On Sunday, March 16, ESPN ran a program entitled “Requiem for the Big East,” as part of its 30-for-30 series.
In the program, West Virginia was largely ignored. However, when West Virginia University finally made its appearance, we were presented negatively.
‘Negatively’ is an understatement. In an extremely classless move, the executive producer Ezra Edelman apparently chose to not only include the often stereotypically-used “Dueling Banjos” in his introduction of West Virginia; he also depicted our people as barely clothed, dancing to a banjo on the front porch of a cabin to conjure up a backwoods stereotype of sorts.
Furthering this offensive depiction is the fact that earlier in the episode, Edelman covered the racism Patrick Ewing endured as a student-athlete at Georgetown. While discrimination on a racial basis is rightfully condemned, socioeconomic discrimination apparently has a free pass.
This is nothing new to West Virginia. We’ve been in the national news a lot in recent memory. If it’s not something bad that’s happened to us, as is the case with the recent water crisis, it is something that sheds a bad light on West Virginia. This needs to stop.
I was born in Charleston, and I now attend WVU. Throughout my life, I’ve seen the beauty of the state, and that beauty does not lie just in our wild and wonderful landscape.
What has held this state together so strongly for many years is its people. They are what brought my father to the state and what has kept my mother in the state for her entire life. My Mom had the fortune of seeing President John F. Kennedy at the centennial celebration of our statehood on June 20, 1963. On a rainy summer day, President Kennedy said it well, “The sun doesn’t always shine in West Virginia, but the people do.”
Ours is a state rich in a heritage of taking on humble, difficult jobs -- mining the coal that helped forge steel to build our nation’s great cities and brought electricity to the country, sending more of our brothers and sisters to serve the country than any other state per capita, and many other thankless jobs. We talk to our neighbors and take an active interest in their lives.
It comes as no surprise that we are only bonded further together when we receive constant negative attention and insensitivity.
The importance of WVU to this state cannot be understated. Mountaineer athletics serve as a beacon for West Virginians all over the state to pin their hopes and dreams to each year.
In 2006, West Virginia experienced the worst mining disaster in almost 40 years at the Sago Mine in Upshur County, West Virginia. Worried, not knowing the fate of the trapped miners, the state of West Virginia watched the 2006 Sugar Bowl intently the night after the disaster. WVU faced the heavily-favored Georgia Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome.
That night, WVU shocked the country and took down the Bulldogs in record-setting fashion. In the wake of unfathomable tragedy and hopelessness, WVU helped bring the state together. Over the next few years, WVU proved instrumental in holding the Big East together.
The people of West Virginia deserve better than this depiction, and WVU deserves better than this. ESPN must deal with this lapse in judgment swiftly. Firstly, the people of Morgantown, of WVU, and of West Virginia deserve an immediate apology.
Secondly, ESPN should host a segment of a program showcasing the good WVU has done for the state, to make amends. There’s certainly a lot to choose from.
Thirdly, I’d like to extend an invitation to director Ezra Edelman to come to West Virginia, see our wild and wonderful landscape, and get to know our people. I believe Mountaineers would be willing to show him the kindness he was not willing to show us.
Chris Nyden, a senior economics major, is the newly elected Student Body President at WVU.