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‘Sweet Caroline’ at Pitt football games on the move | TribLIVE.com
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‘Sweet Caroline’ at Pitt football games on the move

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Pitt fans celebrate a fourth-quarter touchdown against Penn State on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Heinz Field.

The “Sweet Caroline” sing-along at the end of third quarter of Pitt home games is on the move.

Not gone for good, mind you, but it won’t necessarily be played between the third and fourth quarters.

Pitt officials have decided to play the iconic Neil Diamond song at strategic points in the game to inspire the crowd. No play schedule was announced, but perhaps later in the fourth quarter to guard against fans not leaving early.

“The song has traditionally inspired a stadium-wide sing-along that brings fans out of their seats and closer together,” Pitt announced in the fifth paragraph of a news release about new initiatives planned at Heinz Field this season.

“After taking into account feedback from the Pitt Athletics Fan Committee, The Panther Pitt (fan club), coaches and players, the song will now be played at different points in the game, targeting specific moments in an effort capitalize on its unifying effect and preserve the tradition of playing it at Heinz Field.”

The popular song, first recorded by Diamond in 1969 (long before most Pitt undergrads were born), has been played at Pitt games since 2008, according to the Pitt News. It is one of the highlights of a football Saturday at Heinz Field, and fans often lock arms and sway back and forth to the melody. When Diamond intones, “Ba-ba-ba,” fans shout over him, “Let’s go, Pitt.”

Too often, however, fans waited until the end of the song and then left as the fourth quarter was beginning, depending on their interest level in the game.

Little known “Sweet Caroline” fact: It was long considered a tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline. But in 2014, Diamond revealed that is only partially true. It started out as a tribute to his wife Marsha, he said, but he couldn’t find a rhyme for Marsha and he needed a three-syllable name. Thus, “Sweet Caroline” was born.

The song actually grew in popularity in the late 1990s when the Boston Red Sox played it in the middle of the eighth inning. Since then, several other teams have adopted it, including the Carolina Panthers (Carolina, get it?) and Johnstown Chiefs minor-league hockey team. It also has been heard at Beaver Stadium, though not with the same popularity it has received at Heinz Field.

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Among other changes at Pitt home games this season, announced by athletic director Heather Lyke:

• There will be new Pitt banners and branding throughout the stadium, plus a new 5,000-square foot scoreboard with full HD technology. It’s 45 percent larger than the previous scoreboard.

• Among the new in-game video features will be Pitt Hall of Fame moments and a segment on Pitt Football Moms.

• There will be new food choices in the concession areas, including a steak and egg bagel, deli stack, signature nachos with ancho rubbed smoked brisket and a Boski kielbasa. The club level has added a shrimp po boy, country dog and the Pittsburgh cheesesteak burger.

• The Pittsburgh Pierogi House is moving into section 119 with traditional, Mexican Streets and Bloomfield pierogi options.

• Pitt also has partnered with Tailgate Guys that will offer fans what is being billed as a “hassle-free” tailgating experience on the Great Lawn at Heinz Field.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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