Opinion | Even if football isn’t your thing, you can have a great time at games and tailgates

By Juliana Morello, For The Pitt News

I’m just gonna say it — I don’t like football. And it’s not because I don’t understand it. I mean, I don’t — at least not completely — but I’ve been at Pitt for three years now, and I’d like to think I’ve got at least a very surface level idea of what’s going on. 

Since my first year I’ve been in the stands, cheering when other people cheer, booing when other people boo. Coming from a high school with a less-than-successful football team and a noticeable lack of cheerleaders, it was great going to a school with such tangible school spirit. Don’t ask me what any of the calls mean, but I can follow what’s happening — if, of course, I’ve got my friends in my ear explaining everything.

But even if I didn’t, it’d be OK, because I don’t go to the games for the sports. I might not enjoy football, but I’m a sucker for a game. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, football games are a crucial aspect of Pitt’s culture. It’s fun dressing up in blue and gold, and it’s a great way to hang out with your friends. Tailgates are the best part of the whole game day because you get to eat and drink with a group of people all excited for the same thing, playing cornhole and beer pong and bonding over disliking the other team’s quarterback. 

It’s not about the sport, or the score at the end, but about the energy. More than anything, it’s about the community. Now, I get it — maybe you don’t like football, or you don’t see the appeal of pregaming, but I really believe that anyone can have fun on game days.

When COVID-19 interrupted the 2020 season, my roommates and I tailgated in the parking lot outside our apartment. We watched each game comfortably from our own living room, free to use our own bathroom without waiting in a line or grab a snack that wasn’t a $10 soft pretzel. It was fun, and I look back on it fondly, but once games went in-person again, we couldn’t wait to go back to Heinz — or, sorry, Acrisure — we missed the camaraderie of the stadium and the energy of the crowds.

Now that we’re older and back in the stadium, games are even more fun. Tailgates are better than ever because we can mingle with other fans and add to the community. At a tailgate for the Backyard Brawl, I found out that one of my friend’s parents went to West Virginia University. Exchanging trash talk with adults, talking to older siblings who were seniors at Pitt when we were first-years, tossing around a football with strangers who’ve set up in the lot across from us — it’s all a genuine college experience.

The homecoming game is especially magnetic, at least for Pitt football fans who aren’t exactly fans of football. Homecoming is when alumni visit Pitt, so you get a chance to see how deep the Pitt community really goes. It has a similar energy to parents’ weekend, but it’s more celebratory — a game whose whole point is to give alumni and students a reason to be proud of their University. And it might be cheesy, but the feeling you get as everyone starts singing “Sweet Caroline”  — well, it’s just not something that you can easily replicate.

Again, I get it. Football games are long, and they can be exhausting. The stadium environment can get overwhelming, and if you’re new to Pitt or aren’t from Pittsburgh, it can be hard to find a tailgate to go to or a community of fans to join. But you won’t regret going to the games, especially the homecoming game. Being herded into the student section, joining cheers started by drunken strangers, trying to get on the Jumbotron — these are all things that every Pitt student should experience, even if it’s only once. And the homecoming game is a great opportunity to jumpstart your school spirit.

Maybe it’s because I’m sentimental about this being my last year at Pitt, but I really believe that the football games are one of the best ways to make lasting memories, and it makes me sad hearing people say they don’t like going to the games because they don’t like football, or because it’s “not for them.” Football games at Pitt have something for everyone.

So even if you have an exam on Monday and really need to study, or the last thing you want to do on a Saturday afternoon is sway along to a Neil Diamond song surrounded by thousands of strangers, you can’t deny that it’s tradition. And, if anything, you and your friends can have a good time laughing about how confusing football is — that’s what I do.


Juliana Morello writes about whatever’s on her mind. Follow her on Instagram @julianamorello or write to her at [email protected]