I sat in my Aunt Deb’s living room watching the Military Bowl with two college kids from Penn State who were young enough to not know that there was a time when Pitt was in fact it. I am barely old enough to know, and most of what I know comes from youtube videos and legends. I remember Alex Van Pelt as a child, but I was too young to really get it. The Walt Harris run to Dave Wanstache era I remember vividly, well some of the games I remember vividly, and others I remember a general blur. I cross-eyed view of a moment in time that could have met something if they could have won one more game a year. I time when you were more afraid of Toledo than WVU, because those weren’t the types of games we lost. What we have now is some weird hybrid of tradition and the truth. Pitt is no longer it, and in the ACC they seem out of place, and out of their element. Gone is the days of the Big East.
The Military Bowl saw Pitt face Navy, at Navy. Yes, you read that right. Our 9 wins this season got us a road game at a military academy, while th midshipmen were on Christmas break. So not a ton of people were there, they couldn’t fill a smaller stadium. Pitt ran the opening kickoff back and it was downhill from there. They seemed unprepared for the Triple Option at worst, and at best they simply couldn’t stop it. As always Pitt was out of their element, playing a gimmick team in a cold weather bowl game that happens to be at the opponents stadium instead of neutral ground. They represented the ACC although they are past the mountains, against an AAC team that has been independent until recent history. There were no traditions at all. Pitt was once a warm up team that Pitt would roll over before starting their Big East schedule. Now they were thoroughly outmatched, all though it was the most successful team the school had in the better part of a decade.
Tyler Boyd played his last game as a Panther and went out in a fashion that reminded me of Jonathan Baldwin. I hope Boyd succeeds in the NFL, in spite of his status as an elite prospect Baldwin did not. Maybe Boyd will, but I’ve seen it before. There is something small missing. It’s all or nothing with that kid. Just as it is with Pitt.
At least we are going in the correct direction, that is until Pat Narduzzi is gone and we have to rebuild. Once again used as a stepping stone, by men who are going to fail at the next level, but have earned their way onto the center stage. Pitt isn’t even off-broadway in comparison to a show like Michigan State’s. It’s outer Newark. Near the port, before the toll road. In a renovated gas station owned by a wall street guy turned drug addict turned reformed drug addict, turned Newark resident. Pitt is a childs play in that guys backyard compared to the elite schools. It wasn’t always that way, but now it is. It’s fairly plain to see, and it is extremely disappointing.
They do not have a campus stadium, they do not have a rabid fan base. The casual fan has tuned out on Pitt football. It’s not what it used to be, to the point it’s not worth noticing. Pitt is on that Cincinnati, University of South Florida, University of Memphis level of non-relelvent, where once in a blue moon they will get mentioned by some sports pundit as a sleeper who months later admit he was wrong on that one, and Pitt isn’t the kind of team that comes through in the clutch.
I miss the good old days of Rod Rutherford and Larry Fitzgerald, Tyler Palko and Darelle Revis, Shady McCoy and H.B. Blades. It’s all gone now, and that is OK. Because life should not revolve around Pitt football, and the Pittsburgh sports fan is better off having one less distraction from the teams worth being a fanatic of.