Wednesday, September 22, 2010

PITT TEAM AT CROSSROADS; SEASON HANGING IN BALANCE

ABOVE: As if the road signs in Pittsburgh are written in Chinese, Pitt's players have been having a hard time finding their way back to campus from the South Side.

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked the Lord above for mercy,..
"Save me if you please."


I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Nobody seemed to know me,
everybody passed me by.


When I'm going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
Going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
You can still barrelhouse, baby, on the riverside.


You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown.
Run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown.
And I'm standing at the crossroads,
believe I'm sinking down.

Words and music by Eric Clapton and "Cream"

I have always hated it when I hear sports commentators building up an early-season football game as being "critically important" or attempting to otherwise overly-hype their contest as a means of retaining viewers. However, after just two games though, Pitt's season, one that was bubbling over with promise just three weeks ago, now seems to be literally hanging by a thread.

After losing in overtime at Utah, a game which most people thought they'd have a hard time winning, the Panthers came back to stomp I-AA New Hampshire at home. So what's wrong with that, you ask, isn't that what Division I teams are supposed to do with their less-talented I-AA brethren?

True, it is. But in the meantime, the team has had not one, not two, but three separate incidents where: A person was thrown through a glass door of a South Side storefront; Another person was a victim of a hit-and-run with two intoxicated Pitt players in the car; Finally there was another person who had a shoulder injured in a campus fight involving yet another Pitt player. If you're keeping track, so far there are four players who have drawn the coach's ire and we've only played two games this season. Where does it go from here?

Coach Dave Wannstedt is certainly a man whom I admire and when he says that he has weekly "Life Lessons" for his team, I believe him. The question though has to be, "Are the Pitt players sleeping during these Life Lessons?" It sure seems like it to me. Wannstedt is no different from any other coach in America who deals with these type of issues on a regular basis. He obviously doesn't want them to happen, but these are young men. They should know better, but in most cases, alcohol has clouded their judgment. What I have to wonder though is, "Are the penalties being handed out enough of a deterrent? Or are they merely gentle slaps on the wrist so that no one misses any snaps? Are the players even worried about the potential consequences of their actions?

  ABOVE: Wanny has given plenty of warnings, but so far they've fallen on at least eight deaf ears. Much as the sign above, Wanny's warnings are not taken seriously.

In between all of the serious legal problems involving Pitt players, the team is supposed to be getting ready during an off week for a critically-important game against the "U" of Miami Hurricanes. This is a home contest for the Panthers and a nationally-telecast game. It's a game against a nationally-ranked opponent who the Panthers should defeat at home. But It's not going to be an easy win by any stretch of the imagination, but here's the problem: (cue "Crossroads" music) The team has been so distracted by the juvenile antics of so many of its' players that I can only wonder how ready mentally the players can be for this game.

ABOVE: If Pitt stumbles out of the gate against Miami, it could set off a string of losses that would ruin one of the most anticipated seasons in years and possibly derail Dave Wannstedt's progress as Pitt's coach. That's how big this game is!!!

Of course for the Pitt players (who God knows what they've been thinking about) they can possibly go into this game not worrying about past transgressions of their teammates. Hey, boys will be boys, right? (Wink, wink) Of course the "U" of all people, has had tons of their own problems in the past too. "Hey, this is just something that every college team goes through every now and then, right?"

True, but if Pitt doesn't get their collective heads straightened out and I do mean fast, they can just go ahead and check their season into this serene crossroads below.

ABOVE: Crossroads Cemetary, final resting place for distracted football teams.