It is impossible to ignore the senseless madness of last weekend. The impossibly cowardly and deluded targeting of impeccably peaceful people reminded us that we are more together than divided despite the hateful, adversarial overtones of the political and social structures in this country.

Days like last Saturday are horrific awakenings when many look around for a sense of security and community. Thousands brought together unified by a common mission – to overcome hatred, to prevail over the forces of evil, to hold one’s ground and protect what is most precious.

Is it absurd to suggest that sporting events can provide the perfect forum for the catharsis that follows tragedy? While many would argue yes, it is absurd, I would argue that our sports teams and venues are as important to our sense of identity as any of our most important alternatives.

In the wake of Saturday morning, the Pitt Panthers provided a needed diversion and gave angry and frustrated Pittsburghers a chance to release negative emotions and replace them with a shared, joyful experience.

Pitt, a maligned program on the brink of irrelevance, restored some sense of how Pittsburghers define themselves – a strong, resilient, successful people who do not back down to adversity, but respond with a unified purpose.

Pitt overcame a struggling defense and mostly ineffective passing offense to register 484 rushing yards and a closing-seconds, 25-yard Kenny Pickett to Maurice Ffrench touchdown pass.

The 54-45 win reminded us, even for a second, that the things we hold closest to our hearts, even superficial holdings like the outcomes of sporting events, can bring us to our feet and make us feel good.

Less than 24 hours later, the Pittsburgh Steelers – the sporting city’s pride and joy – brought 63,780 Pittsburghers together to say to the country that madness will never be the norm.

The team came through beautifully. After a slow start – a trademark of this team – the Steelers ran away from the Cleveland Browns dispatching their AFC North rivals 33-18. The thunderous cheers for the black and gold somehow seemed louder, more emphatic, more defiant.

Sports was a vehicle for escape for Pittsburghers this past weekend. Escape from the divisive violence that stained the city. Escape from the issues that do not disappear just because the Steelers or Panthers win football games.

It was good to be a Pittsburgher this weekend. It was great to be a Pittsburgh sports fan.

Other Musings:

  • Let’s not forget about the Penguins. While teams like the Penguins are expected to play well on home ice, a successful road trip can really galvanize a team and provide a momentum that home winning streaks cannot. So, the Pens 4-game conquest stretching from Toronto to Vancouver last week could be an early, defining road trip where the Pens established that they will be a force to be handled all season long. Sidney Crosby’s performance in the four wins was also a statement that he is on a mission to remain on the short list of the game’s best players.
  • One of my favorite statements on social media came from Andrew McCutchen. Following the violence in Squirrel Hill on Saturday, McCutchen reminded Pittsburghers that while he plays somewhere else, his home is in the 4-1-2. McCutchen referred to himself as a Pittsburgher and continues to be an ambassador for the city despite the navy blue pinstripes.
  • The World Series was positively boring.
  • Only a few more weeks before we get to see what Jeff Capel has done with the Pitt Mens Basketball Program, and I cannot wait. I don’t expect a trip to the Final Four, 25 wins and an ACC title, but I expect a team that shows significant improvement over the past two iterations. H2P!

#OnePittsburgh

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