Like many Steeler fans, I have traveled with the Steelers for many years. I have donned my Steelers black and gold and regularly traveled into enemy territory. In 2002 the Crew traveled to New Orleans where Aaron Brooks and the Saints outgunned Tommy Gunn and the Steelers 32-29. While the loss was disappointing, a great time was had by all. We all dreamed of the day we would return to the great city of New Orleans with their great and friendly fans and their great and friendly city.
What a difference a decade makes. It is true much has happened to the city of New Orleans and the Saints fans in the last 8 years. Katrina wiped out the city. (I have to admit I had tears in my eyes watching the horror unfold on TV) All of our tax dollars went to rebuild the city and get them on their feet again. The people of New Orleans begged us for help and begged us to come to their fair city, spend our money and revitalize this once grand and proud polace. We did. Money flowed in from the United States coffers. Money flowed in from charitable donations of which I participated.
When Drew Brees and Sean Payon arrived Saint fans were able to remove their brown bags from their heads, peek out from the puddles of water that remained and surge to their first Super Bowl title to the joy and delight of everyone in the country sans Indianapolis. The flood was over. The city was revitalized. The Aint's were the Saints.
This weekend 50 and the crew returned to the French Quarter to spend money, drink drinks, eat crawfish and shrimp, watch the Steelers and oggle at scantily clad young girls out celebrating All Hallow's Eve looking to show us a little something extra for some beads. But something had changed. The Saint fan is no longer a humble and friendly football fan. The Saint fan is now an ugly ferocious thug with no manners or morals. One thing is the same. The New Orleans security will abandon their principals and the people they are paid to protect in an instant.
I have been in the Los Angeles Coliseum to see the Steelers play the Raiders. That was a frightening experience. A Steeler fan was robbed of a kidney in a bathroom mugging for wearing Steeler garb. At least in Los Angeles, the LAPD helped the victim and looked for the perps. I have been to Anaheim, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Carolina and even Oakland. At all venues I wore my Steeler gear and cheered my team. While some fans would get a little unruly and perturbed, nothing has ever happened as most fans while rabid about their team are decent human beings.
I have never seen anything like the riff raff in section 606 at the Super Dome. This includes the security staff manning that section. The row behind me was filled with drunken unruly and rude young men. These young men would not stop taunting, screaming, pawing and drinking. While I have no problem with the kicking of the back of seats, the cussing at Steeler fans and the pawing of our bodies by strangers from behind, this was unprecedented....even by Oakland Black Hole standards. I had seen enough when several of the these manly Saints fans (with all of 1 Championship) began harassing a row of girls behind them. The girls asked, begged and pleaded with these drunken animals to turn around and watch the game. "Keep your hands off me!" one young Columbus OH Steeler fan screamed at these miscreants more than once. Finally after the Mendenhall run the girls stood, cheered and waved their terrible towels. One of the towels must have touched a pawing maniac who turned around and slugged a girl in the head. Now with all 5 girls in tears and the one who was assaulted clearly crying I had enough.
The Saint PA had announced any unruly behavior in the stands would be dealt with by security. At that point I left my seat and found the section 606 security guard at the bottom of the section watching his Saints. I asked that he remove the one unruly fan who had hit a girl. He went up to row 20 and removed the thug to cheers. As I returned to my seat I was met with a barrage of Saint fans calling me names. "Snitch!" screamed one rabid criminal at me. "We don't rat out people to the cops here!" No Saint criminal. You only punch and pummel women. I can imagine what your neighborhood looks like if I'm a snitch. About 4 minutes later the removed fan was back behind me with all his friends creating havoc. The pawing was more aggressive. We were being hit with things. We were being intimnidated with threats of "we're going to follow you back to your hotel" and "You better leave early." After enduring several minutes of this me and the crew (as well as the girls) decided it was time to leave. On the way out I found the security guard and asked how he could let that drunken criminal back into the section. "He said it was your fault." said the cop with glazed doughnut breath. Without ever investigating, giving a breathalizer or questioning anyone in the section this brain surgeon came to that conclusion. After informing him that we now had to leave early because of all the threats the caring cop stated "They won't do anything, get out of my face." I realized I was blocking his view of the game so I and the crew left 5 minutes early.
In all my years of watching Steeler games on the road I have never seen a bunch of fans change because of one title. But, I do understand how all of the cops abandoned all of the citizenry of New Orleans during Katrina if they were trained by the same teachers as the security in section 606. I will never regret the charitable donations I made to the people of New Orleans and all of the tax payer dollars that went to rebuilding that great and historic place. Too bad the Saint fans did. Low class. The Big Sleazy.