The Gavel

May 24, 2021 – Marshall University and a National Championship

Huntington, West Virginia is rejoicing this week! The Men’s Soccer team brought home its first ever National Championship with a 1-0 overtime win against Indiana! The NCAA title run featured wins over the Number 1 ranked Clemson Tigers and defending champion Georgetown Hoyas.

Marshall Univeristy’s men’s soccer team celebrates a national title

The championship is impressive in its own right, but the story includes a meteoric rise of the Marshall program under Head Coach Chris Grassie. In just four seasons, he guided a team to a national title that was on the brink of being dropped from Marshall University’s athletic program in 2003.

Marshall University scored another victory in the following days when they made a major investment into the program by providing Grassie with a new five year contract that makes him one of the highest paid coaches in collegiate soccer.

The soccer title run also included some fantastic support from the Huntington community, who made the trek to North Carolina to cheer on the Herd! This hopes to be a huge boost to the number of young people who play and support soccer in the tri-state area.

March 26, 2021 – Sir Mark Rylance, an actor you may have overlooked  

Though he has acted professionally since 1980, most American moviegoers might not know about Sir Mark Rylance.  In Great Britain, Rylance performed in a number of stage productions, including a stint at the Royal Shakespearean Academy.  Though he primarily worked in British productions, Rylance has performed on Broadway and has become a more regularly seen actor in Hollywood.

In 2015, Rylance won acclaim from several prominent critics for his role in Bridge of Spies, co-starring with Tom Hanks in a great film about the exchange of American and Russian spies after the 1960 U-2 spy plane incident.  Rylance cooly portrayed Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, which earned him the 2016 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

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          Rylance, as William Kunstler, lead attorney for the ‘Chicago 7’

Since then, Rylance’s starred in the 2017 World War II drama, Dunkirk, and more recently in the Netflix original, The Trial of the Chicago 7, which detailed the legal drama surrounding Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, and other famous anti-war protestors at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.  Check out any of these films if you have a chance and appreciate the fine work of Rylance.

Incidentally, Rylance is also known for his anti-war activism and in 2016, Time magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People of the year.

February 28, 2021 – Deft or daft? Either way, Big Jim leaves us befuddled

Jim Justice, the second term governor of our beloved West Virginia, seems like a strange old man most days. He vacillates between seemingly insane comments and moments of lucidity. This week, for instance, Justice lamented decisions made by the Republican led state legislature, including the passing of prevailing wage and so-called “right to work” legislation. He noted that West Virginia had not experienced any changes in population or increases in economic opportunities, stating, “Let’s just be brutally honest. We passed the right-to-work law in West Virginia, and we ran to the window looking to see all the people that were going to come, and they didn’t come. We got rid of prevailing wage. We cut our corporate tax.” Screen Shot 2021-02-28 at 8.01.18 PM

I love the brutal honesty of the governor here, but as Big Jim says, let’s be honest. No sooner did Justice critique these changes in policy, he backed the current efforts to eliminate the state’s income tax. Instead of looking at the fact that these legislative changes are not making a difference, Justice seems intent on drinking the red kool-aid of the legislature. The lack of logic is strange, to say the least. Of course, I don’t know that we should expect consistency and logic from a governor who was first elected as a Democrat, and then defected to the Republican Party. No one seems to really understand the rhyme or reason of this move, other than Justice saw which way the party winds were blowing in West Virginia.

The strange behavior of Justice doesn’t end there, either. He publicly endorsed the plan by President Joe Biden and Democrats for a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that includes the raising of minimum wage of $15 per hour. This directly contracted the views of our senior Senator, Joe Manchin (D), who questioned the need for such a high increase in minimum wage.

His entire tenure as governor seems like he’s constantly hedging and incapable of deciding what he really wants to do. Justice seems intent on not residing in the Governor’s Mansion, and refuses to give up his side gig of coaching high school basketball. He’s never fully resolved the issue of back taxes owed in state and out of state, but he holds the position of chief executive of the state.

Big Jim is a walking contradiction, and yet, it’s difficult to be too upset with him because he’s more normal in today’s politics than we want to believe.