Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Alumnus: What "We are ... Marshall" means to me

Editor’s Note: Below is an email message written in response to my recent blog entry about the WAM (We Are … Marshall) chant being a myth. It was non-existent at the time of the 1970 plane crash. The chant, however, is not a product of Hollywood fiction. So, I stand corrected on that. The chant is not a myth. Here’s the issue I’ve always had about the chant and the movie. The time period when the chant was used in the movie, didn’t match the true timeline of when the chant became prominent in real life.

       I agree with you that the "We are .... Marshall" chant did not occur during "our" time at Marshall. But the chant did become popular before the movie came out (2006). Furthermore, I associated the chant with the resurgence of Marshall University Thundering Herd football.
       I believe that the chant became popular at Herd football games during the 1990’s. I returned to Huntington (West Virginia) for Marshall’s Homecoming weekend every year during the 1990’s and each year I attended the football game. The reason I associate the chant with the resurgence of MU football is an experience that Nate Ruffin shared with me. (Ruffin missed the fatal flight because of an injury and he was the captain of the '71 Young Thundering Herd).
       The year was 1999, and Marshall went on the road to play powerful Clemson on its home turf known as "Death Valley." The Herd beat 13-10. At the time, Clemson's home field -- Memorial Stadium -- had a seating capacity of about 81,500.
       Nate described the following scene:
       The stadium is quiet. A relatively small group of Marshall fans sit in one end zone and another small group of Herd faithful sit in the opposite end zone. The chant broke out from one end zone: "We are ...  The group sitting in the other end zone responded: "Marr-shall1!"
       I was not at that game, but I can still remember Nate sharing that story. Whenever I hear the "We are Marshall" chant, that's the memory I have.
       As you know, I was a freshman at Marshall when the crash occurred. I was part of the "Homegoing Caravan." And I participated in the football game between Black United Students and Kappa Alpha fraternity. I played safety and was personally tutored by you on the art of playing the position. Since I was at that game, I did witness the fight on Friday the 13th (the day before the plane crash).
       This was a time of my life that I will never forget. I was glad that the movie We Are Marshall came out. I am even more ecstatic that you wrote November Ever After because I have never been able to explain the passion I have for Marshall University Thundering Herd football.
       I just wanted to share what "We are ... Marshall" means to me.
- Robert Walker 
 Robert Walker is a Marshall University graduate. 

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