Charleston Daily Mail

used by permission

Dave Peyton

August 11 2006

‘We Are Marshall' feature is awesome
But the same cannot be said for Huntington


A featurette based on the upcoming Warner Brothers movie "We Are Marshall" is on the Internet and the moviemakers have announced that the film will be released for Christmas on Dec. 22.

In a word, the brief preview of the movie is awesome. It's part of the pre-release hype, but from the looks of it, not much buildup will be necessary to make the movie a mega-hit.

I wish I could say the same for Huntington.

The movie will tell the story of how the Marshall plane crash at Huntington's Tri-State Airport didn't keep the university and its football team down.

As it says in the feature, the story of Marshall's rise from the ashes of a plane crash that killed nearly the entire football team in 1970 is "a metaphor for a life well-lived."

Jack Lengyel, the coach who took over the football program following the crash, says in the preview the story of Marshall's ascent from an unspeakable tragedy proves that when disaster strikes, the right thing to do is "get up off the ground and go on to success."

That's easier said than done, but Marshall and Huntington did it for football.

It's mystifying to me that MU football soared in so short a time, but Huntington continues to slide. The only logical explanation is the frog-in-boiling-water theory.

No doubt you've heard of it. It's said that if you put a frog in boiling water, it will quickly jump out. But if you put a frog in cool water and slowly bring the water to a boil, it will stay in the water and succumb to the inevitable.

The Marshall crash was a sudden jolt and the recovery was quick and lasting. Huntington was on a slow but certain decline before the crash and continues that slide today. The same people who reacted swiftly to save Marshall's football program seem to ignore the creeping blight that has overtaken the city.

The Huntington Area Chamber of Commerce has hired the Marshall School of Business to analyze Huntington's problems. A draft of that report is due in September. If that report is ignored, as other reports about the city and its financial straits have been disregarded, then the hot water is likely to boil the frog in its skin.

I'm not as certain of Charleston's fate, but it appears as if the emergency there could be as serious as it is in Huntington and most other West Virginia cities. Is Charleston getting off the ground and moving toward success? That's the question the city must ask its government and its people every day.

Huntington may have the dubious distinction of being a city thrust into the national spotlight in December and it's simply not ready for that. The city that brought a football program from ashes to glory has not done the same for itself.

And that may be the tragedy in all of this.