I helped the Pitt Panthers defeat the Penn State Nittany Lions for the national championship in 1994. I was Eleven.
It was played in the stadium made up of both my parents and the neighbors backyards. I rolled out from intense pressure and threw my neighbor Johnny Lavia the game winning pass in the corner of the end zone. He had to dive around my neighbors tree to haul it in.
Funny thing is that just two weeks later we both defeated Penn State to win the NCAA basketball tournament, which that year was played in his parents backyard. He was the starting shooting guard that made the last second shot under pressure and I was the power forward who tipped it in for the win.
We played for Pitt and we played against Penn State because that was the rivalry, and even though it was no longer the year’s marquee game of the eastern football schedule we were surrounded by family members and neighbors who remembered when it was.
A freshman at Pitt or Penn State would have been 2 years old when it occurred. The rivalry hadn’t been meaningful for a solid decade before that. Perhaps that is why this current version of the rivalry feels slightly meaningless.
The kidz don’t know their history.
I remember sitting at old Pitt Stadium when my cousin Mark would take me to games in the mid to late 90’s. I remember singing along with the thousand deep student section as they changed the words to the Pitt Fight song so that it said “Freshmen suck! Penn State sucks! P E N N S T SUCKS!”
It really didn’t make much sense. They hundreds of kids that make up the current student section don’t sing it anymore.
Let’s get to the point…….
The rivalry is never going to be what it used to be, because for very different reasons neither Pitt or Penn State will ever be what it used to be.