Ben State Football: You Can Enjoy Penn State/Pitt And Not Care That It's Almost Over
Probably my least favorite thing about the Penn State/Pitt rivalry is the demand that I care about it in a way that requires me to get mad online. I mean sure, I'm looking forward to going and covering the game. I'm looking forward to game itself and the atmosphere around it. I enjoy what will amount to a bowl game atmosphere.
But I will not miss the hot-wind blowing and pointless mud-slinging for a single second when this series finally dies next season. I won't miss dragging out the dead corpse in front of Sandy Barbour and going "So are you going to renew the Pitt series?" as if Barbour is going to be around in 10-15 years when it would have started again.
The answer is no, because Penn State doesn't care about Pitt. At least not right now. This is not rocket science.
Should Penn State and Pitt be playing more regularly? Probably. It makes sense — it's good for both programs and for all of the good reasons for Penn State to not help Pitt football, it's not like Penn State is going to Frankenstein another program to elite status. It's having a hard enough time doing that with its own.
Is Penn State just avoiding Pitt so it won't be embarrassed? Probably not. But nothing inspires the quality of a series like telling everyone that "my favorite program is so bad that losing to us would be embarrassing." Anything is possible though. So maybe Penn State doesn't want to lose to Pitt.
Is Penn State lying about wanting to play Pitt while proceeding to play Temple and Villanova? Does it matter? If nothing else the concentration of loud annoying noises coming from both directions figures to be less those years. I'm down for that.
So this whole exercise is really just proof that everyone is good at having the same argument over and over again. Pitt fans lobbing grenades into Penn State's corner of the internet and Penn State fans laughing from the top of some half-earned, half-imaginary elitist mountain. I hesitate to say it's dumb, because that's not a nice thing to say about people, but I wouldn't call it the most intriguing discourse going on in college football.
Which is a shame because from a coverage standpoint, Penn State having a real, honest-to-goodness rival would be fun. With Ohio State, it's the best series in the Big Ten right now, but Penn State isn't Michigan. And lord knows Rutgers and Maryland aren't putting up much of a fight.
There is Nebraska, a team that would actually be a good rival for Penn State given the history between the programs. But the Big Ten added the Cornhuskers to the conference and then promptly made sure the teams basically never meet for reasons we can only guess.
Artificial rivalries are dumb to begin with. You want to talk about not liking people, I was in Mississippi this past summer for reasons that aren't interesting and I got to meet Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans, and boy, that right there is a rivalry. Maybe that's because there isn't much to do in Mississippi, but you didn't have to convince anyone that the game mattered. They were born into it in a way that actually makes you slightly uncomfortable.
For Penn State and Pitt, it's like watching a kid drop bags of dog poop on the doorstep and then proceeds to be outraged when the neighbors just sigh and throw it out. "Why aren't you paying attention to me?!" the kid shouts at the door.
On the other side of the door the neighbors just go back to watching TV. One of these days they will call the kid's mom, but right now it's too much effort, not to mention, who didn't get into trouble when they were little?
Undoubtedly someone is going to say "Oh you just don't get it because you cover Penn State and you aren't even a fan!" and maybe that's true. I'm not old enough to remember this rivalry for what it once was. I'm sure if I was, or if I lived somewhere other than ground zero for Penn State football that I'd have a different cultural appreciation for the other side of this particular media Berlin Wall.
My point is, if the rivalry was still so good, so interesting and so important, you wouldn't have to convince me. Penn State used to play Bucknell and Syracuse all the time. You don't see either program asking for the hands these days.
So yeah, I'm looking forward to this weekend like everyone else, I just don't care that the series is almost over.