Thanks to a daughter in the band and as an assumed part of life in Western PA, I join a growing number of pals to trek down to University of Pittsburgh home football games. The games take place at the Steelers’ Heinz Field, which affords a spectacular view, of the game and also of the city at the official inception of the Ohio River. With the stadium full to SRO, it's like Pittsburgh's family room: we settle back with old friends and new, visit, and yell.
I don’t know how it started, or who is behind it, but I have a new favorite moment in the liturgy of Game Day. I guess it's football’s version of the 7th Inning Stretch that occurs between the 3rd and 4th quarters. What happens at the Pitt game is that over the sound system come the signature opening notes of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. At first, my high school memories of dates and of, I guess, one boyfriend in particular were jarred to consciousness with that great throbbing rhythm and then that singer’s rich, husky Neil Diamondishness. But these have been eclipsed by the phenomenon that transpires: The song begins, and the entire stadium rises to its feet, links arms, starts to sway, and together belt out the song with top-of-lung exuberance, word for word (thanks to the Jumbotron). You get to the part, “…reaching out, touching me, touching you,” and everybody gestures that, with 100%, whole-bodied, passion. Then—“Sweet Caroline!”—LET’S GO PITT!!!!—“The good times never seemed so good”—GO PITT! GO PITT! GO PITT!!!—“I’ve been inclined”—LET’S GO PITT!—…and the musical composition, whatever it meant the first time around, has forever been co-opted for a fresh purpose. We embrace the random intertextuality, in the cause of team rallying, with the serious playfulness of which college students are the greatest experts. You can see it for yourself on You Tube.Read more