When ESPN brought their #GameDay show to Boone on September 17, 2022, we were suddenly the center of the college football solar system.
Welcome to the Town of Boone, as the signs say. We are incorporated as a town (kinda like Clemson) because we're not comfortable being a city. (Gameday was in Clemson Oct. 1, so ESPN may need an alternate version of their theme song: "We're coming ... to your cit-ay!") We are home to 20,000 students and roughly the same number of townies and snowbirds. We ain't as quaint as we used to be, but we're more than a craft brewery with a vexxing football team.
Clemson has Howard's Rock. Boone has Howards Knob. Clemson had Chase Brice. Now, we do.
As ESPN booked flights to Boone (hmmmm!), GameDay commissioned an introductory video essay by Wright Thompson, a sportswriter who graduated from the Missouri J-school a generation after me. It went like this:
Welcome to Boone, North Carolina.
Welcome to a post-card, hippy, outdoorsy, football town.
Welcome to, "This town is nuts." My kind of place—I don't ever want to leave town, "I need a miracle" ... mountain-bike, parking lot, French-bread pizza town.
Eric Church Town, Class of 2000.
Welcome to Giant-Slayer Town. Cold-beer, thin-air, Gameday town. Cameron Peoples' town.
Ask Michigan about the real victors? [Clip from 2007: "The Mountaineers of Appalachian State have just beaten the Michigan Wolverines!"]
Ask the Aggies? [Clip from last week: "Appalachian State has done it again!"]
Have you ever seen the Blue Ridge Mountains, boy? And the Chattahoochee? And the honeysuckle blue?"
Welcome to Boone, North Carolina. Upset town, USA.
I don't know Wright Thompson. He was born the same year I enrolled at Mizzou. Wikipedia tells me that he grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi (home of the Delta blues), was a sportswriter for the Kansas City Star and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Folks in Ireland criticized him for stereotyping Dublin in a story on fighter Conner McGregor.
He has a nice way with words, but in this case he demonstrates only a superficial acquaintance with the town of Boone (as opposed to Boone County, where we both went to college).
Fact-check: The Chattahoochee is a river in Georgia, far-far from Boone. Thompson may have been thinking of the Chattooga, based on the video clip of whitewater rafters, but that's another remote corner of North Carolina. The next-to-last paragraph is a verse from a Drivin' N' Cryin' song called Honeysuckle Blue. Jason Isbell once performed the song in Boone, but otherwise it doesn't speak for us.
Here's how this Mizzou writer might have put it:
Welcome to Boone, North Carolina, zip code 3333.
Welcome to a town that's been center-stage before. Have you forgotten that we had our own Super Bowl commercial? We're the home of Foggy Pine Books: "Between the Baptist Church and the Boone Saloon." Thanks, Tom Hanks, Stephen Colbert, and Sam Elliott!*
Did you assume we had an airport? You're not from around here, are you?
Looking for a Home Depot, the sponsor of GameDay? Sorry, but you'll have to go off the mountain. Looking for a Pizza Hut, the official pie of GameDay? We lived without a hut for years, but we opened a new one just in time for GameDay. Nor do we have a Target, nor a steakhouse.
We're glad we put in the four-lane highway a few years ago, so the GameDay bus could get here.
Stop by the Chamber of Commerce. The director is the guy who brought you the call from the Big House. Moonlighting for ESPN3, he was also on the call for the Miracle on the Mountain II.
You do remember the original Miracle on the Mountain, don't you? It involved the current Florida coach (who still seems confounded by two-point strategy), the lead singer for Needtobreathe (named for Bear Bryant), and a little overthinking by a Furman coach (who was raising a future Appalachian quarterback).
We're not just a beer-swilling hippy town, boy. This is God's country. We're home to world-changing charities: Samaritan's Purse, World Medical Mission, and Wine to Water. GameDay actually had a campfire sound-byte from the co-founder of World Medical Mission, but they had no clue that his world is far bigger than football.
The real miracle on the mountain is that about 200 million children worldwide have gotten Christmas gifts via Operation Christmas Child from right here in Boone.
You do know the riddle of 3,333, right? That’s supposedly the elevation at the Watauga County courthouse. The altitude of the field at Kidd Brewer Stadium is actually about 3,250, which gives us the highest football field in the east (except for Avery County High School, 3,760). We put up the 3,333 signs to intimidate our winded guests. Bobby Cremins, who used to coach basketball up here, once brought a team from Charleston to Boone and told his players not to worry about the thin air, since they were playing indoors!
As you leave the mountain today, please choose and cut your own Christmas trees.
If you call us App-Elation, mean it like this.
*Appalachian State also had a video of infamy back in 2005, back when Armanti Edwards was just a twinkle in our eye. He could have been a defensive back at South Carolina, but instead he chose a place that was HOT-HOT-HOT!
Here's a list of Gameday locations since the show debuted in 1993 at South Bend, Indiana. On Oct. 8, Lawrence, Kansas, gets its long-awaited turn. Notable campuses that have never hosted GameDay: Cal, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, Duke, Virginia, and Syracuse. Back in 1869, Rutgers staged the very first college football game, but ESPN wasn't around then. Duke missed its chance in 1942, when the Rose Bowl was played in Durham.