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A fair question – “Why were people so excited for this game?”

Written By John Kravis, For The Globe

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I was sitting in a sports bar, eating fish tacos, as I watched Pitt sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett dance and squirm in desperate attempts to avoid the onslaught of incoming Penn State defenders. 

A group of loud-mouthed frat boys, decked out in Panthers attire, sat behind me ogling the girls at the neighboring table and howling sarcastic cries of “Kenny Heisman.” 

The raucous chanting endured throughout the first half as the Nittany
Lions’ continuous mistakes allowed a clearly overmatched Pitt team to stay in the game. 

The boys remained boisterous until the early third quarter, when Penn State’s superior coaching and on-field talent overcame the miserable, rain-soaked
conditions Pitt’s one-dimensional play calling to thoroughly throttle the
Panthers and send the young, testosterone-laden boys home unhappy. 

“Penn State is such a better team,” my girlfriend – whose football knowledge begins and ends with casual viewing of the Philadelphia Eagles – mused to me. “Why were people so excited for this game?” 

It’s a fair question. Many in Pittsburgh have bemoaned the Penn State brass for deciding to no
longer schedule games with the Panthers, ending – at least for the foreseeable
future – a series which dates back over 100 years. 

In recent seasons, Pitt has put out competitive teams capable of flirting with the bottom end of the Associated Press Top-25 polls. 

But Penn State is a football institution.

Put aside Pitt’s subservience to the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates in the sporting heart of its namesake city; as a standalone sports program, it can’t come close to touching the widespread admiration and fandom of Penn State football and its importance not only to Pennsylvanians, but NCAA fans nationwide. 

Despite the revelation of despicable acts and morally reprehensible
cover-ups over decades by Penn State administrators, the brand has endured. 

People love the Nittany Lions, and there’s nothing Kenny Pickett, a flock of random, boozed-up college kids, Jerry Sandusky or anyone else can do to change it. 

Less than a decade after heavy sanctions and a lengthy bowl game ban
leveled the program, the school is once again a football powerhouse. 

The real reason Penn State chose not to continue the supposed rivalry with the Panthers is simple: it’s not good business. 

To answer my girlfriend’s question, many Pittsburghers cared so much about this game because it was their Super Bowl. 

The 51-6 laugher of a Penn State beating at Heinz Field, however, didn’t prove much for either team. 

For the Nittany Lions, it was an expected victory and a nice recovery from a near fatal miscue opening weekend, where a scrappy Appalachian State team pushed them to the precipice of defeat, nearly ending Penn State’s hopes of a College Football Playoff birth in the process. 

For the Panthers, it was a game reminiscent of a little brother challenging his older counterpart to a wrestling match, only to be thumped on the forehead and left crying in the

Despite what journalists, commentators or even Penn State coach James Franklin will admit in public, this was just another game for the Nittany Lions. 

Unfortunately for The University of Pittsburgh and rowdy pub inhabitants throughout the city, Penn State just doesn’t need the Panthers anymore. 

So, Pitt fans, when the teams meet one last time in the fall of 2019 in Happy Valley, go to a sports bar, order some fish tacos, have a few beers and (respectfully) admire the females in attendance. 

Cheer for your team to win, but don’t get your hopes up. And be mindful of what you’re watching. One team’s Super Bowl is another team’s early season

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1 Comment

One Response to “A fair question – “Why were people so excited for this game?””

  1. Steven Choromanski on September 19th, 2018 4:13 pm

    It matters to pitt because it got them national TV time which is something they rarely have anymore. PSU didn’t really care but it was nice to watch a blowout and to shut up delusional pitt fans.

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