Today, I wake up realizing that I was wrong last week about the Mountaineers and chose against them to lose a close one at home against the Red Raiders. Was it pretty? No. Was it a win? Yes. I realize that pretty wins or exciting football cannot and should never precede the win-loss record. I have spent a lot of time avoiding the concept of the climb it did not occur to me that sometimes it isn’t always entirely vertical.
Anyone who has rock climbed or even gone hiking towards one of the many gorgeous overlooks here in the state could tell you that very rarely, if ever, was it a straight line to get from the base to the top. So why should this climb be any different? This letter reminds me that I was excited about the future when Neal Brown was first hired as Head Coach of the Mountaineers. In a way, I experience that again when I watch this team take the field against the Horned Frogs later today. The climb traveled with the team, the climb is sitting on couches and sports bars across the Mountain State, the climb is the buzz you can see when the Mountaineers show that defense can win games.
Trusting the climb has become more of a punchline for the fanbase, myself included in the past few years. It has not been easy. It almost seemed like the climb left ahead of Austin Kendall, Jarrett Doege, and JT Daniels. What was left was lackluster and disappointing. We are proud of the Mountaineers, which made all the losses and the poor examples of coaching and preparedness challenging to witness. Yeah, some of us were much more vocal about that disappointment than others, but there were fans of the program scattered across the spectrum of trusting in this climb. Some believed there was never going to be success, some just kept peeking through their fingers, hoping things changed, and others never wavered that Neal Brown was going to turn it around once he firmly had a full slate of his recruits in place.
Climb, you took a long time to get here. I hope that you stay and that HCNB and the staff create a season that gives Mountaineer Nation hope for what lies ahead. We are a young team with so much potential that it isn’t hard to look at this roster and actually use the words ‘trust the climb’ again.
The climb is what the individual fan chooses to make it. Some are still at the extremes of the line, where they will never be happy until there is a new coach in Morgantown, and others choose to believe that this 3-1 start is different from the other 3-1 starts Neal has produced in the past years. Me, I care about the altitude. A 7-5 result on the season can feel great if every game is hard-fought and competitive. Then you know you are turning a corner. I am not naïve enough to believe that WVU wins out, but I also cannot say it’s out of the realm of possibility. I don’t think we have seen a team believe in themselves like this one does in quite a while.
The climb continues today, whether that means scaling the rock face straight up, taking a sidestep to find the next foothold, or even taking a slight stumble. I have been waiting four seasons to feel confident in bowl eligibility and look at the conference slate ahead as games that our team has a solid chance of winning.
Today, I trust the Mountaineers. I trust the defense. I trust our plan. Hell, I trust Neal Brown. Win or lose today, I am choosing once again to Trust the Climb. I will be seated in a booth in a sports bar with my wife later tonight watching the future of this program unfold, and God help anyone standing between us and the peak this season and what comes next. I trust you, climb.
Don’t let me down.
Photo Credit: WVU Mountaineers via X