Thank goodness for the diversion.
The "We Are Marshall" movie DVD came out Tuesday at midnight and it couldn't have come at a better time for the current Marshall football team.
The second-telling of Marshall University and Huntington's rise from the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash helped many Thundering Herd fans get over the disappointment of last weekend's loss to NCAA Division I-AA New Hampshire. The DVD release also delayed those fans turning their attention to Saturday night's contest against Big East member Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium where the undefeated Bearcats dropped the Herd's record to 0-4 for the first time since 1969.
Prior to Saturday's game, some members of the Young Thundering Herd who helped bring the football program back to life in 1971 mingled with 2,500-plus Green and White fans at a tailgate party on the UC soccer field.
"It's great to see a turnout like this, the spirit and the emotion," said Tom Smythe of Cincinnati, a tight end for the 1971 Young Herd who scored the team's first points in the opener that year at Morehead State. "They're going to be back. They'll rise. When Miami (Ohio) had a bad year, did their fans think they'd be back? Yes. The same for Marshall. They're going to be OK."
Rex Repass, another Young Herd player who lives in Cincinnati, understands the disgust, but said he hopes fans will do the right thing and stick with the team. He's been OK with third-year Marshall head coach Mark Snyder from the day he left Ohio State to coach at his alma mater.
"I've been a big supporter. He's learning as he goes," Repass said. "He learned from a good man (Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Youngstown State). I still support him. I had two kids go to Ohio State. I'm a Buckeye man second. He's the right man."
One former Young Herd player amazed by the tailgating scene on the soccer field and at Nippert Stadium was Felix Jordan. The defensive back didn't make the ill-fated trip to East Carolina in 1970 because of an injury. Jordan was one of the three veteran players who formed the nucleus of the 1971 team. He's seen the movie and has the DVD.
"You don't realize how that affected me," said Jordan, a 56-year-old resident of Cincinnati. "I have a couple of daughters. I wish I brought them so they could see this. I'm so shocked by the crowd.
"Please be patient. Don't forget we've been through a lot worse than this."
Eugene Jones, a manager for Marshall in 1970 who didn't make the trip to Greenville, N.C., because of a school assignment, keeps up with the Herd from his home in Hinton, W.Va., where he works in real estate. This year's Herd record is not good, but Jones isn't giving up yet.
"I'm not ready to hit the panic button," said Jones, who wore the jersey No. 22 (the number of crash victim Artie Shannon) on Saturday. "Look what we sat through. We can't quit. Look at the people here. They're the true fans."
Another former Young Herd player, Mike Sparks, had a different opinion than his old teammates. He wishes Jim Donnan, a former Marshall coach and now ESPN analyst, would have returned to run the Herd after Bobby Pruett retired prior to 2005 spring practice.
"What's Jim Donnan's phone number?" he said. "He's a proven coach, he's got credentials and he's hard core. I don't think Mark Snyder's a bad guy. I don't see it right now."
Jerry Arrasmith, a Young Herd wide receiver, admits Marshall's success in the late 1980s and 1990s would spoil anyone. The Herd won two I-AA national titles while in the Southern Conference and dominated the Mid-American Conference. This is the school's third year in Conference USA.
"That's part of the problem. Fans got so used to the success," Arrasmith said. "They've hit a down period and people have gotten panicky. Give the guys a chance. He'll recruit the players and get the job done. He knows what it takes."
Young Herd quarterback Reggie Oliver was one of the busiest people at the tailgate party signing autographs and posing for pictures. He's in Snyder's corner in good times and bad.
"Stick with it. Let's roll," Oliver said. "This says a lot about the true Marshall fans. Nobody deserves success more than them. They stuck with us then and got rewarded. It can happen again."
David Walsh is a member of The Herald-Dispatch sports department. Call him at 526-2730. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.