MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Our 10 for 10 series ends today and, yeah, it was an idea born out of the success of real sports documentaries that are all over TV these days.
But, in a nutshell, that’s sort of how sports journalism works. You see another outlet do something that looks pretty good and you say, “Hey, we could do that, too.”
Truth be told, I’ve never worked from behind a camera, so I couldn’t begin to imagine what difficulties lie ahead in actually making a sports documentary.
What I can say is the real fun is in doing the research and interviews that go into the finished product more so than the actual finished product itself.
Listening to former WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong discuss how hard it was for him to make that phone call to Kansas State to ask for permission to interview Bob Huggins for the men’s basketball job blew me away.
I always figured that was the easiest part of the whole deal, because why wouldn’t you want to see if Huggins is interested in coming back to Morgantown?
I could call bull all day on University High football coach John Kelley and how he was hoping Randy Moss and his DuPont teammates would have won in the 1994 semifinals rather than South Charleston, even though Kelley’s rationale on team matchups makes total sense.
Still, the thought of actually wanting to face a future NFL Hall-of-Famer in the state championship is an idea few can wrap their minds around.
In the 25 years spent here at The Dominion Post, it’s these stories that help develop the bigger picture that I’ll always remember the most.
It certainly won’t be the games, they all begin to run into each other after a certain amount of time.
“After all of the years, you don’t remember the wins and losses as much as you do the stories from the kids you were around,” former Morgantown High football coach Glen McNew said while discussing the 1998 state championship game against J.R. House and Nitro. “I certainly was around a bunch of characters and that’s what you remember more than anything else.”
For the life of me, I barely recall many of the details that went behind WVU’s run to the 2010 Final Four, but I’ll never forget point guard Joe Mazzulla explaining why he chose to major in multidisciplinary studies.
His three disciplines were Spanish, psychology and athletic coaching.
“Because I want to coach Spanish kids who are just as screwed up as me,” Mazzulla said straight-faced, which was also his unique way of showing his joking manner.
Former Morgantown High lineman Matt Ameri once told me a story of how he would go into the old Ponderosa Steakhouse in town and scarf down plates of sirloin tips.
“I’m going to set a state record one day,” he joked.
Ameri went on to play football at WVU, and last I heard, was living in California working on an acting career.
He will have no better performance, though, than stuffing those steak bites down his throat.
If our 10 for 10 series conjured up some old memories and maybe created some new talking points, well, that was sort of its purpose.
For me, it was simply a reminder of why I believe I have the best job in America.
Like McNew said, it’s the characters creating the stories that you’ll remember the most.
After a 2009 men’s hoops game at Marquette, in which the Mountaineers played one of their worst games, WVU sports information director Bryan Messerly asked media members which players they wanted to speak with.
There were three of us in that back hallway outside of the locker room and none of us had requested Wellington Smith.
While Huggins was in a postgame tirade with his players, Messerly brought out the requested players for interviews.
Seconds later, out came Smith, too, and he leaned up against the wall.
Asked later why he came out in the hallway … “Man, I just got tired of getting yelled at,” Smith replied.
Under the current COVID-19 pandemic, our world is in desperate need of the escape only sports can supply.
It’s not the games I miss, though.
I miss not being able to speak with Jordan McCabe and Derek Culver, because you won’t find two better young men who will open themselves up and share their true thoughts and feelings.
I miss the back and forth with Huggins during his press conferences and just waiting to see what story he’ll tell next.
I miss Mike Carey’s intensity with the WVU women’s hoops team.
The coronavirus has handcuffed us all, whether it has kept us away from our jobs, loved ones or just a normal sense of life.
It has kept me from telling a good story.
So, that was my appreciation behind our sports documentary series.
It gave me a reason to call up good friends, trusted colleagues and just speak to so many I have missed talking with over the years.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing them to you.