Amid trash talk, some promote unity


Members of the Pitt football team celebrate with the Panther Pitt after last year’s win over Penn State. (TPN File Photo)

Usually college football rivalries bring out the absolute worst in fans.

Although this week’s Pitt-Penn State game has generated its fair share of tasteless trash talk, some people are trying to use the contest for some good.

If you spend any time on social media and you have any friends or followers claiming some stake in Saturday’s game, you know how intense the comment section can get. The comments escalate as tempers flare, and soon the topic turns from healthy trash talk to topics not even relevant to the game.

Barstool Penn State announced on Sept. 2, “IT’S OFFICIALLY PITT HATE WEEK.” Of course, the hate erupted from both sides. This carried on for a while, with fans from both teams chalking up points for each dig.

Pitt sophomore neuroscience major Ryley Handyside had enough of the disrespectful posts on her Twitter feed.

“One night I saw on Twitter all the Pitt-Penn State hate, and I wished people could get this excited about helping people,” Handyside said.

Handyside decided to create a GoFundMe page and call on all Pitt and Penn State fans to donate money to Hurricane Harvey relief. She wrote a note explaining what she was doing and reached out to both the Barstool Pitt and Barstool Penn State Twitter accounts.

“It was out of the blue,” said Connor from Barstool Pitt, who asked that his last name be concealed for privacy. “There’s a first time for everything though!”

“@PSUBarstool and I have decided to put our differences aside for a good cause, RT and donate #HurricaneHarveyRelief,” Barstool Pitt tweeted on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 11:18 a.m. The tweet then linked to a Handyside’s GoFundMe page.

Fans are encouraged, on the donation information page, to donate the monetary equivalent of their team’s points. The goal is set at $10,000 and, as of Thursday night, fans have raised $410. The funds raised will be donated to the Houston Food Bank.

This is Handyside’s first time raising money for something as big as this. She volunteered in high school and went on medical mission trips, but she’s never done something like this.

Her recent efforts are also in line with Penn State President Eric J. Barron and Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who penned an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to share some words of unity — and PR.

The duo acknowledged how the upcoming game forces fans and students to choose a side. Even though the story was more intended to draw attention to the schools’ academic successes and gain state funding, it’s obvious why these two leaders would broach the subject of the rivalry.

“It is a game where spectators take sides — and the winning team earns a year of prized bragging rights in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” they wrote.

It’s likely Gallagher and Barron are aware of the depths of hate their students’ minds will enter when typing a poorly thought-out tweet. While they didn’t directly address the negativity from their students, they briefly mentioned how the tradition has “simmered.”

This wasn’t their first time addressing the Pitt-Penn State contention. Last season, the school leaders penned a piece for the chancellor’s official Pitt website. The letter focused more on how students could make their schools proud.

“Let’s showcase the best versions of ourselves to help support our respective teams,” Gallagher and Barron wrote. “We look to everyone to make wise choices and enjoy the game responsibly.”

Their show of unity probably won’t stop the bashing — the Barstool accounts returned to their regular Twitter trash talk soon after their Harvey tweets. But Handyside thinks some good will still come from the game.

“No matter who wins or loses, we’ll have something positive on both sides that comes out of this,” Handyside said.

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