I had the pleasure of attending my first game at Mountaineer Field this past weekend. As a Texas Tech alumnus, I had heard many accounts of the devoted and fiercely loyal Mountaineer fans.
After donning my red and black apparel, I walked up to the main gate immersed in a sea of gold and blue with only one person out of place in my line of sight—me. Although apprehensive walking up, I was immediately greeted by a young boy in Mountaineer attire and a huge smile who greeted me with "welcome to Morgantown". Despite this warm welcome, the rest of the crowd was not as kind.
As soon as the game started the heckling began. In fairness, the heckling was mostly good-natured although a little unrelenting (apart from some drunken a-holes in the bathroom which any school has).
Throughout the first half of the game, at least two John Denver songs played over the stadium public address system which prompted me to ask the gentleman heckler seated behind me if he knew where John Denver attended college.
John Denver, aka Henry John Deutschendorf, was born in Roswell, New Mexico in 1943 to an Air Force family. Deutschendorf eventually enrolled in Texas Tech and changed his name to John Denver after another musician Randy Sparks suggested that "Dutschendorf" would not fit on a marquee.
While Denver's tenure at Texas Tech was short-lived, his career as a musician was not.
Denver's music and lyrics struck a personal cord through popular songs acclaiming the beauty of the great state of West Virginia. Although a Red Raider, Denver loved his "West Virginia, mountain mama" just like his listeners across the country and the world.
Although Texas Tech is the furthest western school in the Big 12 and West Virginia is the furthest eastern school in the Big 12, we have something in common—we love football and both claim John Denver.
Although the fate of the Big 12 conference is somewhat in peril, my hope is that Mountaineers and Red Raiders across the country can continue to appreciate our connection through both conference and music.
Good game and looking forward to next year,
Jeff Smith is an alumnus of Texas Tech and lives in Campobello, SC.