When I was typing up yesterday’s article and writing about Paul Zeise’s opinion piece on selling of beer during Pitt games I also wrote that I had hoped he would have remained the Pitt football beat writer for the Post-Gazette while his son Elijah was on the roster.
One of the reason I wanted that is because Paul Zeise is a damn good writer and while I, and others I’m sure, don’t agree with everything he writes – it is always a pleasure to read it.
Which got me to remember one of what I thought was a better piece of his work – the look-back article he did in 2005 about the 1957’s Pitt team’s Fullback and Linebacker Bobby Grier. Here is that article – it is a nice read about a very important, and positive, aspect of Pitt’s football history.
But what reading that did was start a train of thought that made me want to look up other important games, or noteworthy incidents that happened with the football program, and to research and see what circumstances surrounded those influential moments. I’ll do a full article on that later as my research into that subject culled out some Pitt gems.
Of course for that 1957 Sugar Bowl it big news nationally was the threat of boycott by the University of Pittsburgh if the state of Georgia, in the form of Governor Marvin Griffin, kept putting pressure on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to boycott the game if Pitt refused to take Grier off the team for the bowl game – it was dueling boycotts over a single football player. As Zeise writes:
Across the country, the reaction was similar to that of the students. Newspapers decried Griffin as being a bigot and out of touch, and the board of regents voted to allow the Yellow Jackets to play in the game. At the same time in Pittsburgh, the Panthers players were holding a vote of their own and, like the Georgia Tech students, were ready to take a stand.
“We all got together and voted not to go to the Sugar Bowl if Bobby Grier was not allowed to play,” said Bob Rosborough, who was a right end for Pitt and a teammate of Grier. “He was one of us and we would rather not play than leave one of ours behind.”
To put that game in a bigger context we see that it was played after Rose Parks refused to give up her seat in Montgomery Alabama.
On Jan. 2, 1956, about one month after Rosa Parks became an icon in the civil rights movement by refusing to move to the rear of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., Grier made even bigger headlines nationally when he became the first Africa-American to play in the Sugar Bowl.
Parks’ story has received far more publicity, but at the time it was not regarded as significant as the desegregation of the Sugar Bowl. And although Grier’s place in history is often regarded as a footnote compared to many other stories of racial barriers being broken, his significance in the context of the civil rights movement should not be downplayed.
But as Zeise also says it was the more landscaping changing event of that specific time period. But what about the local reaction to the game and the surrounding controversy.
Not a word about any football game at all as far as I can see. But jump to the sports page and we see all the game coverage on page 15 of this link. The missing component in all those sports articles is, of course, Bobby Grier’s hardships during the whole long and drawn out process of determining if he’d travel with the team or not.
Thus shows the difference in journalism between 1956 and 2016. 60 years ago when that game was played the ‘niceties’ of sports were adhered to. There was an unwritten rule that controversy – in any form other than directly relating to the match itself as we see in the sidebar column about the pass interference on Grier, wouldn’t be tolerated.
In today’s reporting instead of seeing this 1956 edition of the sidebar author’s quote: “The “call” that was made against Grier was not questioned by anyone, but the story of what prompted it might be worth telling. Blah, blah, blah…
We’d see something along these lines in today’s media:
“The “call” that was made against Grier was not questioned by anyone, but the story of what prompted it might be worth telling. But then again it may not be because everyone except for the racist bastard SEC referee who threw the flag against the black intruder onto the lily-white confines of the Sugar Bowl knew it was bullshit and a clear act of revenge against the Northerner Pitt Panthers”
Or something along those lines. But even a young southerner who was most probably raised in an atmosphere of racism could be gracious enough to tell the truth in public.
GT’s WR Ellis, who benefited from the blown call said this: “Greir lost his balance and sort of fell into me. I’d hate to say it was intentional. Fact is I don’t think so, but that’s what happened.”
Out of the mouths of babes come truth…
The results of the poll Which of the Recruits Shown Played Highest Above Ranking? are in – DB Darrell Revis in a landslide. He’s followed by Greg Romeus and then WR Greg Lee. As for the write-in vote Tags got one and so did someone named Josh Hickle who I suspect is a reader on here (if so welcome you witty guy!)
What is up with this?
I thought Steigerwald’s Pittsburgh Sports Now blog was a business blog. Whatever, but that is another thing you’ll never see on The Pitt POV. If I can’t make this work without your money then I’ll close up shop… unless I get talked into it on the charity donation side. That would be pretty far off I think.
But really – all you guys and gals need to do is keep spreading the word about this Pitt POV blog and share the articles with your friends… Oh – and click on the “Follow” box on my front page.
Stay tuned for my weekly Sunday Morning Podcast tomorrow am. I have no idea what it will be about which is half the fun for me. Thanks all…