I’ve talked to and heard from a lot of WVU Grinches lately. There are those Scrooges out there. You know who you are.
I’ll admit to grumbling myself. The Mountaineer football team is frustrating. Last year’s hoops team was a mess.
But it’s almost Christmas, friends. Time to toss those frustrations into the fireplace, sit back with a cup of cheer and consider all the blessings.
There might be more Mountaineer blessings out there than you think or remember.
Like a lot more.
- Bob Huggins’ induction into the Hall of Fame. Yes, it was about time, but sit back and consider what an achievement that is for the Morgantown native and WVU coach. Consider the positive spotlight that puts on the Mountaineer program. You can’t order that from Amazon. It’s priceless.
- How about former WVU baseball pitcher Alek Manoah finishing third in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award? Folks, it was the freakin’ Cy Young Award.
The Toronto Blue Jays righty has been dominating since leaving Morgantown. In 2022? He had a 2.24 ERA in over 196 innings. The great thing is he’s only 24 years old and West Virginia fans have many more years to follow his success.
- While on the topic of amazing, there’s been the NFL’s best story of the year: Geno Smith’s emergence in Seattle. If you’re a football fan you know the background. Starter with the New York Jets. Benched. Bounced around with the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers before landing with the Seahawks. Finally got his chance. Flourishing.
Check the NFL passing stats. Smith is right up there with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Kirk Cousins. Nice.
- There are other ex-WVU players in the NFL, like David Long, Kyzir White, Mark Glowinski, Rasul Douglas, etc. I play the “Spot the Mountaineer” game every time I flip on the NFL.
- There’s all kind of NBA fun — and to check most of it out all you have to do is look at the top of the Eastern Conference.
At the very top you have the Milwaukee Bucks at 22-8. Because of some injuries, ex-WVU standout Jevon Carter has been starting beside All-World star Giannis Antetokounmpo and has been providing the tough, hard-nosed mentality Mountaineer fans grew to love. (He has a $2.2 million player option for next season.)
Next in the Eastern Conference are the Boston Celtics at 22-9. The interim coach there is former WVU fan favorite Joe Mazzulla, who supplanted suspended Ime Udoka amid scandal.
The Celtics rocketed into the season, and it was expected Mazzulla would have the interim tag removed and a long-term deal signed. It might happen after the season. Regardless, the stories of Huggins, Smith and Mazzulla are incredible and hard to top in my eyes.
Then there are the Cleveland Cavaliers at 21-11. Their GM? None other than former Mountaineer standout and all-around good guy Mike Gansey. He and buddy Koby Altman, the President of Basketball Operations, are killing it on the lake.
- Consider that Oliver Luck and Ken Kendrick moved fast to establish a Name, Image and Likeness collective in Country Roads Trust. It not only got a foothold early – which WVU desperately needed – but in many ways was a leader in the NIL field.
- There’s a WVU men’s basketball team with promise. I’m not convinced this team is Final Four-bound, but it’s certainly fun to watch so far. It’s also fun learning the characters on this team, their potential, and seeing them grow. Heck, I saw Jimmy Bell grow against Buffalo in one HALF. I sit on the edge of my seat to see if Erik Stevenson and Tre Mitchell are hitting. I love when Seth Wilson gets the ball in the corner. I’m just waiting to see how they fare in the Big 12.
- There’s the promise of new AD Wren Baker. I always liked Shane Lyons, but Dr. Gordon Gee wanted to take the athletic department in a different direction. He hired the same firm as the Big 12 did in its search for new commissioner Brett Yormark. That worked. Here’s hoping Gee’s hire works as well.
- Nikki Izzo-Brown’s women’s soccer program continues to keep the bar high. (OK, perhaps I should’ve saved that comment for track.) The Mountaineer women claimed their fifth Big 12 tournament title. They earned another bid to the NCAA tournament. They beat Virginia Tech to get to the second round. Nikki’s got it going on. Always.
- Did you forget Ceili McCabe? The Mountaineer was named the Big 12 Cross Country Women’s Runner of the Year — for the second year in a row. She won the conference event and led WVU into the NCAA Championships.
- WVU golfers Trent Tipton and Westy McCabe played in the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship a year after Mark Goetz was the stroke play champion of the event.
- And if aaaalllll that wasn’t enough, former WVU kicker Pat McAfee took the media by storm.
Aside from his own show, McAfee is now on ESPN’s College Gameday. He’s an analyst on WWE”s Friday Night Smackdown. The Athletic just named him its Sports Media Person of the Year.
So, when the family gathers for the Christmas feast, replace the grumbles with some blue cheese crumbles. And enjoy the many successes WVU fans have seen.
A very Merry Christmas to you all.
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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.