I’m one of those annoying people who tend to see that proverbial glass as half full. (Perhaps it’s because when the beverage is getting low, I just order another. Voila!)
Of course, 2020 has made doing so difficult. Finding good among the lives and jobs lost from Covid-19, the loss of contact with family and friends, etc., has given me eye strain looking for the good.
But as we eagerly await 2021, I did find a few bright spots to take with us from this awful 2020.
- The Big 12 moving forward with college football when leagues such as the Big Ten and Pac-12 initially chose to sit the season out. I don’t know if you’ve already blocked out the memory, but we were staying in our homes watching replays and Korean baseball. Finally, sports leagues figured a way to proceed and schools like WVU had a season. Were there setbacks and outbreaks? Yes, but in the end it seemed athletes were safer under the care of schools, professional “bubbles,” etc. And we had our sports, albeit sans the fans.
- Bernie Dolan, the SSAC executive director, steered fall sports as best he could. The former Wheeling Park principal and assistant Ohio County superintendent was recently given the Charleston Gazette-Mail Sportsperson of the Year award I started back in the Mesozoic era as the newspaper’s sport editor. The choice was a good one.
- Chesapeake native and Riverside High graduate Chad Lavender developed a groundbreaking Fertilized ACL Technique that gained not only national, but worldwide attention. (Wheelhouse Creative was proud to have produced a video explaining the technique.) Lavender, now with Marshall Health Orthopaedics, was once a longsnapper for the WVU football team.
- Marshall’s football team began its season with a 7-0 record and a place within the Top 25. Unfortunately for the Thundering Herd, the team finished losing to Rice, UAB and, finally, Buffalo. The latter was in the Camellia Bowl.
- A neat story blossomed when WVU’s initial opponent in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Tennessee, dropped out and was replaced by Army. The Black Knights were without a spot when the Independence Bowl was cancelled, but Mountaineer coach Neal Brown gave the thumbs up and the game is on.
- Murder hornets didn’t hit West Virginia.
- Mountaineer and Fairmont native Darius Stills became the first WVU player to make the Associated Press All-America first team as a defensive lineman.
- WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins turned around a team that was 15-21 (including a CBI loss to Grand Canyon) in 2018-19 to one that was No. 24 at 21-10 and No. 24 in both final 2019-2020 polls.
- Neat story about former WVU pitcher Alek Manoah. The 11th overall pick in the Major League baseball draft, Manoah was looking for a way to keep in shape during the pandemic. The Toronto Blue Jay pick and his brother secured an old warehouse in his home of Miami, Fla. They stuffed it with weights and training equipment. Now? It’s blossomed into a business with 50 to 70 clients.
- Momentum to get Huggins – finally – in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame has taken shape. Dick Vitale has made a pitch. And this week Seth Davis of The Athletic wrote of Huggins’ case.
- Wheeling University secured Chris Richardson, a neat story who landed via Central Missouri. Richardson had stints at schools like Delta State, Fairmont State and the University of Charleston, but began his dream first as a writer for the Blue and Gold News, an intern for ex-Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace and friend to Huggins.
- And this to go on. In the middle of the pandemic, I called former WVU coach Don Nehlen, perhaps the best motivator I met while covering the sports world. These were his words:
“I always told my team, ‘We’re never as good as we think and we’re never as bad as we think,’” Nehlen said. “This mess we’re in is bad, but it could be worse.”
He paused and then restarted.
“I always told my team if 100 guys get together and go in one direction – and no one cares who gets the credit – we can do anything,” Nehlen said.
“Same way with this country. If we all hang together and go in one direction – and don’t fight each other – we’ll come out the other end stronger.”
Let’s come together in 2021, folks. Let’s indeed come out stronger.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.