Here is a great piece from John…our own MajorMajors.

I’m still trying to recover from the Pitt-Penn State game debacle. The win versus Georgia Tech helped. But my funk after the stinker, rain-soaked game robbed me of an opportunity to share a good experience my son and I had before that game.

We had the good fortune to attend two great pre-game tailgates that day. One, of course, was hosted by the ever resourceful Fran “The Franchise” Lokar. Fran found a spot just inside the garage. We had some big-time POV celebrities in attendance, led by BigB and his wife. I took some photos to capture the “POV Under Cover” event. My only regret was that I got there after ike had left and I left before ike returned.

My son and I left Fran’s tailgate early because we went to the Pitt “Hall of Fame” pre-game tailgate. I had gotten an invite even though I was a lowly baseball team letterman. I bought a ticket to bring my son as my guest. It turned out to be well worthwhile.

Of course we got soaked walking to the tent where the Hall of Fame tailgate was held. As we got inside the tent and found some space where we could shake the water off, I look up and not six feet away from me, sitting at a table with a woman who I presume was his wife, sat —– the legendary Mike Ditka. I said to my son in a low voice – “That’s Mike Ditka!”

Mike Ditka was sitting there like the Godfather. It seemed like everyone was somewhat hesitant to approach him. My son and I approached him and I said “Iron Mike, it’s an honor to shake your hand.” He couldn’t have been nicer. I told Mike that I had worked with a person, Pete Suder, who had played baseball with him at Pitt. Mike said he remembered Pete as a very good baseball player. I didn’t know if Mike really remembered him, but then Mike said that Pete’s father had played in the majors for the Philadelphia Athletics – which is true. So Mike did remember.

After talking with Iron Mike (how do you follow that up?) we started looking around the tent. A person who was at least a foot taller than everyone else caught my eye. So we went and said hello to Charles Smith. Then we spotted Billy Knight and talked to him. These guys couldn’t have been nicer. Smith is impressively tall and thin; Knight was both tall and big.

Next we see a small gathering around Tony Dorsett. We go and wait our turn to say hello and get a photo. I said “Tony, how does it feel to be the best of all time?” Tony was gracious.

Then we tracked down Hugh Green. I said “Hugh, how does it feel to be the best of all time?” I mean, what do you say to these guys who your are in awe of and who brought you so many good memories?

We saw Johnny Majors but it was getting late and he was on the move and left the tent before we could connect with him. And I don’t know if Danny Marino was in the tent, but we never saw him.

There were some recent players there too. We talked briefly to Matt Galambos. Then my son recognized Chris Blewitt as we were getting some dessert at the dessert table. We ended up talking to Chris about place-kicking for about 20 minutes. I asked him if he tries to hit a 50-yarder harder than a 30 yarder. He said no, you hit them all the same. Said the winning kick at Clemson was the “purest” ball he ever hit. He said he had a tryout with the Steelers but talked about how tough it is to get your “foot” in the door for one of those 32 NFL jobs.

Anyway, just as Fran does a first-rate job on the POV tailgate, Pitt did a first-rate job on the Hall of Fame tailgate. We barely got around to eating anything there, but the food was great. (Note to Fran – that dessert table was one where you could make your own sundae. Ha-ha!)

It was a treat to see the Pitt legends up close and to talk to them. They were all friendly and seemed to be having a good time. I think my son will cherish the photos – especially the one with “Iron Mike Ditka,” and the one with Tony Dorsett, and the one with Hugh Green, and on and on…

I hope the Hall of Fame and this tailgate is an indication that Pitt is going to finally put more emphasis on their treatment and honoring of Pitt’s letter winners.

Editor’s Note:

Apparently Narduzzi is literally killing me. Just came from my pre-op physical and my EKG showed I have had a ‘minor’ heart attack since my last test in…Nov 2014.

I knew you guys were not good for my health. Now I have to deal with this crap before I get the OK to get cut open.  Funny thing though is that I’m in great health otherwise.

52 thoughts on “The Game was Crap, but the Tailgating was Memorable…

  1. John, that was great. Thanks for sharing one crazy night on the north shore with us all. That’s a lot of star power in one place…..and sorry I missed you guys as well.

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  2. There may be a lot of things I have forgotten from my years at Pitt and the next decade or 3(God willing) will see me forget a lot more, but I don’t think I will ever forget the roar of “tackle made by #99, Hugh”, crowd “GREEN”

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  3. Nice read MM!!!

    Wasn’t thinking the bounce back was likely after the PSU beat down, but PN does seem to have THAT part of coaching down pat. Aaand he seems to have the game coaching thing fairly good for first halves too, set aside the PSU snafu of going for it on 4th down.

    Now let’s get this Tarhole monkey off our recent back even if you need to use your gorilla arms to do it and play a full game and then we head to Florida at 3-1 with a little momentum and certainly a bowl opportunity looking much more likely.

    H2P!

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    1. That hero worship goes out the window after you sit in a restroom stall next to the Vice President of the US. Which I did back in 2010 with Joe Biden at a military ball.

      He did not invent the internet but he is funny as hell.

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  4. I never saw Ditka play (at Pitt) but oh the memories from everyone else you mentioned … including Blewitt!

    Both Smith and Knight had pretty good pro careers and Knight was a long time GM after retirement. Both are very articulate and great representatives for Pitt. … as was everyone else.

    What a great initial class and there are so many more in the years to come. wwb

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  5. I used to play a lot of tennis with Paul Martha. All of those guys were good baseball players too. He told me one time in the summer they were playing a game down in the mon valley and the guys in the stands were really giving Mike the business.
    Paul said after a while Mike had enough and raced towards the stands. He said laughing when Mike arrived the left field stands were empty.

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      1. I once spent 5 minutes catching football with Hugh Green on the 2nd floor of Lothrop Hall outside his room. Every time I caught the ball, I feared for him charging at me and rendering me lifeless for a minute or two as he had done to opposing ball carriers. Its a cherished memory of mine!

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  6. Charles Smith attends a lot of Pitt functions. I was 11 when they lost to Vanderbilt in ’88. I had to be consoled by my mom. That game still breaks my heart when I think about it. That was Smith’s last game as a Panther. The next year I bought an LA Clipper starter jacket because they drafted Smith. I’d get some crazy looks from people, don’t see too many kids in Pittsburgh walking around in Clippers gear…

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  7. Reed — so sorry to hear about your medical complications. You already had more than enough on your plate.

    I had open-heart surgery 7 years ago after a heart attack. Warranty has expired but I’m still ticking – (in spite of what the Panthers put us through).

    You didn’t rise up through the ranks without being one tough Coast Guarder. Prayers and best wishes to you.

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  8. Reed, your six pack for Matt worked-he was a calm, cool, always in control dude on the battlefield…IMO,better then Marino in that aspect of being a QB. Maybe you need to slip KP a cold 6-pack…slow those happy feet down.

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  9. A few thoughts

    — there is a PG article today detailing Pitt’s ‘awkward journey’ in joining the ACC. I do not subscribe but probably would find it interesting

    — Pitt FB is bring supplies and money for Durham Food Bank with them tomorrow

    — If he hadn’t been already, I’m sure Narduzzi is now on the hot seat after Heather reads this blog article. But seriously, best wishes Reed. wwb

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  10. Great article John. Make your own sundae? We already had make your own drink and make your own sandwich tailgates but I’m up for the challenge. Haha
    Reed, I hope your heart attack wasn’t when you sat with me and Scooter last year. He has that effect on people.
    Seriously, I hope all goes well with the prep and subsequent surgery.

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  11. Major – great read and I felt like I was there. Must’ve been just great.

    Reed – glad it was a minor MI and hope we will be hearing about your post-surgical rehab soon!

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  12. Thanks jrn, got off the phone with my friend and he has so much on his mind to get ready for his back surgery. I’m worried his doctor may prescribe he eliminate PITT from his fun diet. We have to keep the help coming guys and gals.

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  13. Sounds like Tomlin called Narduzzi after Tomlin found out something from the two former unc players on the steelers roster.. and it’s been inferred that what he found out was the unc has been stealing Pitt’s play signals.

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  14. John, great read, THANKS!
    Reed, you sound like me : “outside of the heart attack I’m in great health” LOL
    …When people ask me how I’m doing I always say “ Outside of Renal Cell Carcinoma, Congestive Heart Failure, and a rare Blood Clotting Disorder
    – I’m a PICTURE of healtth!!!

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  15. Ike, if UNC were simply stealing hand signals from the sideline, then that’s on Pitt and more power to the Heels. But if there was something more behind the scenes, then that’s different
    wwb

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  16. Great write-up Reed. Yeah, I hear ya about those pre-op tests. I see people in way worse shape than me getting operated on all the time. (I’ve had 2 in the last 3 years and thought I was getting another one soon on my knee, but not yet). Those anesthesiologists do get sued a lot though…pray all goes well.

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  17. I don’t know about stealing signals, but UNC is the very best at getting their WRs to push off and not get called.

    They must work on this because they do it consistently and do it well.

    Like to see us turn the tables on them in this area, but we aren’t so good at going up strong for the ball, and being Pitt, we’d never get away with even a tiny push off… 🙁

    Go Pitt.

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  18. So Pitt lost a few recruits cause the heels were stealing the Pat Signal?

    Go figure…I knew it couldn’t just be the coaches are poor at recruiting.

    MM – nice article and an even better time had with your son.

    Reed – take care of yourself – no need to let Duzz get you laid up in a hospital. It is just a game.

    Crush the cornholes!

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  19. Wow, Reed haven’t tracked down the source on your MI news but very sorry. Such irony. You quit smoking in preparation for back surgery and end up with a heart attack. Hope your ticker is on the mend! John, thanks for the great HOF tailgate article!

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  20. Reed, take it easy! We need you! Pitt and the POV are not worth ruining your health over. Let it go, let it go….. Like EE said- it’s just a game. Rest and heal my friend!

    H2P!! Tar the heels!!

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  21. Reed sorry about having you’re having one more serous health problem but the upside is that those who survive a heart attack and begin to treat and live according are in better shape to avoid a future attack than the guy that gets hit out of the blue is gone and never knows what got him. As one who survived a major attack 11 yrs. ago and has had major surgery since, there are accommodative options to avoid complete general anesthesia and have less shock to the body. My surgeon laid these options out to me. My best for both situations. Pitt football is no help here. Sometimes I have to get up, walk away from a game and come back later. Even in the stadium. Maybe this game will not be as tense in the second half.H2P

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