Here is a nice look back and discussion of Pitt’s game day experience from an older Pitt fan – longtime reader and seldom commenter Larry V.
Ever since I’ve been reading the POV and Blather I’ve seen many comments on the lack of a game day experience at Heinz Field. This has caused a certain amount of consternation with me since I have started attending games again in 2015. I will get to that but to put things in perspective a brief bio on my experience as a Pitt fan.
I grew up Butler and attended Pitt from the fall of ‘70 to the spring of ‘74, not the best era of Pitt Football (except the Major change in ‘73). So what was my game day experience? I was in the VMB (G34 for those in the know) for the ‘70 season so I was at every game but two. So my game day experience that season was defined by being in the band (and post game fraternity bashes). After that season I became more involved in the fraternity and was no longer in the band. So those game day experiences involved a pre game tune up at the house or local watering holes then continuing the festivities at the game (security at that time could not inspect the women’s purses so they became the booze mules) and finally a post game party.
There weren’t many victories in the ‘71 & ‘72 seasons so game day was more about being with friends and hopefully seeing a good game. At least the home schedule was filled with quality opponents (Notre Dame, Oklahoma, USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Georgia, and Penn State, etc.) and maybe we would see a close game. Things changed in ‘73 and there was excitement around the new coaching staff and the skinny kid from Hopewell. We saw more wins and what seemed to be closer games against quality opponents. After I graduated I attended some games in ’74. The USC game was hyped as AD east meet AD west (Tony Dorsett and Anthony Davis) and we froze our butts off at Three Rivers for the psu game (oh my, a home game not at Pitt Stadium).
I joined the Navy in ‘75 and spent the next 22 years in Florida, Virginia, and at sea (underway the only way). (Editors Note: Hell, Yeah!!) When I retired from the Navy in ‘97 I stayed in Northern VA and spent the next 15.5 years with Lockheed Martin. It was difficult in the pre-internet days to keep up with Pitt football. There would be the occasional game on TV but no real way to keep up with what was going on with recruiting and any hype for the upcoming seasons. That all changed when I discovered the Blather and then moved on the POV. It rekindled my interest in Pitt football and I eventually became a season ticket holder.
So what is my consternation with the game day experience?
In my undergrad days game day was being with friends and watching the game. Now my game day experience is being with friends and watching the game.
However, what has changed is Oakland itself and the venue the games are played in. The Oakland of 2018 is far different from the early ‘70s; all the bars I would frequent are gone (except Chief’s), the fraternity house is gone, and it seems like UMPC has taken over every available square foot of property. So other than not going to Pitt Stadium on game day, I’m not certain my game day experience has diminished. The ugly truth is Pitt Stadium was deteriorating, traffic certainly was a nightmare, and parking sucked. Also attendance at Pitt Stadium was around the same as Heinz albeit without the yellow seats (hey, if more commenters attended some games that would help with that.)
What do I see at the North Shore? Plenty of places to meet up with friends, easy access, and many parking lots. As I walk to the stadium I see Pitt banners in the lots along with tailgate parties, I see the band, cheerleaders and Pitt paraphernalia for sale. I don’t think I saw any of this on the trek to Pitt Stadium. I still remember the first game I went to at Heinz and feeling reconnected with Pitt after a 30+ year absence just from the atmosphere around Heinz.
I know everyone has a different take on the game day experience, but in case you missed it, mine has always been about friends and seeing a good game. Would I prefer an on campus stadium? Yes but I have to say the ease of getting to the North Shore sure is appealing compared to the traffic nightmare in Oakland. However I will support the program no matter where they play. here are some questions I have for fellow Pitt fans: