Written by Justin Prince.
This is Downtown Huntington, not Downtown Morgantown, but I think this story is an important one to talk about for fans of college sports and as West Virginians.
Saturday, on Facebook, former WVU quarterback Skyler Howard alleged that he was poisoned at a Morgantown Olive Garden following the team’s blow out loss to the Miami Hurricanes in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl.
Howard, who had led WVU to 10 wins that season, had a bit of an off night only throwing for 134 yards.
According to his Facebook post, he retuned to Morgantown following the game in order to pack some things up and head to Texas where he’d begin training to continue his career at the next level. But, before leaving, he and his girlfriend decided to go out to dinner where Howard accuses the waitress of recognizing him and deliberately tampering with his and his girlfriend’s food.
Soon after their meal, both Howard and his girlfriend got sick and blame the illness on what had happened to them at Olive Garden.
To support his claims, Howard posts a series of screen shots from texts and social media of the person he alleged altered his food asking friends if she should spit in their meals or not.
“Waiting on Skylar Howard and his GF should I spit in his food or nah,” the screen shot shows a person identified as “Mimi” asking.
“F***ing sh*t in it Mimi,” is the response message.
Howard, who had taken his share of criticism on social media from Mountaineer fans throughout his career, says he doesn’t know for sure what was done to his food, but believes that after seeing the screen shots make the rounds on Twitter, that whatever happened it was his meal that was responsible for his getting sick. He also claims that the resulting illness caused him to miss a month of valuable training time.
One Twitter user with the handle replied to a tweet from Howard about the incident with the message “You made us all terribly sick while you played here, now we’re even.”
It’s disgusting treatment for a former player who went out week after week and did his best to entertain the WVU faithful and represent his teammates and fellow students with pride.
But, why bring it up on this site? What does it have to do with Huntington, the home of Marshall University? Well, while no one has been accused of going as far as to poison Chase Litton, social media has been far from kind to the Thundering Herd’s starting quarterback.
Litton, whose career hasn’t been dissimilar to Howard’s in the fact that his had some success but still shoulders much of the blame for the team’s offensive shortcomings, has been shredded by the Herd faithful on message boards, Twitter and Facebook.
Now, part of being a NCAA Division I quarterback is being able to handle a little heat and a little criticism. But, in this digital age where athletes and fans are more connected than ever, and going viral seems to be more important than being a decent human being, where does the line get drawn?
Hopefully, it gets drawn before players can’t even trust the meals they are eating in the cities they’ve chosen to call their college home.
It’s one thing to write that Litton, or any other quarterback, made the wrong read or express your opinion that throwing off their back foot is a mechanical problem said player needs to work on to improve their game.
Those things can be constructive. And as a fan, especially if you’re a knowledgeable one, part of the fun is dissecting the game in detail. That’s perfectly fine and players should be able to take that kind of public criticism.
What’s not okay is tweeting that a college athlete is “the worst f***ing player on the planet. Can he please have a career ending injury, like right now?” Which is what one Twitter user wrote during Litton’s four-interception game against Florida Atlantic.
We can all get fired up, after all, the word fan is short for fanatic. But, when we start wishing for serious injury to a person, or trying to do physical harm to an athlete, because they made some mistakes on the field, then we’ve gone too far. Way too far.