Some Mountaineer fans hate playing Marshall. Not this one.
The Capital Classic is Wednesday night as the West Virginia Mountaineers do battle with the Marshall Thundering Herd at the Civic Center in Charleston. The Capital Classic elicits little excitement from Mountaineer Nation and is generally regarded with apathy, at best. That said, I still think it's a great game, and here's why:
1. West Virginia and Marshall should absolutely compete with each other. At everything. Let's face it, even if this game never happens, WVU and Marshall still compete with each other 365 days a year. They have to, since they're inexorably linked as the Mountain State's two major universities. Many young people in the state have to compare them when it comes time to choose a school. Besides, if West Virginia University is on the top of the heap when it comes to state universities, it should at least have to prove it year in and year out.
2. This game has been fairly competitive. While this season's football game was the only time the Thundering Herd came within a whiff of winning the game, the basketball series has been a different story. West Virginia leads the series 28-10 all time, and is 14-5 since the series found a home at a neutral site in Charleston. West Virginia has lost three of the last 10. That's just about the perfect amount of losing to keep it interesting. Last year's Final Four team struggled mightily before eking out an eight-point win. John Beilien's two best teams both lost to the Herd. You never know what can happen.
3. This game is weird. Good Mountaineer teams play badly, and bad Mountaineer teams play well. Marshall always comes to play because, well, why not, right? Because it's played when the legislature is in session, it's always this bizarre island in the middle of the Big East slate. While it's nice that it's played in the state capital, it's in a crummy gym, which is not so nice. Not only does it look bad on television, but weird stuff happens. Remember the first Capital Classic after 9/11? The fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated. This game is weird. I can't tell you what will happen this time, but I guarantee there will be at least one moment that makes you go, "Huh?"
4. There have been some characters, right? I mean, besides all the wild and woolly Mountaineers who've competed in this series, Marshall has brought some entertaining folks to the table. We had Jason "White Chocolate" Williams, JR VanHoose, Tamar Slay, Ronnie Dawn and Hassan Whiteside. If that's not an a bizarre and amusing assortment of basketball players, I don't know what is.
5. It brings out the
best worst in both fanbases. Most West Virginia fans never know what it's like to be the hated "evil empire"... until they run into a Marshall fan. While Marshall fans can be found saying "we" in reference to WVU when the two schools aren't playing, they sure get surly when they are. Herd fans resent the 'Eers, and Mountaineer fans resent having to play the Herd. Ugliness is unavoidable. Without a game like this, there almost wouldn't be a need for blogs and message boards. Almost.