Today is the Backyard Brawl, which, sense West Virginia has no professional sports teams, is probably the biggest sporting event of the year (maybe the WVU/Marshall basketball game, or the AAA High School football championships, or maybe Bridge Day). Here is a little bit on how important the game is:
The date has been displayed prominently on a large sign in No. 16 Pittsburgh’s weight room since before preseason camp started.
It’s not a reference to a game against a high-profile national opponent such as Virginia Tech or Miami. It’s the date of the game with rival West Virginia.
Following decades in which the Backyard Brawl meant a lot more to the team south of the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border than it did to the team north of it, Pittsburgh now realizes how big this game could be.
“Coach (Walt Harris) wanted to reinforce what the game means to us,” Pitt cornerback William “Tutu” Ferguson said Monday.
Maybe big enough to decide the Big East title. Maybe.
There is bad blood between the two teams, even if the players try to play it down. perhaps it is better stated that there is bad blood between the two team’s fans. When WVU still had a rivalry with Penn State, the shirt of the day was ‘Penn State Sucks’ on the front, and on the back ‘But Pitt Swallows.’ Even the announcers get in on the act. Several years ago, when the game was held in Pittsburgh, the stadium announcer stated over the loudspeakers “Attention West Virginia Fans. Someone has left their lights on- will the own of a tractor with the license plate E-I-E-I-O please go to the parking lot and turn your lights off.” He got fired for that, which I thought was a damned shame- I thought it was hysterical.
WVU can also win a BCS berth if they beat Pitt today and if Miami loses again.
At any rate- the town is currently a zoo. It feels like there are 2-3 times the population here just visiting, and more are on their way from Pittsburgh. You simply can not underestimate how tough it is for opposing teams to play at Mountaineer Field, because the fans are thoroughly lubricated and EXTREMELY loud. At any rate, I am ordering a pizza and watching the game from the couch with the cats.
I was once reading some puff-piece on Joe Paterno where they were asking former players what was the best advice Joe ever gave them.
Most of them were saying all these deep things relating to football, education, and life in general, but one guy said his best advice was put on your helmet before you get anywhere near the tunnel at Mountaineer Field.
I remember when I used to go the the backyard brawl. We sat right behind Pitt’s line. We used to rush on to the field, the security then was nothing like it is now. I’ll never forget one year when I was about ten, Pitt beat us really bad that year. I ran onto the field after the game just when Pitt’s players were going into the locker room. As I was walking through the line one player looked down at me. He was huge, he must have been at least 6’5″ and easily 250lbs. There I was standing looking right up into an actual football players eyes. Then he took off his chin strap and gave it to me. I took it in my hand and threw it onto the ground. “I don’t want you skummy Pittsburugh chin srap!” I yelled at him. “what? do you think I am a #*%! Pitt fan? You can keep that sh*tty strap and all your equipment because none of us in West Virginia want any of it you $#%% #$&*@ #*@&#$! And next year were gonna kick your @$$!” He must not of understood what the Backyard Brawl was all about.