Posted on: December 27, 2009 2:26 pm
So you're a Penn State football fan? Does that mean that you MUST hate Pitt?
My earliest sports memories go way back into my childhood. I remember my father's family watching Super Bowl III and all the talk about Joe Namath, and I remember The Amazing Mets of 1969 and how that was the big talk all summer around my grandfather's kitchen table. I was 4-years old, turning 5 during the baseball season. My OWN memories that go beyond listening to Dad, Pap and my uncles .... forming my own opinions and memories, come from Super Bowl V when the Cowboys lost to the Colts on a field goal in the waning seconds and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates winning it all against the Orioles behind the epic play of Roberto Clemente. So what does this have to do with Pitt and Penn State? Just a little backgroound to explain where I'm coming from with my take.
While still in the early '70's I began to follow Penn State football in our local paper, front page of the sports section as we were only about 40 miles from University Park. Pittsburgh was only a two-hour drive, so I was also able to follow the Panthers, albiet, on page 2. In November of 1973 I was fortunate enough to attend my first Pitt v. Penn State football game. The first half of the game was dominated by a freshmen RB from Pitt named Tony Dorsett who slashed through the Nittany Lion defense, scoring a touchdown and leading the Panthers to a 13-0 lead. Late in the half Penn State got themselves into position for a last-second field goal, and when Chris Bahr's attempt bounced off the crossbar and through, the halftime score was set at 13-3. The momentum of that play combined with halftime adjustments changed the game completely as the Nits, led by Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, outscored Pitt 32-0 in the second half for a final of 35-13. Cappy finished with 161 yards and secured the Heisman. I was thilled! I was equally thrilled watching Dorsett clinch his own Heisman rushing for 224 yards and finding the endzone twice while leading his Panthers to a 24-7 victory over the Nittany Lions in 1976. Pitt went on to win the National Championship, their ninth title, when they beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl.
It was shortly after this that my family and friends started getting on my back that I NEEDED to pick one team or the other to pledge my allegiance. I chose Penn State. Over the years I BLED blue and white ..... but all the while I was a closet Pitt fan as well. So while I celebrated loudly and proudly as my Nittany Lions finally won the National Championship in 1982, I secretly admired Dan Marino carving up defenses for the Panthers over four seasons. While I lived and died each week with PSU's wins and losses, I rooted my butt off watching my high school teammate Troy Benson lead Pitt in tackles his final two seasons. And while over the most recent past two decades, both programs have seen their fortunes rise and fall, I have stood by my Nittany Lions through thick and thin, while still keeping one eye on the Panthers in the hopes of a return to prominence.
Love one team, hate the other? Hardly. Just because when I became a Nascar fan I loved watching Jeff Gordon race, did I have to hate Dale Earnhart Sr? Well, yea, I did for a little while. But as I watched race after race, I developed more than merely respect for Dale Sr. I found myself rooting equally throughout each race for both drivers, praying for a shootout between the two in the final laps. So, I am the biggest diehard Pittsburgh Pirate fan there is, despite 17 straight losing seasons, must I despise the Philadelphia Phillies? Sure, when they are playing each other. But I love watching the team they have built in Philly. They are exciting, they can hit, pitch, play defense and run the bases like roadrunners. Any TRUE baseball fan has to appreciate watching them play, even if their favorite team is a rival. Celtics v. Lakers? Yankees v. Red Sox? Cowboys v. Redskins? Penguins v. Red Wings? Must I dislike LA, Boston, Washington and Detroit just because I like Boston, NY, Dallas and Pittsburgh more? Not a chance. I LOVE the rivalries and love watching the epice battles!
A little over a year I got engaged, and my now wife and I decided to celebrate by spending the weekend in Pittsburgh. The Panthers just happened to be hosting the Louisville Cardinals, tickets were available (ANY Penn State fan can tell you that Nittany Lion tix are DAMN hard to come by), so there we were. Heinz Field was awesome! The fans were great, the food was great and the Panthers won the game. I have watched Pitt and rooted right out there ever since, nearly equal to how hard I root for Penn State. We attended the Pitt v. Notre Dame game this season, attended a tailgate with my boss and his family and sat at the game with a good friend (my pastor) who LOVES Notre Dame. What a blast!!!!
In summation ........ I LOVE PENN STATE FOOTBALL! I bleed blue and white and my allegiance is truly pledged for the rest of my life to the Nittany Lions. I will root for the Nits over any opponent. And I state ..... I LOVE PITT PANTHER FOOTBALL! Unless they ever get a chance to play PSU again, I will root for Pitt against any opponent. IF the circumstance ever arises that the Pitt v. Penn State rivalry renews, I will, for one game a season, root against Pitt with apologies. THERE!!!!
Congratulations to the University of Pittsburgh Panther football on a great season and a great victory over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl! Dion Lewis has a great future and I hope he stays for a few more seasons, perhaps even winning the Heisman.
And GO PENN STATE!!!!!!!! Crush LSU and finish this season in style!