During the 1988 season, my parents purchased two season tickets for me and my brother. At the time, I was 13 and my brother is 12. And we had season tickets to Mountaineer football. Without the parents.
Mountaineer Field was that kind of place. You were surrounded with 55,000 family members that would look after you and make sure you were safe. I don’t think many parents these days would let their 13 and 12 year old go to a sporting event by themselves. Our tickets were on the student side of the stadium, on the lower level on the 15 yard line of the South End Zone. Back when the scoreboard was in front of the hospital and there was grass in the corners.
During the first two games against Bowling Green and Cal-State Fullerton, we started to get to know the people sitting around us. Specifically, Bob, Steve and Larry.
We sat in front of Bob, Steve and Larry. All close friends from college and in their early thirties, they participated in the behavior that most Mountie fans did. They’d be somewhat drunk when they came in, they always had alcohol, and they never missed the band. Throughout the season, those three guys were me and my brother’s buddies. They watched over us and made sure no one gave us a hard time.
The most memorable moment, however, came on October 29, 1988.
WVU had not had a good record against Penn State over the years, but this year promised to be different. WVU was looking at going undefeated and playing for a national title, with Penn State being the only feasible roadblock toward that goal. I remember never seeing so many people in my life. There were more than 66,000 screaming fans in the stadium. Everyone was jacked up. But none moreso than the Mountaineers. And Major Harris.
The Mountaineers hung 51 points on Penn State that day, at that time the most points scored against a Joe Paterno coached PSU team. Nearing the end of the game, the crowd couldn’t contain themselves, and started spilling out on to the field before the game was over. I had always wanted to be a part of being on the field…tearing down the goal posts…celebrating arguably the biggest Mountaineer win of all time.
I moved towards the wall, when Bob put a hand on my shoulder and told me not to go. He said it was wrong what was happening, and that the fans should have more respect than that.
I didn’t go onto the field. Nor have I ever. But I always remember that day as the day I learned a key quality of being a Mountaineer – respect.