The Spirit of the East

by Troy Dreyfus

It's hard to believe, but this year will mark my 17th season as an ECU Pirate.  It seems like just yesterday I walked on campus in the fall of 1989, and what a magical, life changing time that was. 

Greenville was a very different place; there was no bypass of Knightdale, Wilson, or even Farmville.  There were no big chain restaurants lining Greenville Blvd., only a few fast food ones.  Evans Street was a two-lane road.  Bells Fork, where the new Bostic-Sugg furniture store sits now, was "out-of-town" back then.  The list could go on, but I guess you catch my drift.

1989 marked Bill Lewis' first season as head coach at ECU.  There was a spirit of renewal in the air surrounding ECU football.  I'll never forget the pep rally in the stadium the night before the first game.  Budweiser sponsored it, and the ECU band came marching in the stadium playing the Clydesdale Budweiser theme song.  As I said, it was a very different time.  I still have the football that was given away at that event.  On one side it had the Bud logo, on the other, it had the ECU logo and "The Spirit of the East" imprinted on it.  "The Spirit of the East" slogan was also on the football poster and bumper stickers that year.

Last weekend I was reminded about what the "Spirit of the East" is all about.  I was watching TV with my wife Kristen and I came across ECU-TV (channel 99- Cox Cable).  They were playing the "We Believe" tape, which recapped the entire 1991 season.  It was Bill Lewis' last season as head coach, and the greatest year in ECU and maybe college football history.

My wife is one of many who were not a part of the program until the turn of the century.  Sure it doesn't seem that long ago to us that have been here all along, but to her the last 5 seasons have been mediocre at best and down right bad at worst.  She has no frame of reference that this program was once a source of great pride for the university and our community.  The only thing she knows is the memorabilia on my walls that document our past great achievements.

I started to think this is the case with many other Pirate fans that were not a part of the program during that magical season.  Many new fans do not appreciate how great Pirate football used to be.  New folks to our community only know ECU as a football program that struggles to win any game, and not as one that used to dominate the state and be a national power.

So we watched the 30-minute video together.  It had been about 10 years since I last seen it.  I was quickly reminded on how it was one of the best season reviews I have ever seen.  The narrator's voice sounded like he is from NFL films, and the production quality was awesome.  In addition the story it told was truly amazing. It's a story that became much bigger than college football.  It talked about when you put your heart into it, it can take you anywhere.  That place for us was a top 10 national ranking.

The reason I'm telling you this is because at the end of the video, Kristen said to me, "Wow. so that is what is used to be like.  Now I understand. Now I know why people get so excited about this team."  She went on to say she hoped the coaches and players had an opportunity to watch the video before the season begins.  It really got her "excited about ECU football".  Now remember, this was my wife talking.  Imagine what kind of impact it could have on the team! 

As we sit on the verge of another season, I see our program at a crossroads.  We will either begin the process of turning our program around and get back to the winning ways and national respect, or we will drift into mediocrity and fall further and further off the major college football landscape.  My bet is placed on the turn around.  I think it has already begun with Terry and Skip leading this Pirate Ship in a new direction.

This August of 2005, I'm reminded of the "Spirit of the East".  The same feeling of renewal that was present in 1989 seems to be back this year.  As we always say, "it ain't easy being a Pirate," but I guess that's what makes it so special.  Nothing is handed to us, and we have to fight for everything we get.  Over the last 17 seasons, the highs have been high, and the lows have been low, with not much in-between.  Hopefully this year marks the beginning of many new "highs" for the old memorabilia wall.

Troy Dreyfus