We take a lot of flack nationally for being West Virginia. Much of it's undeserved, but it's almost become routine to hear some type of crack from opposing fans. At this point, it just rolls off my back, but it would be nice to hear silence instead of verbal diarrhea coming from some lesser team's fans. Just as I was giving up hope of that ever happening, this story occurs and makes all things seem right in the world.
Join me, as I tell the story of the wedding, Hooters, and the UK fans.
Some of you may have heard this from me previously. If you know me, you then of course know that I have three stories (two on a bad week) that I will retell until they are dead and in the ground -- then I will tell them a few more times just for good measure. If you haven't heard it, then buckle up.
I was scheduled to attend a wedding around this time last year in Charlotte, NC. More specifically, the wedding was scheduled for March 27, 2010, at 6 pm, reception to follow. It was a very good friend of mine, so good that I was participating in the wedding as a reader (note: I have a great podium presence). It was also a formal wedding, so tuxedos were the norm, myself included ("It's after six, Lemon, what am I, a farmer?").
Now, none of this would be a problem, except for the fact that WVU's basketball team was freaking awesome and playing Kentucky that evening at 7 pm. Big problem. While the groom was from West Virginia, he attended UNC and was more of a UNC hoops fan than a WVU hoops fan. The bride went to Wake Forest, which we'll ignore because of the overall silliness of being a Wake Forest fan (see: 2005). Both big basketball fans, but neither the Heels or Deacons were involved in the tournament at this point, so TVs were being banished from the reception. This was harsh on so many levels, but it was fact whether I liked it or not, so NCAA Basketball Tournament MacGuyver I had to become.
As the reception and game tipped off at the same time, there were a lot of whispers on how we were to see the game. Reports of rogue TVs in other parts of the reception hall came through, but none could be verified. Streaming video via iPhone and FloTV were spotty, at best. Anyone with a headphone leading to their ear became like a Pagan God of the reception (think Zeus, but way cooler). Most of the West Virginia contingent were brave soldiers for the key parts the reception, catching the announcement of the new husband and wife as well as the cutting of the cake (or was it the first dance -- who can be sure, I was getting rip-roaring drunk). But just as halftime was about to end, the exodus began.
The reception was held right downtown on the 31st floor of an office tower, so "going next door" was a little more difficult. As we poured into elevators and eventually reached street level, we quickly searched for a nearby sports bar. Two were spotted: one, a somewhat decent looking joint across the street; and the other, Hooters. Even after just an hour of drinking (like I said, we were mainlining Bourbon), crossing the street looked dicey, so the decision was made. I think it went something like this.
Unidentified wedding attendee #1: Hooters?
Me: Yes, please.
As we walk into Hooters, it is filled with two groups of people: underage girls volleyball tournament participants (and their parents) and Kentucky fans. Neither of these were ideal, but we pressed on.
This would be a good time to introduce the ringleader of this entire ordeal: my boss. Now, my boss is the coolest boss one could ever have. He's a bigger Mountaineer fan than even me and will stop at nothing to make a Mountaineer experience A1A, Beachfront Avenue.
As we take our seats, we quickly notice the sound of the game isn't on throughout the bar. We turn to the large table of Kentucky fans and they murmur something about it not being possible. Well, that's not going to fly. A quick Benjamin from the boss-man to the waitress and suddenly Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas is on the speakers.
Backing up a little bit, I mentioned the table of Kentucky fans. I didn't take too much notice of them at first, but as the game went on and they kept shouting at us to sit down, my eyes perked up. This was not your typical table of fans -- this was every stereotype ever placed upon both West Virginia and Kentucky sitting at one table, thankfully wearing blue (and not gold). Toothless, overweight, ridiculous barely decipherable accents, they were everything I wanted them to be, and much much more. Honestly, one of those women in the above picture might have been at that table. Like I said, fabulous. Us Mountaineer fans? We're in tuxedos, slipping waitresses $100 bills for favors, and basically owning the joint. Now, the joint was Hooters, but still.
There aren't many moments as a West Virginia fan that you have complete control of the pompous high ground, but this was one of those moments. As the game got further out of control for Kentucky, our monocle and sailing jokes got all the more verbose. We had turned into the Mr. Peanut of Mountaineer fans, and it was fantastic.
I tell you this story for a few reasons: One, it will be nearly impossible to ever recreate the dynamic of watching an Elite Eight Mountaineer game in Hooters wearing a tuxedo. Even if I really tried. Second, and more importantly, we own Kentucky. Those fans thought about making fun of us for being both a) tuxedo'ed in Hooters and b) Mountaineer fans. But with every Joe Mazzulla layup, they closed their gap-toothed mouths and listened to whatever Rich Uncle Pennybags had to say
So, the next time someone calls you a hillbilly, hoopie, hilljack or some other stupid West Virginia slur that starts with H, just remember that for one great night last year, the stars aligned and allowed this Mountaineer fan to turn the tables completely. And while I don't care if that ever happens again, hopefully our basketball team is able to recreate some of that night's magic.