As you may have heard, someone at Pitt accidentally let a lab monkey with a “select agent” (could be afflictions as severe as Ebola) out, then fired a researcher for reporting it. Noted Pitt fan Spilly pointed out the similarities to this and the typical “Patient Zero” concept of many horror films. My mind immediately went to the 28 Days Later franchise, which begins when a monkey with the rage virus is let out and then ends up getting most of the British Isles killed in a zombie-like apocalyptic event.
Pittsburgh, while once a post-apocalyptic wasteland, has rebounded quite well from the post-industrial haze that once enveloped it. However, that comeback story never arrived for the Pittsburgh Panthers. This is their story:
28 Yinz Later.
Pat Narduzzi wakes up alone in a hospital. He’d been in a coma for what he discovers has been 28 days. Once outside in the streets, he sees destruction everywhere.
“Have the Steelers won the Super Bowl?” he wonders aloud.
The surrounding area appears largely empty. Though he eventually comes upon two people after wandering into a nearby church. They’re wearing Penguins gear and talking about Dave Wannsteadt.
“What do yinz think about him?” queries one of the Pittsburgh denizens.
“Yinz?” asks Narduzzi.
“Wait, what has happened to this place?”
“Those yinzers over there have some ketchup for you, Coach,” said the other native Pittsburgh resident.
Narduzzi thought to himself that something had gone terribly wrong. Why were they talking like that? He quickly fled from the church as the yinzers moved closer to further discuss the merits of ketchup as a condiment. Outside, he ran into two 20-somethings dressed in Pitt Panthers gear. As the yinzers opened bottles of ketchup behind them, the three survivors fled.
In their safe house, the other survivors, Pamela and Ben explained that 28 days ago an affected monkey had gotten lose at Pitt, but no one reported it. The monkey didn’t really do anything. Just sort of wandered around campus, looked for food, interacted with people...
But then suddenly people had Pirates shirts or Steelers jerseys on. They’d thirst for ketchup. They started referring to each other as “yinz.”
The virus spread quickly from there. In the 28 days Pat had been in a coma, nearly the entire city had become infected. Aside from consuming ketchup, the only other known methods of virus transmission was watching Pittsburgh sports.
They took shifts sleeping through the night, before attempting to find the borders of the city in the morning. Was Pittsburgh quarantined? Or was there a way out?
As they slunk through the frigid city the next morning, all appeared calm — until Ben slipped on some ice on the sidewalk. His face landed squarely on a discarded hot dog... with ketchup all over it.
“Can yinz help me up?” he said to Pamela and Pat.
They sprinted in the opposite direction, before running into a man with slicked-back hair.
“Is that you, Jamie?” Pat asked the man. “Are you infected?”
“Infected?” replied the man, Jamie Dixon. “Of course not. I’m not wearing yellow or black, am I? There are no other known symptoms of the virus.”
Pat was still skeptical of Jamie, however. Dixon had skipped town for Fort Worth a couple years earlier, so he might have missed the 28-day window of the virus. But then why was he here now?
Suddenly, they were interrupted —
“Yo... iiiiiiinz,” yelled a ketchup-covered Kevin Stallings. “Another symptom of the virus is missing the Final Four for over 70 consecutive years!”
By the time the sentence finished, his suit had turned into a Jaromir Jagr jersey tee.
“Pamela,” said Pat. “TCU’s never even been to the Final Four!”
When they looked back at Dixon, his suit too had changed — into a 90s throwback Barry Bonds jersey.
“Yinz don’t get it,” said Dixon. “The Pirates coulda won it all had Barry stayyyyyyed.”
Pat and Pamela sprinted to the only safe place left in the city, Heinz Field. Though it was named for ketchup, the field was immune to wins on Saturdays (and it was one that day), keeping Steelers and Penguins fans away. They made it through the gates and spotted a crowd of about 10,000 Pitt Panthers fans all watching the school’s football team warm up.
“Well I’m the coach,” said Pat. “Might as well get some work done while we wait for our untimely end.”
Facing the Syracuse Orange, Narduzzi found his team down 35-31 with one play remaining. Defeat seemed inevitable as his team took the field. Then Pamela shouted from the stands:
“Pat, the only other symptom of the virus is a near-inability to lose to Syracuse in football!”
Before he could turn around, the ball was in the air, careening toward the end zone and above the heads of unsuspecting Syracuse defensive backs. Pitt won, 37-35, much to Pat’s dismay.
As he surveyed the crowd following the score, everyone was suddenly wearing Steelers gear.
And when he looked down, he was too. With a ketchup-covered dog in each hand.
“Yinz been one of us the whole time,” the Penguins Stanley Cup t-shirt-clad Pamela exclaimed to him.
“Yinz right,” Pat replied. And he walked back to the locker room to shower in sauerkraut while Jamie Dixon regaled him with stories of second round NCAA Tournament losses.