Emptiness

Let me preface this by telling you I will be writing this from the heart. I won’t analyze statistics, match-ups, or any other aspect that you would find in a rational, researched article. This loss is stinging us all, and I feel by writing this I may be able to help move on just the slightest bit further on the road to recovery.

I’ve been a student here at Pitt since 2001. On December 21st, 2000, I was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh. Until that point, I really never cared one single bit about college sports. To me, MLB, NFL, and the NHL were the only three things worth caring about. Once I knew I was going to Pitt, I began to take an interest in the University and the sports teams. My first instance I can remember of caring about Pitt basketball was when I was attending a Penguins game with my father in March. That night happened to be the same night that Pitt made the improbable run to the Big East Championship final where we lost to Boston College. Since that night, my love for Pitt has grown exponentially. Pitt football and Pitt basketball are the two sports teams that I am most passionate about now. I can’t even imagine how I would react if you would tell 8 year old DPJ that I would love college football over the Penguins, or if you told 14 year old DPJ that not only would I be interested in college basketball, but that I would care more about Pitt basketball than I would about the Steelers.

From the moment I stepped on campus I was proud to be a Panther. I never understood why people disliked their college. This was a choice they were able to make themselves and if they didn’t like it, they could transfer elsewhere. This thought really led me to develop more pride in my University.

One of the best ways to display my love for this school is with unwavering support for the athletic teams. I am thrilled that from the moment I was enrolled at Pitt, we have had a top 25 basketball team each and every year. However, at the end of the season, I feel completely empty, used, hurt, and depressed. Kent State, Marquette, Pacific, Bradley, UCLA, and now Michigan State have all led me down this path. While people remember certain things and why they dislike certain people, I will always have a special place of hatred in my heart for guys like Antonio Gates, Dwayne Wade, Patrick O’Bryant, Aaron Afflalo, and now Drew Nietzel.

I feel like all of those teams and players have taken something from me. If you are reading this site, then you are most likely one of the “better” or more informed fans out there. To us, we invest so much energy into each team, every season. Every year though, we just see it end with heart break. We can look back and think about the night that we lost Mike Cook, but took down the most famous college basketball program in the world. I will think of the night I drove to Dayton with many friends and we saw Levance fall to injury while losing one of the hardest to watch Pitt games in recent history. We had Ronalds 3 to take our West Virginia. Washington was a great game where only tenths of a second helped us preserve a victory. Most recently, we had an incredible run through the Big East Tournament after wondering which 8-9 game we would be seeded in.

Every year we have had reason to believe that we could have gone deep into the tournament. Our 2002-2003 team was one of the greatest college teams ever assembled, but the main thing I can only remember about them was Donatas Zavackas taking his shoes off and refusing to enter the game. My anger at him was quickly removed as the next night we were all sure that Ben Howland was leaving to go to UCLA. It always seems like it is something that holds us back. We see a player who hasn’t been playing well, or a player who is more of an unknown come to life and destroy the Panthers. We see a team that is shooting lights out have one of the poorest shooting percentage games of the season. Every year it is something that absolutely breaks our heart.

The only thing that can help is time. Hopefully the distraction of class, Pitt football, and the rest of life will allow some of us to move on sooner than later. It just is an awful pain knowing that no matter how far we have to look back and think about this season, we will be left with the memory that this team was poised to make a great run, but came up short once again.

I have the belief that being a Pitt fan is one of the hardest things a person can do. While it may not feel that way for everyone, I feel that I am part of each and every Pitt team. I want to rejoice with them, but that also means I have to suffer with them. Someday I hope we are able to have our chance to celebrate at a level greater than Big East Championships. I love where we are at now, but deep down, the fact that this is our best dynasty ever, yet we do not have the success in the NCAA tournament is very upsetting. Maybe I am greedy, maybe I am hoping for something that we can never achieve, but as much as I love winning the Big East, I want that chance to celebrate success at the larger level. For football, a win in a BCS game would be great, but I will always want that national championship. For basketball, I feel like we have such a mountain to overcome that a final four appearance would mean the world to me, but I feel that we as fans, and what we have experienced, should have the opportunity to celebrate a national championship.

Hopefully we will rebound. I can’t promise you that we will. The off-season is always one of the hardest times because now we will have to deal with the big questions. Is Sam coming back? What will we do at the 2 for next year. Do we move Dejuan or stick with him at center? Will the coaching vacancies somehow pull Jamie’s name into the mix AGAIN. This is the hard part. While we are all upset over what happened yesterday, we won’t be able to feel anywhere close to complete until next October when Pitt basketball starts a new season.

Hopefully next year will fulfill all of the goals we have for this team, but I really hate having to say wait until next year, every year.

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8 Responses to “Emptiness”

  1. Keith McBride Says:

    Dave, you know I respect you, but this post is ridiculous.This is tantamount to all those spoiled kids who go to college and can’t take the pressure and kill themselves over it. Oh boo hoo, you failed an exam. Be glad you aren’t some migrant Mexican or in the Army dodging bullets in the desert.Before dropping out of the rankings this season, we had the second longest streak of top-25 poll appearances.We have reached the conference title game 7 times in 8 years, winning two.We have seen 7 consecutive NCAA appearances.We have received just about every possible conference award in that span as well.There are 300+ schools in D1 and only 4 make the final four. Do we really need to cry over it?You have probably seen more success here as a student than the rest of the 100 years of Pitt basketball combined.Somehow in the past few weeks I have gotten the reputation as the most pessimistic fan in the Zoo. Yet I seem to be the only one not crying myself to sleep at night over last night’s loss.If you want to see endless wins and national titles, sell out like Howland and start watching UCLA.

  2. DPJ Says:

    Like I said at the opening, I was just writing what I felt. It is a very hurtful time right now and I am just trying to get over it.

  3. johnny Says:

    Maybe I have a different read than Keith, but I actually found the post to be somewhat positive and not wallowing in self-pity. Dave, I felt the key paragraph to the stream of consciousness was the third paragraph where you articulated the pride you felt in the University and in the campus. Setting sports aside, I was always baffled by students who cut down Pitt, Pittsburgh, Oakland, etc. Maybe I just took it too personally since I grew up in the suburbs. I have felt that too many students and alums want to have their cake and eat it too, in terms of not supporting the teams when times are bad and feeling that national championships are their birth right. Still, I think you stop short of a warped and skewed vision of the importance of athletics.The logical extension to this, which touches on Keith’s point is that at the end of the day, the fact that polio was cured at Pitt and the quality of all other research from the institution is unquestionably more important than some banners. The most ludicrous example of this kind of warped thinking was some poster on another site saying that Chancellor Nordenberg was doing his job poorly because some recruit in Erie prefers to play in an on-campus stadium. Anybody engaged in this line of thinking has a serious credibility gap with me. Still, I definitely feel something when my friends talk about watching FSU or UF win national championships or go to BCS games/Final Fours in recent memory. That feeling isn’t jealousy, but more of a cautious optimism and apprehension that I will have that feeling some day.Until then, I am more than content to place my faith in Chancellor Nordenberg, the administration, and the coaching staffs. And I also value the education, friends, and memories at Pitt more than anything. Hail to Pitt!Also, best of luck to the girls the rest of the way.

  4. Brian Ising Says:

    Dave,Jordan Farmar wasn’t even on the UCLA team that we lost to in the Sweet 16 last year. It makes me wonder if you’re quite the Pitt fan you portray yourself to be.Anyways, I agree with parts of what you and Keith said. I have been a Pitt fan for just as long as you have. And losses like this one really hurt. And it will take a while to get over.We have had a lot of success over the past several seasons and a lot of great wins. But every season ends with a bitter taste in your mouth and a sense of “emptiness” as you state. But that’s the way sports are. Very few teams end their seasons on a high note. The rest end up wanting a little more.I think that this team had a fantastic year and provided us with a lot of great memories, especially last week at the Garden. And I agree with Keith in that we have seen an enormous amount of success in basketball over the last several years. We are very fortunate to be Pitt students during this basketball renaissance. But it is only natural to want a little bit more.And I believe that that little bit more will come, eventually. I have no other choice. I’m not going to start rooting for UNC or UCLA or Duke. Pitt is my team and they’ll always be my team. So I have to believe that we will get there someday. Pitt will reach a Final Four. Pitt will win a national championship. Will it happen next year? Maybe. Will it happen in the next 10 years? Maybe. But I believe it will happen. And when it does happen, it will mean so much more to us because we have been there for the ups and downs.So until that day comes, what are we as fans left to do? Appreciate what we have, which is a top-20 basketball program. Hope for more, like a Final Four and a national championship. And believe, always believe that we will get there someday.Hail to Pitt

  5. DPJ Says:

    I meant, Aaron Afflalo, my fault. Like I said, I just wrote what came to me, nothing prepared, I just wrote off the top of my head. That said, I did edit that part.

  6. Brian Ising Says:

    Yea, I knew who you meant. I was just giving you a hard time.

  7. Keith McBride Says:

    Dave, I do give you credit for writing a good critical piece about your personal opinions.I disagree with the pessimism, but that is how you feel and I did think you made a lot of good points.I wouldn’t say I’m not sad about losing, but this season has really made me grow in a lot of ways with respect to being a fan:1. There is no reason to be superstitious. I saw way too many games, and nothing I ever did would last more than a few. To be ridiculous just for the sake of a “streak” means you have to relax.2. At the end of the day, this is a sport. It is a game played for entertainment. Anything more emotional or involved than that is a decision we make for ourselves. If someone is crying with joy, as I was in NYC, it is because I have built an emotional connection to the team myself. If someone is ready to put their hand through a wall after a loss, that is a reaction that the person should really step back and look at.3. The best part about college sports is that you have a constant cycle of players. Nobody in the country can sign a 10 year contract. No matter how much you love or hate a player, his time is limited. So the line “there is always next year” is more important than in pro sports, because you never have the same exact team twice.I just think it’s a bit wrong when people say “I thought this team was different.” They aren’t. People say that every season about Pitt. People were complaining about Jamie for weeks about how bad we were playing. Then he wins the tourney and people shut up. This week I am sure people will go back to whining about not being able to “get over the hump” in the NCAA.The hump used to be having a winning season. The hump used to be not losing their first game in the BET. The day the hump becomes whether or not Pitt makes the final four is the day I quit being a fan.I told Brian the other day that I think Duke should be like the Yankees and fire Coach K. Nothing less than a championship is acceptable. Joking of course, but if Pitt ever feels that entitled, it isn’t a team I want to love.

  8. J Jones Says:

    This loss was the hardest to take since I have been a student but that’s what I always say. Every big win feels the best and every big loss feels the worse. Context is everything with life and in this scenario of how we choose to live vicariously through sports. Losing our individual identity to take on the mass identity of being Panther fans as whole is the beauty of this whole process.Win or lose we are always going to be willing to get drawn into another team. Next year’s team will be no different and I can’t wait until we get on the floor of the Pete next year. I always hoped that we could get over the hump of the Sweet Sixteen during my time as a student here but it wasn’t to be. The players and the coaching staff this year gave us moments that will live forever. I’m starting to learn to enjoy the ride and the successes we are having. Next year will be better or worse than last year but it won’t be the same.Being a Pitt Basketball fan makes the months of pain and anger of being a Pitt Football fan all worthwhile. Coach Dixon and a collection of players are going to get us the National Title eventually…


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