PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 23: "Steeler Nation" tailgates outside the stadium prior to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets playing in the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
A good friend of mine hosts a really rockin' party at his home twice a year, and dozens of people show up to have a great time and mingle. Beings that I'm a newly single man, I was really looking forward to doing some mingling of my own and just having some fun. Unfortunately, instead of any of that, I had one too many rum and (whatever cola drink may sponsor this site), and I barely remembered anything about the night, except feeling kind of sick. The fact that I let too much alcohol consumption stand in the way of me having a really great time brought back memories of the time too much tailgating made me "miss" a perfectly fine Steelers' victory at Heinz Field. Join me as I sort of re-live that day.
That was rather unfortunate. However, for someone like me, who doesn't get to go to very many Steelers games, it proved to be somewhat beneficial as I was offered a ticket to the team's week 13 game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field on December 3rd, 2006.
As I said, I don't normally get to go to many games, but when I do, they usually seem to be during a down year for the team. For example, my first Steelers game that I attended was during the team's infamous 5-11 campaign in 1988.
However, beggars can't be choosers, and I will always pounce on the chance to see my beloved Black & Gold in person.
December 2nd, 2006, was just like any other Saturday night for me. I was watching television while doing my laundry, when out of the blue, my uncle Eugene called me up and told me that a buddy of his had a couple of extra tickets to the Steelers game the next day, and he wanted to know if I would be interested in going. I said, "sure, but how much for the ticket?" My uncle said, "don't worry about it. My buddy said the tickets are on him if we just buy the beer and food."
I thought that would be a pretty awesome idea. I asked my uncle what time we'd be leaving, and he said, "well, the game starts at 4:15, so I figure if we leave around 10 and hit the beer store and the supermarket, we should get to Heinz Field at around noon." That's when it occurred to me that when my uncle said "beer and food," he wasn't talking about the very expensive stuff you buy at the stadium during the game. He was talking about the stuff you buy for tailgating.
I had never tailgated before. In fact, I've never really had much use for it. Call me a party-pooper, but I'm one of those people that just wants to go and watch the game. Now, if you're talking luxury boxes and all the food and beer that your heart desires, I'm all in. But when it comes to sitting in a cold parking lot, and drinking and eating for three or four hours before the game, I fold.
If I was a rich man, I would hire a helicopter to take me straight to Heinz Field each Sunday and have someone lower me to my seat right before kick-off. I would then call the helicopter to come meet me at my seat right after the game and take me straight home.
However, I am not a rich man, so I decided to make the sacrifice of dealing with the cold and the many hours of sitting in the parking lot before the game--a free ticket is a free ticket. Besides, the last Steelers game that I attended prior to the Tampa game was in week 2 of the 2002 season, when the Oakland Raiders came to town, and their quarterback, Rich Gannon, put on a passing showcase up and down Heinz Field in a 27-17 Steelers loss.
I needed a new Steelers game to wash that memory away.
We arrived at Heinz field around 12pm as planned and started to get our little neck of the woods set up by pulling out chairs, a table, some food, and some beer. It was your typical tailgating abode.
Since there was still PLENTY of time before the game started, and since I'm not opposed to drinking beer, I started having a good time and just enjoying the day. My tailgating buddies and I started walking around the parking lot and interacting with other Steelers fans. And since most Steelers fans are pretty cool, people were offering us food from their grills.
"Here you go, dude. Have a steak."
"Have some chicken."
"Take this hamburger."
Pretty awesome, but since my hands were cold, and since I had a few beers by then, I kept dropping food on my Steelers hoodie and got ketchup and bbq sauce all over it.
In the middle of one of my meals, this guy approached me and started talking to me about donating to some cause. I pulled out some money and helped him out. As a thank you, he gave me Steelers beads, and this made me happy.
My buddy Keith noticed the beads around my neck and said, "where'd you get those?" I said, "I donated $5 to some guy's charity, and he gave me these beads for free." Keith then said, "no, you gave that guy $5, and he gave you those beads. They weren't free."
Off in the distance, we noticed some girls had set up a beer pong table, and we ventured over to see if we could join in. I've always fancied myself a pretty decent beer pong player, but since I had three for four beers by the time I started playing, naturally, my aim was very bad. This led to more beer being consumed.
The one girl was quite tall, and since I like to tease women sometimes, I kept commenting on her height. After a few comments, her friend came over to me and whispered, "my friend is pretty sensitive about her height, so please cool it with the jokes."
Women. If they're tall, they're sensitive about it. If they're short, they're sensitive about it. If they're the perfect height, they're sensitive about something else. You just can't win.
After a few games of beer pong, we found ourselves in another group filled with female Steelers fans. I was looking for a girlfriend then, so I thought it would be a good time to turn on the charm. Unfortunately, they were more interested in my married uncle (handsome SOB). One girl in particular kept talking to him, and even though I wasn't really into her, the fact that she was ignoring me--and the fact that I am a man--made me try to talk to her even more.
After an hour of this, I discovered that a bathroom break was in order, so I headed over to the port a john.
Standing in line to go to the bathroom was the last thing I remembered for quite some time.
I don't remember going into Heinz Field; I don't remember taking my seat; I don't remember a single play.
However, I do remember using the men's room at halftime and going back to the wrong seat. And when I say the wrong seat, I mean, I was in an entirely different section of the stadium. How did I get there? I don't know, but the person whose seat I was sitting in kindly ushered me out of it.
The next thing I remember after that was sitting in the back of the truck we arrived in and wanting to go home more than anything in the world. Unfortunately, my uncle, his buddies, and the group we were talking to earlier in the day were still going strong and tailgating after the game.
You remember that girl that I was trying to talk to even though I wasn't even interested in her? She was still part of this group, and at one point in my drunken state, I looked up to see her mooning someone. Maybe it was me. Anyway, it wasn't a pretty sight, but it was a fitting end to the day.
As for a recap of the game itself, I'm sure I could research that for you and give you a very detailed analysis, but since I don't remember a thing, I figured it would be more appropriate to provide a link instead.
That way, if you wanted the experience of viewing the game through my eyes--meaning not at all--you could have that option, too.
If you want a short summary: Bruce Gradkowski, a local boy, made his first of many guest appearances as opposing quarterback at Heinz Field; I believe Heath Miller did some awesome stuff; and the Steelers won, 20-3.
It's been six years since that infamous day, and I still kick myself for missing a perfectly good Steelers victory.
Oh well, at least I got some action from a female Steelers fan. That is, if you call getting mooned "action."