“Once there was a valley, where the cool, clear water flowed.
There are holidays, long parades, no cliches, we play charades.
Where dreams come true, no bad news, open views, not ones but twos.” (Lyrics from the jazz group Hiroshima song, “Holidays”)
Last weekend was supposed to be the start of our final holiday weekend of the summer. Pitt football was poised to exit the Big East Conference with a bang. Everything was supposed to be crystal clear and everyone was supposed to be part of the flow. The festive period is usually marked by smoke rising from charcoal fired grills along with the smell of marinated ribs and other goodies finding its way to our appreciative noses. Instead, the stench of Pitt losing at their home opener in a very ugly fashion to Youngstown State replaced those pleasant cook-out inspired aromas like an angry skunk coming in from the cold.
Before the game even began there was more trouble in the Panthers’ Lair. New head coach Paul Chryst had to “lay down the law” and suspend six players for disciplinary reasons. Wide receiver Chris Davis, D-lineman Tyrone Ezell, D-Back Anthony Gonzalez, D-Lineman Shayne Hale, wide receiver Ronald Jones and freshman running back Rushel Shell were all caught without their “get out of jail” cards and manned the sidelines watching in disbelief as their teammates were beat down by Youngstown State, Youngstown State! Oh where oh where are ex-Pitt head coaches Mike Haywood and Todd Graham when you need them?
Judging by the awful offensive and defensive performance by his football team, Coach Chryst had better, as my grandfather used to say, be “Christ-like or like Christ” because the 2012 squad may need “divine” intervention just to become and remain competitive. Leaving the “weak” Big East conference in the autumn of 2013 for “treasure uncounted” might not have been the smart thing for Pitt to do, at least from a competitive standpoint.
It appears that the jaded alumni and/or the proverbial chickens may have “come home to roost” in the football program’s “hatchery of dreams” as a direct result of the “stale bread and stagnation diet” fed to everyone during the last several years. There have been questionable decisions made by the powers-at-large at Pitt that may have caused irreparable harm to the program specifically as well as athletics in general. The trust factor with current athletes, the general public and a percentage of the student body has eroded considerably based not on academics or athletics but mainly on alumni, demographics and economics. Show me the grades and the performance on the field has now evolved into show me the money, money, money. Well, well, well judging by the attendance at their season opener the Panthers’ won’t be singing the “Jerry McGuire” melody from the “mean green money making machine” but will instead be crooning the sad slow ballad entitled “Empty yellow seats make my heart skip a beat.”
In less than two years one Pitt head coach has been justifiably swept aside, another has been swept under the rug, yet another bailed and before he could even chalk up a single victory the last man standing is now faced with some serious issues of his own. There have been many clichés to describe the Panthers current starting quarterback Tino Sunseri and although I personally like the young man, the words “great quarterback” might not be the exact phrase that I would use to describe his skill set. He has had the better part of three years to develop and well let’s just say that he has not yet quite evolved into a big time quarterback. There are no excuses that can apply because the Pittsburgh defense and offense have left a lot to be desired.
Once there was a valley, where the cool, clear water flowed. Once there was a football program that produced such players as Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Curtis Martin Ricky Jackson, Russ Grimm, Mark May, Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Bryant, Mike Ditka, Bill Maas, Tony Siragusa.
There was a time that the Pitt football organization was nestled and snug down in a valley being fed with cool clear nutrient rich water bringing and sustaining a great living and breathing athletic program. Now it is situated smack dab in the middle of a desert littered with the “dry bones” of the past. Only the powers possessed by a being who is mightier than us mere mortals can stir up the winds of change and breathe life back into the “skeletons of past accomplishments.” There may be no more holidays or hip parades but we better watch out for the slick charades.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741. Bruce can also be heard on the “Odd Couple Sports Show” where he is the AFC North and NFL analyst. The show is hosted by Adam Ragle streaming live on the WCWA Fox Sports Toledo 1230AM Wednesdays at 10 am during the regular season.)