Few West Virginia University football fans, or West Virginia residents in general, had any idea who Riley Wyant was before Thursday.
That all changed when the Virginia Tech alumna and reporter for NBC 12 in Richmond, Virginia, posted on Twitter: “My friends and I ordered 145 toothbrushes to hand out to WVU fans because ‘they don’t have dental care in the state,’” followed by two laughing emojis as the Hokies prepared to host the Mountaineers in a Thursday night tilt, which WVU won, 33-10.
Wyant quickly became acquainted with many angry West Virginians, several of whom responded with vicious remarks of a very personal nature. However, there were just as many replies and tweets simply trying make Wyant aware of how insulting her words were, and how tired West Virginians are of those kinds of negative stereotypes.
Before inevitably concluding that all of those responses were justified, a pretense of effort to determine some sort of context should at least be offered.
Wyant deleted the tweet, so that’s not helpful. Fortunately, there are a plethora of screen grabs. What sticks out is that Wyant’s tweet was a reply to W. Chris Winter, a Charlottesville, Virginia, physician, in a thread of comments started from a tweet from Wyant, containing a photo herself wearing maroon and orange leggings and a maroon tank top at what looks to be a pregame tailgate. In the original tweet, she’s urging the Hokies to beat WVU. Wyant mentions an oddly specific number of toothbrushes and the part about dental care was in quotes.
Winter tweets “it’s true” in what could be a reply to Wyant’s deleted tweet, as he goes on to say his daughter worked for a mobile dental unit that provided outreach services in parts of West Virginia. This doesn’t appear to be any type of jab, but it’s hard to tell. Moving on.
Fun fact: Dr. Winter is the son of Bill Winter, a Nitro native who played football for Marshall University in the early 1960s. After a brief stint with the Charleston Rockets in the defunct Continental Football League, Bill Winter relocated to Virginia, where he had a successful coaching career. Most of this information is courtesy of the Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame, of which Bill Winter is a member, inducted in 1990.
Another fun fact, this one requiring absolutely no research: Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback, Grant Wells, is from West Virginia — Charleston, specifically — and played for Marshall before transferring to the Hokies. Many West Virginians made sure Wyant knew that.
As for Winter, he said Wyant is “an excellent person and I think I speak for her when I say it’s all in fun!” That didn’t go so great with some, although Winter went on to say that he doesn’t think the lack of affordable health care in West Virginia is funny and that the problem affects many people from “my home,” referring to the Mountain State and Southern Virginia.
It should be noted that Wyant apologized via Twitter on Friday, saying her post was “insensitive,” and “unprofessional, careless and hurt many people.” She also said her views do not reflect those of her employer. Interpret that how you will. Reactions to the apology were all over the place, some accepting it, others not, some posting nasty memes and others complaining that West Virginians got their feelings hurt too easily. In other words, typical internet crap.
There’s not much else to know and, considering that this is about a tactless comment involving college football — something that occurs every 1.5 seconds in the United States between September and January (and year-round at a speed that actually bends the space/time continuum in parts of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas) — it’s not worth the effort.
Was it a low blow, especially from someone who represents a local news outlet? Sure. Do WVU fans, and West Virginians in general, have a right to be hacked off about it? Yeah, they do.
Is all of this a big overreaction? Well, look, everyone knows WVU fans have never said or done anything disrespectful or borderline dangerous to fans of opposing schools, so it’s easy to get carried away after coming under fire like that. Chanting “Eat s- — Pitt” is the height of elegance and class. True, it involves the mouth, but are teeth or alcoholic steel-mill fathers mentioned? Mountaineers would never stoop so low.
Aside from touching on something that’s not all that funny, Wyant’s biggest crime was going after the low-hanging fruit. If she truly wanted to get WVU fans upset to the point of not seeing straight (and without bringing the entire state into it), she should’ve just tweeted the very common misnomer that “Country Roads” isn’t actually about West Virginia, or that a mascot that can’t go anywhere without a musket is clearly afraid of getting their hands dirty.
The point is, you don’t have to go for the bad teeth or the no shoes or the “I’m honored to meet your wife, I assume she’s also your first cousin and your child is a banjo savant?” It’s played out, much like the hype around Virginia Tech football, which hasn’t been exciting since former coach Frank Beamer did a “dance” after the 2014 Military Bowl that looked a lot more like an impersonation of an exhausted and confused toddler.