Spring, Family, and WVU
by Jim Alderson, 4/10/01

The news around the Big East, aside from the league’s rather dismal showing in the NCAA basketball tournament, has been the various spring practices. At Tech, of course, the staff is engaged in the Great Quarterback Search to determine a leader for a team otherwise oozing talent at every position. Miami’s recently-concluded drills focused mainly on what to do with the extra time during games previously spent by new coach Larry Coker and former coach Butch Davis arguing over calls, while Pitt(sburgh) coach Walt Harris’ decision to suspend talented and troublemaking wide receiver Antonio Bryant for the all-important summer months indicates that the time to play the Panthers will be July. Bobby Wallace at Temple cuts short daily sessions to provide extra time to fax his resume around the country, while Greg Schiano at Rutgers schmoozes with New Jersey favorite son Tony Soprano (are those commercials going to be shot at the Bada Bing?), advising fans to buy tickets, or Furrio will pay them a visit. And, there is West Virginia, where new coach Rich Rodriguez has energized fans weary of all of those bowl trips under Don Nehlen.

TSLMB regular and good guy Bruno, who is first and foremost a WVU fan, is quite excited about the possibilities presented by Rodriguez and new Defensive Coordinator Elmo (known to you as former Tech Defensive Coordinator Phil Elmassian), and took me to task for suggesting that perhaps the Neers were in for a period of decline. The belief that I do not know what I am talking about seems to be an increasingly common one. While I freely admit that he is much more familiar with his program than I, and I have been known to be dead wrong (a piece I wrote in the summer of 99 that came to the conclusion that Tech had little chance of ever competing for the MNC pops to mind), I will point out, again, that my observation is based on the scant talent base in West Virginia, and my feeling that Don Nehlen was an outstanding coach who succeeded in spite of that severe limitation. I do notice that former WVU assistant Doc Holliday is continuing to mine Florida's Dade County for quality football prospects, only now for NC State.

It has also been suggested from time to time by correspondents much less congenial than Bruno that, based on the fact that I often make gleeful fun of West Virginia, that I do not like our western neighbors. Nothing could be further from the truth. I often refer to West Virginians as the Cousins because chances are good that they are, as I am descended from West Virginia stock. Although the details are sketchy and hotly disputed by relatives who do not regard their nefarious ancestors with nearly as much hilarity as I, my genealogical research led me to the turn of the Eighteenth Century and a Reverend John Alderson, of the Episcopalian faith. The good reverend found it necessary to put the Atlantic Ocean between him and his former parish in England, and settled with his new bride in Philadelphia, where he set to work converting souls.

It was something other than the soul he coveted from the daughter of prominent church goers, and the ensuing scandal resulting from the dalliance between the thirty-something John and the fifteen year-old (the beginnings of a family tradition I have done my best to uphold) convinced him that mountains would do the trick this time, probably due to the logistical difficulties faced by his former flock of transporting barrels of boiling tar across them in pursuit, and he and what was to become his next wife settled in what is now known as the garden spot of the state, Alderson, West Virginia (that the government chose to locate a federal prison there is probably coincidental, or perhaps not). This marriage took, and the happy couple was fruitful and multiplied, producing seventeen children.

This began a long association between the Alderson family and West Virginia, a history that includes colorful characters such as ‘River Jack’ Alderson, who plied the rather nebulous occupation of ‘trader,’ and seemed to find himself widowed more times than Henry the Eight. River Jack perhaps saw the recruiting problems WVU coaches would face a couple of hundred years later and set out to do something about it, siring, with six different wives, an entire depth chart, including kickers, of twenty-four children. That the population of West Virginia does not support large numbers of Division I-A prospects is not the fault of my family.

The details are understandably sketchy, but it seems that my great-grandfather in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century became amazed, fatally, to discover that people took the robbery of mining payrolls quite seriously. A series of events were set in motion that resulted in my grandfather, Richard Alderson, and his sister being sent as orphaned small children to live with family in the Keeling area of Pittsylvania County in Virginia. If not for grand larceny and an angry lynch mob I could very well be an alumnus of WVU, as I really can’t see myself having attended Marshall. Suffice to say, I am a big fan of the Neers, with the exception, of course, of when they are playing Tech.

I plan on journeying to West Virginia the first week of the coming October, to, among other things, survey my roots, perhaps taking a stab at finding the money that was never given back and family legend says is buried in one of the many Alderson family cemeteries that lack of reliable birth control and capital punishment caused to be scattered all over the northeastern part of the state. I will also be attending the Tech-WVU game. I propose we get together prior to the game and tailgate in the friendly spirit of a good-natured rivalry (given the rather modest schedules of both teams prior to the clash, the odds are good that we will both come into the game undefeated).

I also propose that we make it interesting, and place a friendly wager on the outcome, as I have done in the past with friends who are alumni of Miami, Virginia and Clemson. And, given the combatants in this game, I know just what to bet. One of the advantages of living in Danville is its close proximity to Franklin County, which rightfully markets itself as the Moonshine Capital of the World. This is an elixir that also seems to be found in some quantity in West Virginia. I suggest we bet a gallon. Best of luck to the Neers, and see you there.

Jim Alderson, who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports.  While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.


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