Originally produced in the Charleston Daily Mail.
By Mickey Furfari
MORGANTOWN — ‘As a West Virginia native, I’m boycotting the new movie entitled “The Express.”
I would urge other Mountain State residents do the same.
As you probably know, it’s based on the life of Ernie Davis, the first black ever to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy.
Davis, a great running back at Syracuse in 1959 and the early 1960s, died of leukemia at a much-too-early age. He not only was an exceptional player but a fine young man.
So doing a movie about nearly a half century after his college football career ended certainly seemed justified. That is, until the movie-makers decided to include totally false scenes of a West Virginia-Syracuse game at old Mountaineer Field.
It actually was played in 1960, not in 1959 as the film reportedly lists the game. Syracuse won 45-0 before about 20,000 fans and the Mountaineers finished 0-8-2 in Gene Corum’s first year as head coach.
The movie contains a racially charged scene of WVU fans throwing bottles and voicing racial epithets at Davis and his Syracuse teammates.
I can tell you that it never happened. I covered that game and there were no incidents whatever. Even players from both teams recently confirmed that it was fiction — pure fiction.
Those included the opposing quarterbacks, Syracuse’s Dick Easterly. 69, of Tampa, Fla., and WVU’s Dale Evans, a retired coach now living in Spartanburg, S.C. They and others were contacted by the Charleston Daily Mail for a story last week.
While I am a firm believer in our country’s First Amendment, I wish there were some way that Congress could pass legislation which would call for heavy fines against filmmakers in situations such as this one.
I’m assuming that they get off the hook, though, by saying the movie is based on the life of an individual. It allows them to take cheap shots at a small state like West Virginia. Those guys and gals ought to be absolutely ashamed.
Neither California, New York nor other large states would even notice were any of their residents wrongly accused of such incidents.
If memory serves, makers of the movie about the Marshall football team plane tragedy of 1970 also contained scenes that were questioned and found to be untrue.
Old-timers who grew up in West Virginia will tell you that Monongalia County was one of the first in the United States to integrate schools. And it was done without anything resembling a racial incident.
Filmmakers probably don’t know that and could care less. Their ignorance shows in “The Express,” based on what I’ve heard and read. It has to detract from the movie.
It is unfortunate that neither Floyd “Ben” Schwartzwalder, who became a legend as head coach at Syracuse for 25 years, nor the great Ernie Davis is alive to confirm that the West Virginia scene was phony.
Schwartzwalder, a native of Point Pleasant and former Parkersburg High football coach, was proud of his alma mater and West Virginia. He would have told ’em off in no uncertain terms.’