It’s often said that the friends you make in college will be your friends for life. I can’t think of any place where that rings more true than at West Virginia University.
The ties that bind West Virginia fans and WVU alumni run deeper than the most cavernous coal mine in the state, which happens to be in Calhoun County, where I grew up. So, even if you don’t talk for months – or years – at a time, they’re still among your closest friends.
Perhaps it’s because you enjoyed your earliest taste of freedom and independence together. And with that, came many firsts – distinctive and defining experiences that you treasure to this day.
Maybe it’s because they’re the ones who can truly appreciate the magnitude of your success, because they’ve seen you at your worst. And they’ve seen how much you overcame.
So even though my college friends are scattered as far west as Phoenix, we always get together a couple times a year. Yes, we occasionally take vacations together, but the single unifying force that brings us together at least twice a year is WVU football.
This past weekend we were drawn together in D.C. by the excitement of seeing our Mountaineers square off against our archrival for the first time in 12 years. You see, when we were in college, Virginia Tech was as big of a rival – if not bigger – than Pitt.
In the 52 times we’ve played them – including Sunday at FedEx field – the Mountaineers have the winning record of 28-23-1. But unfortunately, Virginia Tech has had the coveted Black Diamond Trophy for the past 13 years. Mountaineer fans were hopeful we’d snatch it away from the Hokies on Sunday. But try as they might, they weren’t able to overcome, losing 31-24.
Now we have to wait until 2021 when we next play them to claim the Black Diamond Trophy.
Even so, as I’m fond of saying, we always win in the tailgating lots. My friends and I had signed up for the alumni tailgate. And boy howdy, was it a great time.
In addition to Jill and Steve from Phoenix, we met up with a few other college friends we haven’t seen in a while. Everyone was buzzing with Mountaineer pride and the anticipation of the season opener against the Hokies.
And of course, a WVU tailgate isn’t complete without meeting new friends. One of those new friends is Marie. We met Marie at Madhatter’s where we all met up for the shuttle. She gave me an ingenius tip to add velcro to the top of my clear WVU bag to keep it closed.
Marie is originally from Clarksburg, but now she lives in D.C. working as an attorney for the Army.
I also met Josh and Devon from Boston. His girlfriend surprised him with tickets to the game and alumni tailgate. (I told him she’s a keeper.)
Josh bleeds blue and gold. In fact, he loves West Virginia so much, he got the state outline tattooed on his torso.
This was Devon’s first time experiencing a WVU tailgate. I told her if she thought this was fun, she should come to Morgantown for game day. I’m hoping they show up at our tailgate some time this season.
Although we didn’t get the outcome we wanted on the field, it was a thrilling game stoked by the border state rivalry.