Happy Memorial Day to all who served, their families and our Active Duty members serving today. Today is a when our thoughts should turn to more serious things other than sports and college football. Let’s wish for safe passages to our current service members both home and abroad and give a hearty thank you very much to all who have served in the past.
One personal note: When you think of our service members and the missions they undertake remember that what our citizenry sees publicly is the tip of the iceberg of what their responsibilities and duties really are. It truly is a 24/7/365 job and let us also appreciate that at any moment their phone may ring and they could be on a flight within the hour to anywhere in the world to keep us safe and healthy.
Bravo Zulu to all!!
But hey- we are also Pitt football fans on this Memorial Day so here goes –
Everyone loves talking about the upcoming Pitt -Penn State game that will be played at Heinz Field on September 10th. It will be a noteworthy game in many ways – first time the teams met since we beat them in 2000; a PSU coach who may be on the hot seat sooner than later; bragging rites for recruiting the state of Pennsylvania, and last, but not least, in Pitt fan’s books – James Conner’s return to playing in a big game.
As I say in the podcast below I’d like to change things up a bit and do less writing and more talking on here – so here is the first installment of a series of recurring weekend podcasts. I touch on a lot of different things and throw some opinions and numbers around… it is 54 minutes long so take a rest and enjoy.
I hope that the benefits of doing this will be two fold; first to get as much info and discussion topics across as we can and then secondly the get you all involved in subjects and issues you want to hear about before the fall camp starts.
Again, not a professional but I think it turned out well…
Tony Dorsett was born on April 7, 1954 in Rochester, Pennsylvania. He was the sixth of seven children in the family. Dorsett’s father, West, worked in the steel mills for thirty years. Dorsett was very attached to his mother, Myrtle, who ran the household and carted the children to the Methodist church every Sunday. After his older brothers got into trouble for being out late drinking, Dorsett’s parents laid down the law with him, and he avoided much of the trouble so readily available in the neighborhood. Although the family lived in a government-funded project called Plan 11, the housing development was clean and well-kept.
All his siblings were known for their speed, and Dorsett was no exception. His older brothers were track and football stars before him, and they served as Dorsett’s role models and motivators. Upon entering high school Dorsett followed his brothers to Hopewell High School, located in a predominately white neighborhood, where a small number of black kids from the projects were bussed. Dorsett was determined that he would not end up working in the steel mills. Finding a better life was always in his mind.”
“Pittsburgh Quarterback Danny Marino keeps all of his old game plans inside a red plastic milk crate in his room—to remind himself of the good times. In this same milk crate, which serves as an all-purpose file cabinet, Marino has carefully saved up a substantial wad of notes and letters from his father, Dan Sr.—to remind himself of what’s really important. In one of those World-According-to-the-Old-Man Epistles, Dan Sr. wrote to his son. “You are the best. You are the most dominating player in college football. Remember, nobody does it better.”
Danny looks over the dozen written communiqués from his father, not all borrowed from Carly Simon, and smiles. “He really keeps my confidence up.”
It isn’t as if 20-year-old Marino suffers from any noticeable lack of confidence. As Pitt’s quarterback for 2½ seasons, Marino has led the Panthers to a 33-3 record, the best in the nation, and became Pitt’s all-time leading passer midway through his junior year. Now, as a senior, he’s expected to go that final mile and sprout wings. Which for a college quarterback means producing an undefeated regular season, a bowl victory and, ta da, the national championship.”
The James Conner story hasn’t ended yet and won’t for some time. But for now this is the last I’ll talk about his diagnosis. Unless you are a Pitt fan who has been living beneath a rock for the last year you’ll know Conner has – had, let’s hope – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and just lately got the great news that after 12 chemo treatments the Docs did a cancer scan and Conner came up 100% negative. Yeah! for him, his Dr. and all Conner’s fans for the amazing support he received.
So it is good news all around. Here are a few links to stories on it… then we’ll turn our attention to football issues with Mr. Conner… which is what, I’m quite sure, he is doing also.
From DiPaola of the Trib-Review where he says this:
“Once the (chemo) port is out and (his chest) heals, he is free to do whatever he wants and engage in contact once practice starts back up,” Marks said. “There will be no restrictions.”
Conner, who worked out lightly with teammates during spring drills in March and April, said he should be physically ready to do everything when Pitt opens training camp in early August.
He said he did not lose weight during chemotherapy, actually gaining 5 pounds.
“Overall, he really tolerated it well,” said Marks, noting only a few times when Conner’s white blood count dipped.
“One of the more common side effects is fatigue, particularly toward the end of therapy. It was remarkable he was able to function, go to practice, go on the treadmill and remain as active as he did. Most folks are pretty wiped out by then.”(more…)
Here is the Doctor who also worked very hard to help James in his battle. Thank You!!
So – A few days then the medicinal entry port comes out of Conner’s chest… then however many days it takes to heal and we are back to full contact for the fall camp.
Note especially here that Conner didn’t want any special treatment as a patient. That is he wanted to be in the cancer ward with every other patient and did what he could do to make the world a better place for them, and I’m sure their families. His initial diagnosis wasn’t good, the cancer was very large according to his Dr. and yet he was joyful and, at least publicly, calm every day.
I’d like to take a second and mention someone who most fans don’t know. Mike Gallagher from Erie, PA is much like a surrogate father to Conner. He himself has had multiple physical problems that stemmed from a sideline hit in a college game he was covering for his local newspaper… so he was a great role model and support – as was Gallagher’s family I’m sure – during this entire process.
Mike Gallagher and James Conner are two of sports success stories and I’ll say a big Thank You! to Mike also for all he has done, not just for James, but anyone he has come in contact with. I met Mike last fall and he and I had a long conversation about many things – not all Conner or football related. With guys like Mike involved, even if just on the outskirts, of Pitt’s football program we are in great shape.
One last Conner bit:
Anyone who has watched the sun set over Lake Erie can attest to its beauty.
Two years ago, 15-year-old Meghan Gallagher couldn’t see it from her hospital room at UPMC Hamot, where she spent three weeks getting treatment for a kidney ailment. And that bothered her friend, James Conner.
During one of his regular after-school visits, Conner decided to do something about it. He knew how much Meghan loved going to the beach and watching the sun set with her father Michael. So he picked Meghan out of a hospital bed, cradled her in his massive arms and set her down in front of a window.
“The sunset relaxed her mind,” Conner said.
Kind of says it all…
Two days ago the Trib had another Chris Peak Podcast, this time with Ken Laird, and they start out talking about the Pitt-Penn State game’s kickoff at noon on Sept 10th and the accompanying bitching done by Pitt fans. This is a good listen to have on at work in any event:
I’ll say now, and fans may not like it, that the Pitt-Penn State game is important to the state of PA but other than that – and for the rest of the nation – the game is like any other.
It certainly wasn’t like that in the past. Back when both teams were at the top of the ranking regularly this match-up was an event. Now however we are two programs that college football fans have a short memory about.
Here we have an example of what I do when I’m bored. I was thinking about Pitt’s history, uniforms, Pitt-PSU and all the previous doings of Pitt football that we like to discuss on here and came up with the novel idea of … talking about recruiting.
With the above discussions by Peak and Laird about the departures of players and the numbers game to get down from the current 87 (with recruits coming in) roster players down to the mandated 85 bodies I wonder not only who the next two guys to go are, but also, as they discussed in the podcast, which players from the ’16 recruiting class will be prepping at a secondary high school (like Fitzgerald, McCoy and Dion Lewis did) or will be taking a greyshirt.
“Over the past six months, James Conner fought cancer the same way he plays football: relentlessly and without surrender. He has inspired and touched so many people in how he has handled this challenge. James is an incredibly special person, and I’m not even thinking about his football ability when I say that. Everyone at Pitt feels blessed to know him and we are tremendously thankful for the wonderful news he received today.”
We have been talking a lot on here lately about Pitt’s history when it comes to our football programs and our past teams. We have certainly climbed to the top of the heap with our 1976 championship, but we also have walked in the Death Valleys of college football. Nothing every seems to come easy for Pitt when it comes to our football program.
I was trying to decide what I wanted to put up on a rainy Sunday afternoon (at least rainy here in MD) and saw a great Sports Illustrated article written in Oct 1962 by a previous Pitt Chancellor, Dr. Edward Litchfield, about the national debate if Grant-In Aids (athletic scholarships) were a good thing to have on college campuses.
This intro below is a personal bit about why this article strikes my fancy. The article itself is the other audio bar.
Here is the body of the article – excuse the small mistakes if you will, I’m not a professional at this. I especially like the contrasts between Litchfield’s descriptions of Pitt athletics then and today’s state of college football. There are some great points made here – especially some timeless ones that hold true today.
Hope you enjoy it!
“Camel Driver” – try putting that on a kid today! I also love that we stole almost a whole opposing team –
Far back in 1903, for example, out-university felt mortified to have been defeated two straight years by the football team of little Geneva College. Football in those days seldom made much money at the box office but many colleges recruited passionately, simply because they found defeat unbearable. In the wake of our losses to Geneva, corrective action was deemed imperative and there seemed only one surefire way of seeing to it that we beat Geneva the next year. We took it.
We lured to our campus most of the Geneva players and the following season, 1904, defeated Geneva 30-0. During the balance of the decade Pitt football teams lost only 13 of 71 games. Now what sort of boys were they, do you suppose, that could be proselyted so frivolously? Because many of them have passed on, we were able to trace only 17. Of that number, four were physicians, five dentists, two attorneys and one a Ph.D.
Here is the Peak’s PantherLair podcast on the Trib’s website – he talks about the uniform roll-out and other things. But specifically about what a ringing success the whole day was for Pitt athletics – from social media to returning players to the event itself in the evening. He also talks about how the Pirates don’t give a crap about Pitt at all… as we read in Chas’ piece earlier.
He also addresses the current facilities improvements and what was done by previous FB HCs. I like the fact that this administration is dedicated to long range upgrades and it’s starting to come to fruition.
(By the way – remember what Peak says here about Narduzzi’s using comparisons to other football programs when asking fans and boosters for $$$ to renovate the facility’s meeting rooms, weight rooms, etc… Pitt football does not exist in a vacuum and we have to play catch up to keep up with programs that have forged ahead of where we are now when you read the last part of this article.)
“Despite the success from a Pittsburgh standout and the myriad of congratulations the star (Phil Jurkovec) received after his commitment, it seemed like a dumpster-fire moment on Twitter from “Pitt-faithful.” Oddly enough, mostly aimed at Pat Narduzzi’s immediate “inability to recruit” after an incredible wrap to his 2016 class and the praises that sealed that envelope.
The story that remains in the middle of the announcement, for myself at least, is everyone seems to have forgotten about Thomas MacVittie, a prized steal for Narduzzi last season.
To state that MacVittie did not produce the same attention through his senior season as Jurkovec had through just his sophomore season is excruciatingly obvious. But, the two may be more similar on the field than you may think.
Its a good read and should bring some of us back from the brink.
Since we all don’t agree here on The Blather and we do throw down point/counter point often, I’ll chime in on this timely football uniform change subject. Chas likes it, Justine likes it, but…
Color me unimpressed.
I don’t actually hate what I saw. I mean I’m not literally gagging each time I look at the football uniforms – but I’m shaking my head and drinking heavily over what I see as a lack of courage on Pitt’s part to create for us an attractive, whole and strong identity. I’m very disappointed at the bumbling Pitt did with the football uniforms more than anything else. More on that…
Last night Pitt put on a visually and aurally dramatic “unveiling” show to introduce the Pitt athletic department’s new logos and uniforms. I am led to understand that it was a well received show and everyone seemed to have a good time. I didn’t drive up for it so I don’t really know, but from the video below it looks well staged I suppose.
No kidding. In the interest of infodumping, go here if you feel like seeing detailed images of all the new unis. From the football team to the band, to the cheer and dance to gymnastics (sorry, the unis are on mannequins).
Let’s give AD Scott Barnes some credit since it has been a seeming non-stop slam-fest on him since late-March. He put together a nice spectacle. Kept things under wraps. Really well-coordinated campaign. Made the unveiling of the full athletic department rebranding a full-on celebration of Pitt.
The new uniform roll-out is in about four hours from now and I’d like to give you guys a reference point on what our old uniforms have looked like. Reviewing these iterations of the changes and what we have seen over the past 40 years is it any wonder that Pitt has no “brand” whatsoever.
We have to do this the right way, hopefully tonight,and stick with it even if it means getting less money from the apparel companies.
“A rebranding process that effectively started 19 months ago finally will reach its conclusion tonight, as Pitt formally unveils its “new” script logo, as well as updated uniforms for its 19 varsity sports.
The return of the beloved script logo, which served as the school’s primary athletic mark from 1973-1996, will be celebrated with a public fashion show at 6:30 p.m. today in the Petersen Events Center lobby. On Tuesday, ahead of the unveiling, the university announced the renaming of its Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“We are excited to make the full transition back to the script logo,” athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. “Not only will this move help unify our branding efforts, it also gives us an opportunity to celebrate the amazing history of Pitt Athletics. Wednesday’s event will give Panther fans an opportunity to see some impressive Pitt apparel as well as some of the other exciting improvements we currently have underway.”
This in itself isn’t isn’t really big news – Pitt started doing this willy-nilly back in 2014. It took two years to get Nike onboard with all the teams’ gear. Again, the colors will not change but the graphic design of the uniforms will. The public roll-out will be done formally this evening, along with a silent auction of memorabilia and will, I’m sure, make the Internets right away.
Tomorrow is the Big Day regarding the pomp and circumstance of unveiling the new Pitt Panther uniforms. This doesn’t effect just the football team but will be the standard across the Pitt sports teams’ board. That will take place tomorrow and I’m sure we will discuss it on here as soon as the Magic Happens.
I’ll bet on this happening – don’t hold your breath for and noticeable color changes. Pitt is most probably going to stick with what we have now or damn close to it (I believe).
I’m OK with that as I like the color combo as it is. Fans want mustard, Old Gold, yellow, Navy Blue and various combinations thereof but I think we’ll keep it simple. now, how those colors are used will be a different matter. Let’s just hope it isn’t a repeat of this failed experiment.