AGGRO-TOURISM: WEST BY-GOD VIRGINIA

Welcome to Aggro-Tourism, EDSBS's roaming safari tour of all those foreign cultures that spring up on fall Saturdays, right here in America. Now playing: The West Virginia Mountaineers.

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Photo credit: Courtney Rubin


While we are ourselves bred from 'eer stock on our sainted mother's side, current work and geography restrictions have reduced our Mountaineer pilgrimages to, on average, once every two years. Here at EDSBS, we're nothing if not committed to toeing the cutting edge of journalism, so we've turned to the natives this week and assembled a crackerjack team of West Fuckin' Virginian panelists to guide neophytes and continuing-education drunkards through the minefields of Morgantown. Read on and learn well.

SHIT TYRONE GET IT TOGETHER.

Holly
Before we get started, I'd like to share the very first email exchange I received this week when we announced Morgantown as this week's destination:

 

Alaska Hokie: I've been to WFV twice as a visiting fan. Do you want/need info?
Holly: Nah, we need locals. Thanks, though.
Alaska Hokie: Too bad, because I really enjoyed having batteries thrown at me and being spit upon.

This, right here, is what makes WFV America's most pugnacious premier drunkstination. I could not be prouder.

Chuck E. Cheese
A lot is written about the fanbase's intense devotion, due in large part to the state's blue collar, over-compensating, us vs. them, chip-on-the shoulder mindset.  A lot is also attributable to the fact the state has no professional teams of any sort, so almost all the state's collective devotion and emotion for sports is funneled to the flagship, land grant 'state u', for which deep connections develop, even among those who never attended school there.  So despite having a state population (1.8 million, less than the total population of Pittsburgh), we tend to spend travel very well to bowl games, and fans take the Mountaineers VERY seriously. 

Taylor
Bob Huggins wasn't lying when he talked about them pumping the radio broadcast of Mountaineer games into the mines, otherwise people would skip their shifts.   

Mountaineer fans have spent their lives working hard, for everything they've got, in conditions most people would never voluntarily place themselves.  They've done it, their grandfathers have done it, and their grandfather's fathers have done it.  And so, living a tough life, in the second poorest state in the country, people need and yearn for something to lean on.  Something to pick them up when times are tough, something they can have to let them say, "Well, today was brutal and tomorrow probably won't be much better, but at least the Mountaineers won last night". 

MattRobW

Morgantown is a great place to be on game days. Tailgating starts at dawn (or even earlier, since the administration is so dead-set on having as many noon games as possible). Tailgating starts early on the Law School hill and in the parking lots surrounding Mountaineer Field.

Taylor
It seems as if the world outside of Morgantown has stopped, and all that matters is Mountaineer football.  There's a commotion everywhere you look, from the youngins "sledding" down hills on flattened cardboard boxes, to the college kids getting blindly drunk, to the old folks, who you have to look at and think, "Shit, did that old man really just walk up that hill? Fuck, is he gonna make it up that one?". 

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PARK YOUR ASSES.

An 'eer with a beer
There aren't any city parking lots near the stadium, so many of the owners of the local small shopping lots donate their spaces to civic groups who charge $10-$20 for the day's event and pocket the proceeds.  These little strips might have 30-40 spaces each, so a group stands to make $300-$800 for the day just telling cars where to park  No hassles about coming back late either -- many people set their tailgates up right there and stay into the night.

Chuck E. Cheese
One aspect of the Morgantown scene that any visitor will immediately discover is the dearth of available taxi cabs when they are needed most.  The reason for this has always been explained by some sort of back-handed shady deal between the Morgantown chamber of commerce and the WV public utility commission that resulted in only one company being licensed to operate taxi's in the city limits.  The resulting monopoly and the lack of incentive to offer exceptional service in a college town overflowing with customers is self-explanatory.  As a result, there might be less than ten total cab drivers on the street available in an uberdrunk college town of 50,000+, even on the busiest nights out. 

An 'eer with a beer
A very convenient lot is at the Coliseum, the basketball arena.  It's a huge parking lot, it's free for cars (RVs are $40/night), and you can catch a bus right to and from the stadium for something like $2 each way. If you want to park closer in, the trick is to drive over to the stretch of road between the Kroger's and Don Nehlen Boulevard and look for one of those impromptu lots.  You'll pay anywhere between $10-$20 for game parking, so keep a lookout.  A truly great location is right off Chestnut Ridge Road at the parking lot for Kegler's, perhaps the best sports bar in Morgantown.  You can park for the day right in their back lot, head into the bar for some pregame food and beverages, and you're only a mile's stroll to the stadium -- perfect for working off the wings and getting the alcohol circulating in the bloodstream.


THEN WHAT?

Holly
Morgantown is not the most friendly of environs in which to wander unattached, but if you're a stranger and determined to tailgate-hop, a little something from the West Virginia Distilling Co. always helps with introductions.


An 'eer with a beer
For me, it's straight to the tailgate in the coveted Blue Lot, situated right outside the stadium and in front of the hospital.  (Literally in front of the hospital.  It's the perfect place for those "Hold my beer and watch this" moments, because the ER is only a short crawl away.)

Anyway, the tailgate is centered around a 2008 Outlaw RV with a dining fly, multiple big-screen satellite TVs, customized cook trailer (Erin Andrews once filmed there) and professional caterer running the show.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, with Bloody Marys in the morning and a refrigerated beer truck to provide beverages the rest of the day.

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IN THE LAIR OF THE MASCOT CARRYING AN ACTUAL GUN.

MtnEer_in_SC
My favorite gameday tradition at Mountaineer Field is singing "Country Roads" after a win.  I sang that song with John Denver when he came to the dedication of new Mountaineer Field on September 4, 1980.  Mrs. MtnEer and I made it to a game in Morgantown this fall.  When the 30,000 or so who were still left at the end started singing "Country Roads", I teared up.

MattRobW
At the game, WVU allows ticketholders to leave during the game and come back. This is a well-used way to refuel at halftime, a practice which contributes to the reputation of Mountaineer fans as loud, crude and belligerent. We hold our reputation as a badge of honor. Just check your sense of propriety at the door.


BLOGGERS, SUSTAIN THYSELVES.

Holly
I'm just going to throw out a list of places I have coasters or matchbooks or magnets or unfortunate college photos from in this little basket on my desk: Kegler's, The Back Door, Chic-N-Bones, the Fishbowl, and Kegler's.

An 'eer with a beer
Gameday starts for me with an opening beer at Morgantown's legendary "Mario's Fishbowl" bar&grill.  The place has been serving generations of students since 1949 with their signature gigantic "fishbowls" of beer.  It looks like a time capsule of itself -- I counted at least five layers of floor tile showing through in high-traffic areas. 

Swindle
Tudor's Biscuit World would not exist without West Virginia's unique geography. The crossroads of Southern lardfiending and Pennsylvania and Ohio's fetishes for insane portions and ridiculous stacking of meat upon meat form a kind of perfect cardiological nightmare at Tudor's, where the variety of gluttony one can hold in a single hand is greater than that if one could hold a tiny, miniaturized Chris Farley zombie in your palm. The biscuits are as fluffy,  heavy, and delectable as a beautiful fat girl's tits, the potatoes can come with gravy or cheese OR BOTH, and the coffee isn't your Starbucks tolulene, but is the hot-as-fucking-fire blue collar jump juice that made America wake up not from caffeine, but instead from the morning scorching of the last remaining taste buds from your tongue.

Holly
For efficient stomach lining before application of brown liquor that will maybe kill you just a touch slower, I also recommend Black Bear Burritos.

An 'eer with a beer
In my mind, the best pregame spot is Kegler's a sports bar located on Chestnut Ridge Road behind the hospital.  It combines great food (big burgers, wings, nachos, etc.) with lots of big screen TVs and also bowling.  (Yes, bowling.  Fancy bowling, with computerized light shows and God knows what else.)  From there it's only a short mile to the stadium.

MattRobW

After the game everyone makes their way to High Street. There are many many bars on and around High Street, and the masses spilling out of them will be loud and proud and drunk as hell. And since it's usually cold, people light things on fire.

Gene's Beer Garden and Mario's Fishbowl are good spots if you believe a bar should be cramped, full of smoke, serve lots of cheap beer, and have a jukebox with at least three Johnny Cash records in it.

There's a great local brew pub (Morgantown Brewing Company) which used to be a dingy, smoky, hippie haunt, but the new management has tried to make it more upscale by replacing pool table and foosball with mirrors and dining tables. If you can ignore the fact that it now feels like an Applebee's, you'll be fine -- the food is great and the beer is stellar.


TALES OF INTEREST.

Holly
My favorite Mountaineer Field story is a real, actual person I interviewed a couple years back who got tear-gassed in the aftermath of a nasty upset of Virginia Tech.

An 'eer with a beer
At WVU, being in the band was always a positive; we were never "band geeks," and in the especially bad years coughfrankcignetticough we were the only shining spot for fans on Saturday afternoons.  I remember one loss to a 4-7 Villanova team back in '77:  I was trudging back up to my girlfriend's apartment, still in my band uniform, and as a car passed me someone yelled out the window "At least you guys are great!" and an icy cold can of beer was tossed to me as they went by.  Best part of the day.

George
Jan 1, 2007 : WFV vs GT in the Gator bowl. Somebody took a shit in the GT band section while they were doing their halftime show.

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I can personally attest to the fact that police came over to that area, but there were too many people in the way gawking for me to actually see what was going down. WFV fans tried to say this was a hoax, based on the fact that the photographer's picasa account was registered under "george burdell", a fairly common practice for GT grads wishing to remain anonymous. I'm fairly convinced that this story is true, with the major unverified question being whether this guy was a 'eer or just a townie from Jacksonville. Either way, I'm happy to keep the legend alive.

Chuck E. Cheese
A Jacksonville Police officer we met at last year's Gator Bowl had a particularly funny story.  He commented about how over the years, he has worked 20-some Gator Bowls.  7 of those involved West Virginia, and our fans have established a reputation in Jacksonville as being among the more bat-shit crazy drunks he's seen there (though not as bad as UF & UGA).  In 1989, West Virginia played Clemson in a late December nighttime game, and this guy's duty for that game was to guard one of ESPN's cameras in the south bowl of the stadium.  Major Harris and a talent-laden Mountaineer squad went down hard to Clemson that chilly night, and the WVU fans near him were starting to get a bit angry and unruly after a long day of drinking. 

He noticed a fight breaking out in a section below him and so, he left his post at the camera to go deal with it.  By the time he and some others got there, 2 WVU fans were already 3/4 of the way to beating each other to a bloody pulp.  It was bad enough that some bones were broken, blood was everywhere, and paramedics had to be involved.  He and another officer managed to get the men hand-cuffed, out of the stadium, and into an ambulance.  And after inspection of ID's and some questioning, the officer came to a realization.  The 2 men were brothers.

Innumerable thanks to our WFV correspondents: MattRobW, Taylor, An 'eer with a beer, Chuck E. Cheese, George, and MtnEer_in_SC.

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