CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- By the time you read this, Miami Heat power-forward-sort-of-center Chris Bosh might be a hero in South Beach.Last night was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Bosh might have gone off for 30 points and 20 rebounds and put the ki-Bosh on the San Antonio Spurs.After Game 6, however, Bosh called out his own team's fans. Some of those fans left that game early, when the Spurs were up by five points with 28 seconds remaining in regulation. You probably know the rest of the story. Miami came back and won in overtime.Afterward, Bosh ripped those fans - the "premature evacuators," as Sports Illustrated's website called them."For all those guys who left, make sure they don't come to Game 7," said the player. "We only want the guys who are going to stay in the building for the whole game. You never give up. People gave up on us and they can stay where they are and watch the game at home."Many of you probably cheered his statement - because many of you stay until the very end of games. For the most part, West Virginians do stay until game's end. I can't tell you how many times over the years I've been impressed - surprised even - that WVU football fans not only stay until game's end, but beyond to sing "Country Roads" with the team.Heat fans, meanwhile, have been criticized by many over the past three seasons for either showing up late, leaving early or both.I bring this up to again prove a point to athletes and coaches. That point is this: Don't bash your home fans. Ever. Rarely does anything good come from it.Again, Bosh's statement might have been cheered by many. It might have resulted in a filled house at Game 7's end. But it almost certainly also ticked off those who made the mistake of leaving early.Understand those who left early paid a big price before and after the game. One report said it cost at least $397 per ticket for Game 7 - for standing room only availability. In the lower bowl, nothing was available for less than $995, with an average of $1,200 per seat. The cheapest seat courtside was $29,413. The most expensive courtside chair was $58,825. Yes, $58,825, according to StubHub via the Associated Press.Of course, afterward, the fans in question had to be kicking themselves. Some tried to get back in, but understandably were not allowed.
So why kick a fan - one helping to pay your salary - when he or she is down?I understand athletes are competitive and loyalty is an integral part of the bond between athletes and teams and fans.Yet wouldn't it have served Bosh better to say this:"Wow, I feel sorry for those fans who left early. They missed a heck of an ending. Hopefully they'll stick around next time."
The point would have been made, and Bosh would have endeared himself to those fans.Again, if you're a coach or athlete, do yourself and your team a favor. When you feel the urge to criticize fans, go to these two words: No comment.
On Wednesday both Dave Hickman and I put together columns for Thursday's Gazette to feather in with West Virginia's 150th birthday celebration.I tried to highlight the state's more well-known athletes that made marks nationally and globally. Hickman went from A to Z, pointing to the obvious and obscure. Neither of us meant for our pieces to be a definitive lists of state standouts.The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. But our Nick Scala, who was laying out Thursday's pages, looked at me upon receiving my column and said, "This is good, but you know we'll get calls saying we left people out."
Indeed we did. A bunch. And a few that should/could have been listed were Stonewall Jackson High grad and former Los Angeles Ram football player Denny Harrah, Martinsburg native and Olympic gold medalist basketball player Vicky Bullett, former Texas Ranger baseball player and Sissonville-born Toby Harrah, Baltimore Colts legend and Smithers-born Gino Marchetti and, my favorite discovery, boxing Hall of Fame member and trainer Emanuel Steward.If you're like me and didn't know, Steward, who died in 2012, lived in Bottom Creek in McDowell County until he was 12, when he moved to Detroit with his mother. Steward was a trainer/manager for Thomas Hearns, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko, among others.A few other names that could have been included: Weirton native and basketball player Ron "Fritz" Williams, who played professionally with Golden State, Milwaukee and Los Angeles; Charleston High grad Mark Workman, who played hoops at WVU and was the No. 1 pick in the 1952 NBA draft; Charleston's Phil Pfister, a World's Strongest Man competition winner; Beckley native and former Marshall football coach Bob Pruett; and Richwood-reared Mike Barrett, a basketball player who was on the 1968 gold-medal winning Olympic team.There were others, like Charleston native George King, who played professional hoops and coached Morris Harvey, WVU and Purdue. There was Flemington-born Paul Popovich, who played major league baseball, mostly for the Chicago Cubs. There was Bruce Bosley, a Green Bank High grad, who went on to star in football for WVU and the San Francisco 49ers.There were more. Many more.We appreciate the feedback. It was fun. And it just proves my Thursday point: When it comes to sports, West Virginia rocks.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.