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Backyard Brawl Memories: Recalling Some Personal Moments From The Historic Rivalry

Unless Pitt and WVU men's basketball teams happen to meet each other in the post-season, tonight's game will likely mark the end of major competition between the two long time rivals for the foreseeable future. Unless the administrations can figure out a way to keep playing these games even on a semi-regular basis out-of-conference, all we will have are memories. This is the one and only thing that I regret with the latest round of conference realignment. The football teams have a series that goes back to 1895, including every year since 1943. The basketball series dates back to 1906 (meeting every year since WWI). With this long time rivalry coming to a seeming close, I thought this would be a good time to recall some important Brawl moments in my life.

My personal experience in hating Pitt only dates back to 1989, despite being a young Mountaineer fan since the late 70's/early 80's. The football edition that year was memorable for me because that game is when I learned to hate that school from the Wheeling suburbs. It was the first Brawl that I ever attended. I remember that day vividly. My cousin and his best friend forged me a note to give to my high school football coach so I could go and we sat on the front row in the end-zone of the facilities building. Most of you will also recall the circumstances of that game. WVU, behind Major Harris, took a 31-9 lead into the 4th quarter, and if memory serves, even with 9 minutes and change to go. Alex Van Pelt (the name still garners a feeling of despising in me to this day) then led Pitt to 22 unanswered points, including the game tying field goal as time expired. The Pitt band was set up in extra bleachers in front of where the weight room is now and I still remember a trombone player and the mascot jumping and dancing around like they just won the national title. The seed of hate was planted.

My only real lasting Brawl hoops memory was the 1991 game. I was a senior in high school and was able to sit in the student section for the first time, and with a group of guys already attending WVU that would eventually become my fraternity brothers. WVU came away with a one point victory that day in front of a packed house, but my memory is less of the events on the court, but feeling like I truly became a Mountaineer that day. I remember doing the "Eat Shit Pitt" chant really for the first time. Also, before the game, the guy running the music over the PA system happened to be playing the theme from the Addams Family. But, when it got to the part where most people would snap their fingers, the chant of "F#$% Pitt" filled the Coliseum. I honestly can't recall that particular piece of music being played at the Coliseum since. The vulgarities are only funny side notes to the overall memory, and more than that, I truly felt at home with that crowd on that day when my mind and heart decided where I would be getting my education.

My favorite football edition that I've been present for was the 2003 game. Pitt came into the game ranked 16th behind the receiving exploits of one Larry Fitzgerald. During that game Fitzgerald made some insane catches, yet despite his exploits, WVU came away on a frigid night with a 52-31 victory behind Quincy Wilson's 215 yards and 4 touchdowns. This was also a memorable game because it's when the "Country Roads" post-game sing along tradition began (despite what Andrea Adelson said). WVU was taking a PR beating for post-game antics the previous couple of weeks and the sing along was proposed as a new "positive" tradition following victories. No one knew how it would go over at the time. When the game ended with the resounding Mountaineer win over our most hated rival, there was an uneasy quiet amongst the WVU faithful who uncharacteristically hadn't budged from their places in the stands. Almost the entire crowd was waiting to see how this was going to play out. Those familiar strains of the acoustic guitar finally came over the loud speakers and the cold night air was filled with almost 67,000 (you have to discount the Pitt fans in attendance) voices singing in unison. A new tradition was born.

I wasn't able to attend the "ice bowl" game in 2005 when the Wannstache wanted his team to run faster to try and catch Pat White and Steve Slaton, but I haven't laughed as hard at a coach as I did watching the tv that night. Thankfully I missed the 2007 game (thus keeping my football Brawl streak intact of never witnessing a WVU loss in the series at home in person). I was in Europe for a work trip and went to bed fairly confident, yet still a bit nervous. I woke up the next morning in Germany desperate to find an internet source to see what happened, only to get literally, physically ill when the screen loaded. It felt like someone kicked me in the stomach.

These are just my memories. We'd love for you to share yours. What are your favorite and hated moments in this series?