CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Morgantown: Touched, Down and Gone City


By Jack Cawthon

Burvil had a smile on his face as wide as that of a possum that has just bitten into a week-old road kill as my aging Dakota with its aged driver rolled into Big Puf. He pointed at the bumper and I knew he was reading, as I saw his lips moving, my "Morgantown: Touchdown City" sticker.

"Ye all got with that there Coach's program!" he exclaimed both in Elizabethan and Pufian dialect. I knew that he had a lot of "old Coachisms" learned over the year, such as the famous "we lost because the other team scored more points," an analysis that pretty well sums up Burvil's right-side brain.

I explained to him, that no, I hadn't become a fan of the jock industry, although it always does my heart good to see all those old grads headed north on I-79 when I am headed south on a home football Saturday. Instead of cars, pickups, RVs, motorsickles, four-wheelers, and flag-carrying hybrids (both people and vehicles) I see dollar signs, smirk my holier-than-thou grin, which always turned off cheerleaders when I asked them to go park in my '41 Chevy, and mutter something encouraging like "go to it suckers."

I explained to Burvil that I needed a state inspection sticker for my old pickup and the bumper sticker was just right for a badly rusted section. I had exhausted a large supply of "Goldwater for President-In Your Heart You Know He is Right" stickers covering up a large section of back panel rust, and Burvil, the little smart mouth, muttered, but loud enough for me to hear, "Yeah, ol' Barry ended up in the rear, all right!"

Burvil always causes me to think-not always proper thoughts, however. I don't like to ponder the thinking (?) that produced the "Touchdown City" slogan that may be seen even on billboards. I'm certain that it took numerous committee meetings and not just a casual remark by a celebrating bar patron (and we always have several of those around Morgantown) after a run-up score over a fifth-rate team: "How 'bout them 'eers! Let's hear it for Touchdown City!"

As I once-how shall I say it?-served in a role that used the English language for promotional purposes, but, alas, not enough, or loudly enough, for myself, that to compose a slogan of such symbolic nature could not come from local endeavor but must instead be farmed out to "consultants."

Consultants don't come cheap, although I once offered my services at several points below the prime rate and found no takers. Somewhere I knew, maybe Madison Avenue or Hollywood and Vine, a high-priced advertising team sat around for a brain-storming session. That's where people sit around and say the first thing that enters their mind, and which always got me into a heap of trouble with the boss when I tried it. There may have been many good slogans tossed out, such as: Morgantown: Effigy City; Smoke Sunnyside; Come Light Our Fires; Out-of-Bounds City; or Running Goals for the Masses City." However, someone, perhaps the boss, yelled "I've got it! Touchdown City!" Everyone relaxed, they all went out for drinks, and on the way told the office assistant to send a bill, rounded off in the thousands, to that booster organization in Morgantown, Virginia.

Maybe all this complicated explanation for a simple, quite simple, slogan may seem like beating a dead eclectic to death, and I certainly had Burvil all confused after I had tried explaining it to him why I had used a lousy bumper sticker without the sentiment behind it, but instead considered the sediment.

But I, and Howard Cosell, have never played the game. I guess I just have a different concept of the home of my dwelling. I view Morgantown as "Touched, Down, and Gone City" for reasons others than sporting ones, although each to his own game, in that people pass through, and pass on; perhaps it is "Transient City."

Part of the problem, or in some cases all of the problem, is that loners, especially, not to get personal with names, in addition to doing all the dastardly deeds in society, what ones lawyers don't do, get a little lonely and in moments of weakness, which some may view as all of the time, reach out, and all too often like a phone circuit to a wrong number, touch someone.

This is what the phone company is all about, but in the world of semi-reality it can have touching consequences. Morgantown isn't the city for long-term commitments, except maybe of the mental kind, and woe be to him/her who tries to catch a shooting star. It's the stayin' awhile and movin' on up world of the Jeffersons, not the wily politician who had a way with words, but of the TV sit-com. And those who stay can earn a somewhat cynical comment of those who have stayed and who have seen stars come and go but who have burned out themselves long ago: "If he/she is so good, why is he/she staying in West Virginia."

Let's take an example from the professional world. Let's say a loner, again, no names, is walking down High Street and can't make out the clock on Citizens Bank. Maybe it's time for an appointment with a good eye doctor. So he calls up a large eye clinic for a fitting for rose-colored glasses and dearly likes what he sees through them. "I kin see!" he screams in tones that pulls in money for TV evangelists. In a few weeks he thinks he may need an adjustment for another view. But he is told that the miracle worker who restored his sight has now gone out of sight to a better opportunity in Cleveland's Hough District.

What's a loner with poor vision to do, except become more loner, figuring he is on a revolving world on a stationary platform? But in the short term, as opposed to the long term when we are all dead, he was touched by someone who gave his sight back, and so what, if that person moves on upward and out, that just may be their calling to be fleeting spirits to the needy. After all, they may have left behind some ideal prescriptions for dealing with just this sort of problem.

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