PSU backers: Pitt fans are people, too

Commentary

Some of the best people I know are Pitt fans.

I say that somewhat reluctantly, because growing up in a Penn State household, those words would have been almost sacrilegious.

You know the old line: “I’m for Penn State and whoever is playing Pitt this week.” We’d say that pretty much every week during football season.

It was the greatest rivalry in the world (or so we were taught to believe) and the biggest and most exciting game of the season. The rivalry is what made it so thrilling.

Of course, it was all in fun, for the most part: the Pitt-Penn State rivalry offered a chance for friendly wagers and benign bragging rights; more a love of our own team than an actual hatred of another.

But over the last few years, as Penn State fans have faced a widespread venom that few of us could ever have imagined, the divide between us and them has become not just a crevice, but a crater, and it goes far beyond sports.

Read some of the online chats or comments to news stories: the hatred spewed (often anonymously) on some websites is shocking.

Rivalries are no longer focused around athletics, and they are far from friendly.

But this is unfortunately the world we now live in. We define people with a broad brush: by their points of view, their political parties, their race, their gender, their country, their college. When in all honesty, each of us is much better described using a wide array of fine-point pens of every color and texture.

We sit across the ballpark, or the political aisle, or the globe from people who are very much like us. They love their families, they work hard, they like to have fun, and they do the best they can in this life.

Yes, there is evil out there, but evil is not defined by team mascot or national flag or political party. Perhaps we should start reserving our most severe judgments for those who truly deserve it, or even better, stop judging each other altogether.

One of the people I admire most in this world is being honored this week as “Citizen of the Year.” He loves Pitt. And this Penn State fan can’t think of anyone more deserving of recognition, even though he wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything remotely resembling a PSU logo. The things that unite us are far more important.

So while it’s great to be true to our school and root for the home team, it’s also healthy to broaden our horizons and step outside our comfort zone. If we limit our relationships to people just like us, life would be pretty boring.

I for one would really miss my great friends who happen to love Pitt.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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