I was born in Bluefield, West Virginia. A small city on the southern border of the Mountain State. On the other side of that border is the town of Bluefield, Virginia. Bluefield is one community in two states. Bluefield is also about three and a half hours from Morgantown and just over an hour away from Blacksburg. So while the community is closer to Blacksburg, there are still a large number of die-hard Mountaineer fans, like myself.
While I was born and lived on the West Virginia side, I soon found myself in Virginia to attend school. One thing that always stuck out to me in school was that classrooms always seemed divided. The issue dividing them was West Virginia and Virginia Tech athletics. In most cases, it seemed that about half of the kids liked West Virginia and the other half rooted for Virginia Tech. In some unlucky cases, you may have found a few Mountaineer fans stuck in a classroom where they were vastly outnumbered by Hokies for the year. This division among teams could make best friends act like enemies.
So at the start of every school year, it wouldn’t take long for the debates to begin over which team was better and which team was going to have a more successful season. I have heard this smack talk my whole life, to the point that I can basically predict how each side will argue for their team as soon as the conversation gets started. While I was in grade school, Tech fans would use Michael Vick to support their argument, and Mountaineer fans would mention Pat White and bring basketball into the equation, as well. Hokie fans would brag about how they currently held the Black Diamond Trophy, and West Virginia fans would reply with how they’ve won more games in the series. Grade school students argued every week over which team was better, and sometimes even the teachers would let the students know what side they were on. It seemed to be an endless cycle that I saw all throughout my years in school, which still continues today.
Schools aren’t the only place where there is division over the Mountaineers and the Hokies. All over town you can see license plates and flags outside of homes having a Flying WV and a maroon VT with the phrase “A House Divided” below them. Many families in my hometown and the surrounding area have differing opinions on the two schools. My family is one of them. My father was born in Bramwell, West Virginia, and my grandparents raised him to be a Mountaineer fan. Thankfully he raised me right, too. He also attended West Virginia for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. My mother on the other hand did not attend WVU. She attended Virginia Tech for graduate school. Thankfully she is more passionate about her Wake Forest Demon Deacons (where she pursued her undergraduate degree) than her Hokies. My extended family also has some differing opinions when it comes to the two schools, as well. And these differing opinions between family and friends over college athletics is something widely seen in my hometown.
Growing up in an area where there are so many Mountaineer and Hokie fans together, I feel like I truly witnessed the rivalry firsthand year-round. Whether it was the beginning of football season or the end of basketball season, one statement about either team could spark a 30-minute debate. And that didn’t end when the teams stopped playing each other annually; it may have even made things worse. People of all ages in my community and the surrounding area have always continued to debate over the Mountaineers and Hokies, and I have always been involved in it. I’ve debated with some of my best friends, cousins, neighbors, and even my girlfriend.
For years I and other Mountaineer fans have been waiting for this opportunity, another chance to see our team play for the coveted Black Diamond Trophy, because for years that has been something that Hokie fans could hold over our heads whenever the debates would occur. I also think that if I were in a Virginia Tech fan’s position, I would want to avenge the last couple of beatings that West Virginia gave the Hokies in basketball. Both sides probably feel as if they have so much to gain from this game, but also so much to lose. This game could set the tone for each team’s season going forward.
This game is also well overdue. Both sides have been wanting to see each other on their schedules for years, and now we finally have what we wanted. We have a chance to brag and talk smack leading up to the game, a chance to enjoy the stress that comes along with watching our teams play in such a big game, and a chance to have the Black Diamond Trophy on our campus and the bragging rights that come with it until 2021. And while it’s a weird situation for family and friends to come together and hate each other for a few hours, it’s also a great opportunity to show how passionate the two Virginias are about their respective schools. Both sides will go in hyped and excited, but only one side will come out that way. So no matter the outcome, we’ll be hearing a “Let’s Go” after the game. Let’s just hope that’s followed by “Mountaineers!”