Since Gretz is a season-ticket holder, he’s going to take a look at the debauchery and insanity that takes place in the Heinz Field stands after every home game he attends.
For the first time in my life I left a professional sporting event without knowing which team actually won the game.
I will suck it up and watch two teams scrimmage each other for four quarters because the NFL makes us, as season ticket holders, pay full price for these terrible displays of sport that they laughingly call professional football. And because these tickets are nearly impossible to sell or give away. I will do this two times a year. Eight quarters is what I will accept.
I draw the line at overtime. There is no way — NO. WAY. — that I am going to sit and watch Chase Daniel and Bruce Gradkowski and the rest of the Steelers and Chiefs fourth and fifth stringers play bloody overtime in a preseason game. Even I have my breaking point, and Andy Reid helped me reach it on Saturday night when he kicked a field goal with a minute remaining to force overtime in a preseason game.
Who does this? And why do they do it?
Andy Reid does it, and I have no idea why he does it.
When the game was still tied at 10 in the second half my Dad made the comment that “somebody has to score here so this game doesn’t go to overtime.” I confidently told him these coaches aren’t idiots, and that both will do whatever they can to avoid playing the most meaningless quarter of football in the history of professional football. I was wrong, and it was agreed that we would leave as soon as regulation ended.
Before it came to that a lot of other stuff happened not necessarily related to the game itself. For example, we had an extended discussion about cheerleaders and how the Steelers seem to be taking steps to prepare fans for the inevitable day in the not-too-distant future that half-naked women start parading around the Heinz Field sidelines. All of the things the Steelers used to shun with the in-game experience are starting to make their way into the stadium (and yes, I am aware that at one time, way back in the day, the Pittsburgh Steelers did in fact have cheerleaders).
Ten years ago the focus was all on the game taking place on the field and there was very little done to distract from the action, even in the empty space between plays and commercial breaks. That is all changing.
It started a few years ago with the introduction of Steely McBeam, the Bill Cowher-looking steel worker mascot that loiters around the stadium with a giant fake steel beam in his hands. For what it’s worth, I’ve only ever seen him physically in the stadium one time. The year he was introduced he ran out with the team during the first preseason game and was loudly — and I mean LOUDLY — booed. Ever since then the only time is he ever visible on game day is outside the stadium taking photos with people on the sidewalks. I would like to get my picture taken with him, but only under one condition: I get to hold the steel beam.
Over the years there have been more scoreboard graphics and pump-up videos (Renegade) added to the mix. On Saturday, they added (and this was new from even the first preseason game this season) a Steel Mill Steam Whistle that they blew when the Steelers took the field, which was accompanied by a smoke-filled entrance by the team.
Then there is the SteelLine, the new drum line that sits in the lower corner of the South End Zone and plays throughout the game.
I think that’s how the natural progression in sports entertainment goes: Mascot > Band > Cheerleaders
The day is coming, Steelers fans. So brace yourselves for it. Dan Rooney once said that as long as he was around there would never be cheerleaders in Pittsburgh, but it doesn’t seem to be a matter of it happens, but simply a matter of when it happens. We then spent 10 minutes trying to come up with a name for them.
As long as we’re on the subject of in-game entertainment, can we please do something about the way Heinz Field handles replay reviews? I’ve made this complaint before, but they love to brag about how they show the exact same video the referee is looking at under the hood. In theory, this is a great idea, especially since they have that huge ass video board that spans the entire length of the end zone. But then they go and do this.
See that little box that is given less than half of the screen? That’s what they’re showing the replay on. The rest of the video board is dedicated to fans screaming at the camera, random shots of players sitting on the bench, or as the picture above shows, the referee standing under the hood watching the replay that we’re supposed to watching on the scoreboard. We were trying to figure out if the opening kick off was fumbled and we were given less than half of the screen to see a replay. But thank the good lord we were able to get that shot of the referee watching the video. Why even bother? The picture of the referee watching TV is bigger than the picture of the actual replay. Who is in charge of decisions like this? The NFL is always talking about ways to enhance the stadium experience to convince people to keep buying tickets instead of sitting on their warm couches, and this is one of the things they try to hype it. And they give us that.
Following the first preseason game I spent a little time on the NFL’s new bag policy, and for as weird and unnecessary as it seems to be, things seem to be going rather smoothly in terms of people following it. The only exception that I noticed on Saturday was an incident that took place about a mile from the stadium (on the opposite side of the Allegheny river, actually). We always park in town and walk across the Clemente Bridge to get to the stadium. It’s cheaper ($5 parking in town at any of the city garages), easier to get out of, and frankly, it’s a nice walk. As we were approaching the bridge there was a woman carrying a rather large purse that was a clear violation of the new league policy. At this point she was stopped by some woman who may or may not have been employed by the Steelers/Heinz Field who proceeded to lecture her on the size of her purse.
“Are you going to the game?” the woman loudly asked, so every person within ear shot would be inclined to look. “Because you’re never going to get that purse in the stadium. In fact, THAT IS EXHIBIT A OF WHAT YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO, RIGHT THERE.” (Emphasis hers, not mine).
Let that be a lesson to you: Don’t try to take an oversized bag into the stadium because there is a very real chance some random person will rub your nose in the fact you are not allowed to enter the stadium with it in front of a large group of strangers.
Frankly, it seemed like that situation probably could have been handled better.
But that wasn’t the only bizarre interaction we witnessed on our short walk to the stadium. I always wondered what the exchange between ticket buyer and ticket scalper was like, and thanks to an extended stay at a crosswalk we were able to get a listen as a fan tried to upgrade his seats for the game. The exchange, as best I understood it, went like this:
The buyer already had seats to the game but was looking for something better, so he was trying to work out a trade with the scalper: His seats, plus $50 for a pair of club seats.
The scalper asked for $60, and was apparently set on this price and wasn’t up for negotiation, citing the fact that they were “$300 tickets.” After about three minutes of back-and-forth the buyer finally agreed to up his offer to $55. The scalper, now laughing out loud, was openly mocking him for allowing $5 to get in the way of a $300 ticket. Eventually the prospective buyer gave up, asked his tickets back, and moved on.
Once we entered the stadium it was everything you expect from a preseason game in terms of atmosphere. There was none. The only highlight was the guy two rows in front of us that stood up late in the second quarter, just after the Chiefs scored their touchdown, and screamed that the season was over, he had seen enough, and that it was never going to change as long as William Gay was on the field. There is taking preseason football too seriously, and then there is that sort of reaction. He wasn’t kidding, either. He was legitimately angry and forced his lady friend to leave with him (she didn’t seem all that interested in leaving). William Gay pushed that guy over the edge in the third preseason game. Highlight of the night.