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Cardiac Spill: Pitt(sburg) Script Reconnaissance

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Is wearing the word "Pitt" on one's football helmet in cursive... cursed? We spared no expense to find out the answer to that and several other questions no one asked directly.

There is no need to be upset.
There is no need to be upset.

Editor's Note: The text of the following was submitted to Cardiac Hill as a twenty page, scanned-from-print .pdf file written in blurry 36 point impact font with inadequate punctuation, jarring shifts between AP and Chicago style, and, of course, no lowercase letters. While the content was interesting, the original was nearly unreadable. As we had to transcribe it anyway, we took the opportunity to convert the text into its present, legible state. Enjoy.

Author's Note: I DIDN'T AGREE TO THAT /// KNOW THAT I WILL PULL THIS FROM YOUR SITE JUST AS SOON AS THE PARIS REVIEW STOPS SCREENING MY CALLS /// ALSO PLEASE WIRE ME RETURN FLIGHT MONEY A$AP

***

As you are likely aware, Pitt football is now 0-3 with the script helmets, and with that comes the inevitable rumblings that this is somehow causal or something. As much as I like the script, I can't time travel1 to return to a month ago and see what happens when I steal all the script decals the day before the Georgia Tech game, so it's pretty difficult to argue with the results that we've seen.

Pretty difficult, but not impossible. For there is another school that wears the Pitt script.2

These guys: the Pitt State Gorillas.

Pitt State seems to be doing as alright as a Division II school could be. Going into this weekend, they were 9-1 and ranked fourth (that is to say, playoff bound) in their Division II "Super Region." A week ago, one of their own graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. But despite their success, surely we're bound in some ort of doppelgängery way, right? After all, hey, we share a color! Plus we graduated the greatest punter of all time and they produced the second greatest. Surely, answers were to be had in that little outpost of America's heartland known as Pittsburg, Kansas?

There was only one way to find out - I had to go to a Pitt State game. But how could I possibly do that?

How I Possibly Did That

I came up with the idea on Monday of this week, and immediately went to Pitt State's schedule to determine the best (and soonest, because I'm impatient) opportunity to catch them this season. Alas, I was too late for their last home game and all but one of their regular-season games. Specifically:

So off to Oklahoma it was for me to see the Gorillas take on the Central Oklahoma Bronchos.

Sorry, typo. The Central Oklahoma Broncos.

Nope, wait, had it right the first time - Bronchos. (Division II is weird, man.)

Not a bad game to catch, as it happened - the tenth best team in Division II, Super Region Three hosting the fourth best team in Division II, Super Region Three in what I was told was the MIAA Game of the Week. For whatever the tickets cost,3 that's a pretty good deal. All I needed now was travel and lodging money, and while allocations at the University have been a topic of some contention, I am very lucky that this organization has a clean, straightforward, two-step process when it comes to funding projects such as this one.

1. ENSURE THAT FUNDS ARE AVAILABLE

2. REQUEST ALLOCATIONS

With my funding of like a thousand dollars secure, I booked an extremely expensive last-minute flight after the Niagara game to Oklahoma City, where I then stayed at a fancy hotel and enjoyed steak and fine wines with an endangered rhino in a hot tub full of rare gems until game time.

Y'all should try having a ton of money some time, it's great.4

First Quarter

Arriving not long before kickoff to my song blaring over the PA, I was happy to realize that a good handful of Pitt State fans either live in the area or made the four-hour trip to Central Oklahoma. I set to work introducing myself as being someone who went to "regular Pitt" and that I "wrote" for "a thing." During this, two interesting things were happening: one, the Gorillas were running things - three and outs, methodical TD drives, that whole deal. Second, the Pittsburg State Spirit Squad (which, peculiarly, was at least half dudes with megaphones) seemed to have a new chant for every single play. Just in the first couple drives, I caught:

"P! ESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, U!" (clap clap clap)

"MOVIN! DOWN THE FIELD, GO PITT!"

"P, S, U, PSU!"

"G-O-R-I-L-L-A-S GOOOOOO GORILLAS!"

"LET'S GO PITT STATE!"

"GO PITT STATE, GO BIG RED, GO PITT STATE!"

"GOOOOOO GORILLAS! RED AND GOLD!"

"LET'S GO! PIITT, LET'S GO!

"P-I-T-T LET'S! GO! PITT!"

That last one weirded me out a bit, but unfortunately the cadence of it wasn't similar enough for a lawsuit.

It was quickly obvious that Pitt State was in basically no way a Division II Pitt. They punted very rarely, they did not ruin a 4th-and-2 attempt with a penalty, they did not kill a drive by fumbling. However, Central Oklahoma did all these things. Considering that Pitt State was responsible for much of that, there was only one conclusion: I was watching the Anti-Pitt.

"All I Do Is Win" played over the PA again.

Score After One Quarter: Pitt State 10, Central Oklahoma 0

Second Quarter

I checked my phone. James Conner had scored his fourth touchdown; seconds later, Gorilla #9 punched in one himself.

I sidled up next to a group of older folks - I assumed old fans really like to give history lessons to wide-eyed youngsters like myself. I opened with my usual question: So did y'all come down for this game, or are you from here?

"Oh, I go all over for these games, I follow 'em for football season." Said the man to my right. "We do this for all the great things football does for Pittsburg, Kansas!"

"That's what it is to be Gorilla Nation!" Said another, putting down her giant YOU GOTTA BELIEVE sign. "That's what you do when you're a Gorilla fan!" Then the man to my right proved my assumption about history lessons correct:

"We've got... four national titles. 1957, 1961, 19... hm, 2011, and... what was it? 1991. Ah, yeah, 1991. I played for the '61 team. See that left tackle right there, #70? Right there, yeah. His name's Vince Brown. He transferred here from Mississippi Southern so he could be on a winning team! Transferred here. We had a guy last year, John Brown, wide receiver, he's on the Arizona Cardinals now. When you go home, look up Sports Illustrated's cover this week. He's on it. The cover. Hey, look at this." He extended his fist; I thought better of pounding it. A 1961 National Champions ring was on his finger. Daaaaaaamn.

"Wow, what'd you play?"

"Offensive tackle and defensive line." I decided it couldn't hurt to deploy the grumpy-old-fan test.

"Oh, yeah, because back in the day..."

"Back then we played both ways, yeah." He did not insinuate that modern players were wimps, and failed the grumpy-old-fan test.

UCO scores a touchdown; Pitt State fans recoil; "All I Do Is Win" plays a third time. Desperate for a similarity, I hoped it was the sort of "here-it-comes" sigh heard frequently at Heinz Field.

"So... how far have you gone for a game?" I asked, proud of myself for not getting all condescending about the fact that their destination was always a Division II football game. I got three answers:

  • "Well... Florence, Alabama is pretty far, that's where the Division II championship was until this year. This year it's in Kansas City." [You guys think you're going to that?] "Absolutely."
  • "We used to play Portland State but we don't do that anymore. They're afraid of us, we beat them bad."
  • "Twin Forks, North Dakota - wait - Grand Forks, North Dakota - I've gone up for that.  The only thing between you and that north wind is the barbed wire fence."

I check my phone again - Pitt lost. Pitt State winds up scoring ten more between the UCO touchdown and halftime. They are just plain not like us.

Score At Half: Pitt State 27, Central Oklahoma 7

Halftime Question

Around halftime, I got around to asking the question I came to ask.

Do you think your team plays better because the word 'Pitt' is in script on their helmets, as opposed to in a different font or something else entirely?

"No."

"No."

"No."

"No."

"Yes."

"Yes! Definitely! They make you feel good!"

"Did you drive out from Pittsburgh just to ask us this?"

"I don't know, I mean, there's definitely some identity that goes with the helmets..." [What if just the font was different, though?] "Oh, no."

"Well if they weren't playing with helmets they'd get concussed really fast."

"You know... sometimes nothing on the helmet is better."5

Third Quarter

Pitt State scores again, quickly. I got bored and headed to the concession stand.6 When I got back, they were somehow already in the red zone again, and the crowd had yet another new chant going that we should probably steal ("WHOSE HOUSE?" PITTSBURG! "WHO ARE WE?" PITTSBURG!).

I approached another Pitt State fan, and for a few minutes we traded knowledge for knowledge. I told him that our Pittsburgh has an 'h' at the end while most others don't because of sweeping anti-German sentiment leading to the removal of the letter from most of the country's burghs, with Pittsburgh spared because of its considerable clout and notoriety in the 1940's.7 He provided a much-needed explanation of the Division II playoff structure, noting that Pitt State was kind of screwed by their being in the "SEC of Division II" (again - they are not like us at all).

To that point, he told me that the greatest player in Pitt State Gorillas history, Ronald Moore, was in the bleachers taking in the game, because DII is just chill like that. I knew who I had to talk to next.

Score After Three Quarters: Pitt State 41, Central Oklahoma 7

Fourth Quarter

Unfortunately, the third quarter ended and that meant I had to leave. I listened to the rest of the game on a car radio. Y'know, tradition.

Final Score: Pitt State 41, Central Oklahoma 14

Concluding Remarks

As I watched Pitt Twitter react to the UNC loss, two questions came to mind that couldn't be answered by a large red mass of displaced Kansans:

  1. Is being a Pitt State fan more fun than being a Pitt fan?
  2. Could Pitt State beat Pitt on a good day?

While I'm fully aware that I spoke to Pitt State's Ultras, the answer to the first question seems like a strong yes. This isn't just that rooting for a winning team beats rooting for a losing team, as that's basically negated by the whole inferior level of play thing (phrases like "He won the Division II Heisman" lack a certain gravity). Pretty much every travelling fan I spoke to, for example, mentioned that Pitt State actually has a tailgate culture, and from the sound of it a better one than ours; the old guy with the championship ring mentioned that he cooks for "three hundred people a week" at home games - a "real tailgate," unlike this week's eighty-cap road affair - and that if I came up for the next game (a playoff game against a potentially fictional school named "Harding" in "Arkansas") there'd be a big plate of Italian sausage in it for me.8 Another fan mentioned that because it's Division II, the kids who hang after the game ends sometimes get to play catch with the players, which has a certain charm to it.

I left the game thinking the answer to the second question was "yes, and also on an average day sometimes." Pitt State looked like a competent football team, and those tend to do well against the Panthers. But then I remembered something.

Gorilla #9 did the Tyler Boyd thing the whole game - receiving, rushing, punt returns, kick returns, and just generally being a fast all-purpose wonder who found the end zone. I asked Third Quarter Guy about him, and as it turned out he was a transfer from the University of Kansas' track team. This is a crucial point of reference: a guy who was a sprinter at Division I has to drop down to Division II to find open arms, and when he gets there he's Tyler Freakin' Boyd. I'm not saying it could never happen, of course; I can't imagine that a top Division II team is so much worse than a good FCS team and Pitt (Regular) has proven time and again that there is no mountain too small to be tripped over. I leave you to debate this in the comments.9

Sorry, I got sidetracked there. Back to my main point: It's probably not the helmet's fault we're losing.

***

footnotes

1. ...or can I?

2. When I mentioned that I was doing this to a friend, he referred to Pitt State as "our little brother." This doesn't really track as a metaphor. They're more like the kid you share a first name with in your middle school homeroom: their name is spelled a bit different (Sara/Sarah, Dillon/Dylan, Jayden/Jaden/Jaidan) and they're not much like you, but you still sometimes think their friends are trying to get your attention when they say his/her/your name. Also, they're from Kansas. 

3. $15 for general admission. I'll be honest: I kind of assumed admission would be free. This threw my budget off pretty bad. 

4. Feel free to speculate about how this all actually went down. Did SB Nation actually fund this? (Am I an especially persuasive person? Am I a hypnotist?) Am I an independently wealthy madman who can just travel the country at will? (Is Spilly? What about that third guy with the Phillies avatar - Mike something - can he be ruled out?) Do I actually just live in Oklahoma, like an idiot in some book? (Am I secretly former Pitt and current Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams? Am I former Pitt and current Oklahoma City Blue forward Talib Zanna?) Was I just coincidentally visiting Oklahoma all had a very conveniently timed free day? (Why would anyone visit Oklahoma over a weekend?) Is "Pitt Basketball Shouting" a single outlet of an elaborate network of weirdos? (Are my spies everywhere? Am I behind you right now? Did you check to be sure?) Do I just have a friend who lives in Oklahoma who did most of the legwork for me because he owes me a favor? (Was the favor that I let him use my mailing address so he could apply to jobs in the Pennsylvania/Ohio area? Would it have been easier for me to register a PO Box in his name, instead of having to deal with all his stupid junk mail every day?) Is this whole piece just completely made up? (Where'd the pictures come from, then? Maybe the friend take the pictures, but then I made up all the talking-to-people parts? Maybe Photoshop?) Have I intentionally not listed the actual reason I was in Oklahoma? All of these are equally possible. 

5. Division I schools I noticed represented among Pitt State fans: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Minnesota, Penn State. Also: The Kansas City Chiefs, although considering color schemes that may be a lower-profile version of wearing a Steelers jersey to a Pirates game. 

6. Wantland Stadium at UCO isn't a particularly exciting facility - the gates and facade had the same feel as the Petersen Sports Complex, but the concession stand, which was being run by half-attentive students and offered such treats as "hot dog" and "nachos," reminded me a lot of high school games I had been to. One item on the menu was pretty interesting, though.
"A pickle is $2?"
"Yeah."
"How big is a $2 pickle?" I asked, trying not to smirk, smirking.
"Uh..." She made a shape with her hands that was basically a tennis ball. I got Reese's Cups.

7. I found out later Saturday that this was completely wrong and I don't know where I came up with it. 

8. I am still considering this offer. 

9. By which I mean have a good old fashioned pessimism-off; I 100% expect to come back to this in a day to see one of you claim that Pitt wouldn't be a lock to beat a team of World War I veterans given a week's training by Brady Hoke.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt (not Pitt State) athletics. Follow the author @N_THEYSTAYTHERE.