be a total ass (I may? Yay!)...

Population of West Virginia: 1,808,344

Even assuming everyone in West Virginia is a Mountaineers fan (and you know some of them are West Virginia State Marshall fans), I'm not sure a little under two million really justifies the use of "millions of lives." Particularly when you use something as melodramatic as "lives", which suggests this is a matter of life and death or something. I'll be honest - that was pretty nitpicky. But it gave me an excuse to do two things...

1) Look up the population of West Virginia
2) Find out about West Virginia State University and its nickname. Go Yellow Jackets!

What could be more fun? OK, lots of things, but I am a blogger. If I could even conceptualize sexual intercourse, I'd imagine I'd liken it to that.

Rodriguez had every right to pursue the job at Michigan or any other school. No rational human being will blame another for exploring other job opportunities.

And yet...that's pretty much what tons of WVU fans did. Oh, right, you said rational human beings. My mistake.

That isn’t the issue here.

Seriously, could have fooled me. Or am I thinking of Bobby Petrino?

The issue is that Rodriguez’s seven-year contract with WVU —to which the parties agreed last August just before the 2007 football season — called for a $4 million buyout should either party terminate the deal before it expired.

So it's just a money matter? Fine, I can see how things could get pretty ugly over four million, but don't you think it'd be a better use of everyone's time to just move on?

Rodriguez did that when he left for Michigan. But he didn’t pay WVU the $4 million it and every Mountaineer fan believes it is owed. Rather, he has taken the matter to court, where both sides are represented by high-powered attorneys.

By the way, this is a pretty big rehash, isn't it? I mean, I haven't been following Rodriguez at all (except of course on the all-important issue of whether he actually plans to have a quarterback on next year's Wolverine squad, or whether he'll be using the ol' high school direct snap to the running back routine), but I pretty much already know all these details. I figured from the headline "Rodriguez still front page news" that Mr. Poe (sorry...that should read mr. poe) might be tired of all this. But it sounds like he's just regurgitating all the old, worn out information just to fill up column space. Mr. Poe, I'm disappointed. Also, The Fall of the House of Usher is overrated. Somebody had to say it.

Those attorneys have been busy collecting evidence in the form of depositions. Every time there is a deposition taken from a party on either side, it is released to the public and immediately becomes big news in the Mountain State.

Again, Mountain State? Sorry to get hung up on this, but...really? Couldn't Colorado buy that nickname or something? Maybe work out a trade? I mean, they're the Centennial State, and that only makes sense because they became a state in 1876. Pshaw! West Virginia has just as much a claim to that nickname. Think of all the great things its 1863 statehood was the centennial of...

1) The end of the French and Indian War!
2) The end of the Seven Years' War! Wait, I'm being told those are the same war. Well, OK, how about...
3) The publication of Bayes' Theorem! That'll learn those northeastern liberazis that West Virginia's plenty learned! Just take a look at this beautiful theorem:

Doesn't that even sort of look like West Virginia? I mean, you've got to squint, of course.

In a week in which the state high school baseball tournament is being conducted, Ken Griffey Jr. is approaching 600 home runs and both Big Brown and Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton are pursuing elusive Triple Crowns, the name Rodriguez continues to dominate the sports page headlines.

Could we please, please have a column comparing Big Brown and Josh Hamilton? I nominate Plaschke. The sheer tension of comparisons that forced might make the Internet itself explode from the strain.

Big Brown was born to Boundary and Mien.

Josh Hamilton was born on the boundary of the Carolinas, which is probably near a mine.

Big Brown has ruled in his first five starts.

Josh Hamilton was selected by the Cubs in the rule five draft.

I'm pretty sure that, yes, I could do these all day. But all right, all right, I'll stop. Well, one more...

Big Brown has a crack on his foot.

Josh Hamilton did crack.

You bet your ass I'm proud of that one.

Why? It’s not that Rodriguez left. Basketball coach John Beilein left, also for Michigan, and he still has a good name in the Mountain State because he left honorably.

So it's the way in which he left? Well, OK, I guess, but I thought you said it was mostly about the money. Let me check...

The issue is that Rodriguez’s seven-year contract with WVU —to which the parties agreed last August just before the 2007 football season — called for a $4 million buyout should either party terminate the deal before it expired.

You did say it was about the money! Dave Poe, how will I ever be able to trust you ever again? You better start saving a whole lot of puppies from fires, I guess.

Because he didn’t tell potential recruits he was leaving before telling the members of his team. Because he didn’t try to get those recruits to follow him to Michigan. Because he met with the West Virginia press corps and explained why he was leaving.

Yes, Beilein left, but he left with class. Rodriguez didn’t.

How the hell is this still news? Also, for a paper this local, it seems really weird that this is pitched as a "the rest of the country just doesn't understand", considering this is pretty much only going to be read by WVU fans. OK, maybe that isn't really all that weird.

Rodriguez never will get back his good name with WVU fans, but he can end all the headlines and rancor simply by paying up. By honoring his contract.

Ah, I see what you did there. You conflated the whole "he left like an asshole" issue with the whole "he didn't pay up" thing. By the way, I love that this is basically phrased like a hostage demand - they will release the rancor when he gives them the money. Way to assert your power there. Speaking of the rancor...

If it seems like I'm leaning on a lot of random tangents to paper over the fact that this is sort of a weak post about a weak column...well, you would in no way not be not incorrect. Hey, who else loves quadruple negatives? And pizza!?

Pretty much right after all this, the column weirdly spins into this bizarre bit of formatting that makes the rest of it sort of look like a poem. I'll try to faithfully recapture this rather beautiful effect...

This case

appears as one-sided as a West Virginia-Marshall football

game. It is - to steal a basketball term - a slam dunk for

West Virginia.

Seriously, read that slowly in your most sage-like voice. Guarantee you that it'll sound like a haiku or some such. Because nothing says poetic like two homerish sports metaphors.

The news this week is that the presiding judge sent the

parties to a mediator to see if they can work out a deal.

Although WVU worked a deal with Beilein, reducing his

buyout, don’t look for that to happen here.

That's more of an iambic pentameter thing-a-ma-jig. Can I get a spell-check on that last one? Not sure I like where I put my hyphens.

Why? Public pressure. WVU’s supporters want $4 million and

not one penny less. If it were announced today that

Rodriguez had agreed to pay $3,995,000, many WVU fans would

be upset about the other $5,000.

Wow. Sounds like West Virginia fans are really hung up on Rich Rodriguez.

Yet, those same fans really have gotten over Rodriguez. Why?

OK, I'll bite. Why have they, in fact, totally and utterly gotten over the dude?

Because WVU has a new leader who already is more popular

than Rodriguez ever was. West Virginians love Bill Stewart

in a way they never loved Rodriguez.

There are a whole bunch of cheap shots I could make here - I mean it, the incorrigible asshole in me is never going to forgive me - but I'm just going to call bullshit and move on. That's about a big a memory rewrite as I've ever heard. But fine, West Virginia, you're welcome to your delusions if you want them.

The same can be said

for WVU’s players, who have embraced their new head coach

and his staff, which appears stronger than any staff

Rodriguez assembled in Morgantown.

Rodriguez can’t make all the ill will go away, but he can

get his name out of the news simply by paying WVU the money

it is owed.

Somehow - and call me crazy if you must - I'm not sure I believe you.

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