I'll tell you what my friends, going to Michigan State was a real eye opener. I always knew our tradition lacked behind, but I had no idea how terrible it was. I don't think that Pitt should strive to "be like" another school in terms of fans and support. I believe that Pitt fans should go about it in a unique way. That's what real tradition is. I really think that Pitt (we the students and the athletics dept) may have the wrong approach to creating a better fan base and home atmosphere. Now I'm not criticizing anyone working in the A.D., but think about this. Every time we have had things forced down our throat, it hasn't worked.
The first thing that comes to mind for me is the Panther Zone. I was at some of the meetings where this was being planned out and to my knowledge it isn't as great of a success as it should be. I have never gone to the Panther Zone once, but that is only because I choose to wait at the gate to ensure a front row seat. I'm sure there are a variety of other reasons why other people don't go. The only time I have heard of the Panther Zone filling up was when Tony D and the 76 national championship team was there.
In addition to the Panther Zone, we've had Walt Harris telling us to make noise every time the Panther growls, we've been given tons of Panther Pitt towels, Code blue shirts are being sold at 5 bucks a pop to students, and yet none of this catches on.
This is where I blame myself. I am always trying to come up with ways to improve Pitt's tradition. When I started to push for the Cat Basket to become more recognizable I wanted to make sure everyone knew about it and thought that maybe it could be used for football. Now, my attitude is changed. We will be receiving our Cat Basket shirts on Monday Sept 24, and I will be giving them to people who have asked for them. I am not going to try and make Cat Basket the Oakland Zoo of football. Rather, what I am going to do is wear my shirt, cheer for Pitt, and continue to use this medium as a way to provide discussion, opinions, and news about The University of Pittsburgh football team.
I hate to keep mentioning Michigan State, but it is the freshest in my mind so I keep coming back to it. During their Alma mater everyone puts their arms around each other and sways back and forth. The visual effect of that is amazing. Right before kickoff, the student section passes down two huge banners from the top of the section to the bottom. One says Go Green, the other says Go White. They also have this tomahawk chop motion that it looks like they copied from FSU, but everyone in the student section is doing it. Also, their alumni clap, sing, and cheer along.
C'mon Pitt fans where are you? How many of you can sing Pitt's Alma mater? Do you know what the actual words are to the bridge in the fight song? Have you seen the students run on the field with the Hail to Pitt flag?
I really wish Pitt would find a way to boycott tailgating in all of the parking lots around the stadium. I'm sorry if it would take away from your game day experience, but I think that people do not understand how large the number is of students who come down to tailgate, get black out drunk and pass out in the parking lot or just end up heading home. Maybe even have just a season ticket holder or alumni section where tailgating (with alcohol) is allowed and ban adult beverages from every other section.
It really is sad that when the Michigan State gates opened there were about 2000 students waiting to get in. Here at Pitt, we have about 11 and I can name all 11 of them who are there.
So what will it take for Pitt to become a school with a good atmosphere and tradition? Well first off, these fair weather fans need to become everyday fans. Against Miami, WVU, VaTech, and Louisville, Pitt has had some of the greatest crowds I have ever seen. I really hate fair weather fans and their attitude of coming to games just to see the opponent or to try and get on tv, but at least they bring great enthusiasm. We really need those fans to turn into full time diehards. My guess is that there is about 10k - 15k of die hard fans in the stadium who aren't afraid to stand up, clap, and make noise. It's just a shame when you have the idiots around you telling you to sit down and be quiet. I don't want to sound like a dick......wait......yes I do. When I finally graduate from Pitt after 10 great years, I will be a season ticket holder for Mens and Womens BBall and for Football. If at anytime someone tells me to be quiet or to sit down, I'll tell them to go home and watch it on TV that way I won't be there to bother them. If people are so offended by those around them, STOP COMING TO GAMES! No one is forcing you to be there, and if you do show up, you obviously have an interest in the team, so SUPPORT THEM!
What I really think needs to happen is more students need to get creative. We need something to organize the student section. Something we can all get behind to have our own unique traditions. Think about what we have, Lets Go Pitt, PI-TT (for bball only), and that's about it. We stole the Hail To Pitt flag idea. The drum major touching his hat down to the the ground is not unique to us. We lost the bridge to the fight song. The hey song isn't played anymore. Our intro video is eerily similar to MSU's (I was hurt). And we have nothing to unite us. I love coming to games and seeing people wear steelers jersey's or just regular clothes with out any blue, gold, or Pitt stuff on it.
This is my challenge to you fans. Create some tradition. Lets have a chant that we can do that is unique to us. Come up with an idea for a video that we can rally behind like the "Spartan's what is your profession?" clip, find a way to get everyone to just at least clap along with the fight song. Panther fans, I will continue to my party to try to create and inspire better tradition for Pitt, however it won't work if it is just one person coming up with everything. We need to work together and unite. Make Pitt football the most exciting thing in the fall. Make it so that if you are not at the game you feel left out. Make it that people want to come to games and want to cheer for their school just because they love it.