I was at a Pirates game with my girlfriend and brother a couple of months ago. The Atlanta Braves were in town, and several thousand Braves faithful made the trip to PNC Park to see their team take on the Buccos. On several occasions throughout the contest, I would turn to my brother or girlfriend to say something and I would hear these loud cheers. Well, immediately, when you're in your hometeam's ballpark, and you hear a postive sound, you think something good just happened for your boys. Well, not every time, at least not on this day.
Beings that PNC Park was only filled to a 1/3 of its capacity on this particular Wednesday day game and about a 1/3 of the fans were from Atlanta, the Braves fans were quite vocal. They were cheering the entire day and starting their own chants. The Braves won in extra innings, and most of the Atlanta fans stayed behind to celebrate their team's victory by performing their famous "Tomahawk Chop". It was quite annoying.
Similar things happened when the Boston Red Sox came to town a couple of weeks ago. The Red Sox have a pretty huge fan base, and they follow their team every where. The Pirates took the first two games of the three game series but were trailing in the bottom of the 9th inning in game number three. I wasn't at the game but was listening to it on my car radio as I ran some errands. I couldn't give my full attention to the game, and at one point, I heard this loud cheer. Since the game was fairly close, I naturally got excited and thought my Pirates were making a comeback. Nope. The Red Sox had just won the game and their fans were cheering loudly.
You talk about some nerve.
These fans come into our place and do their little cheers. They help themselves to our food and leave the refrigerator door open. How dare they! Who do they think they are?
But after experiencing it from the other side, I now realize how frustrating it must be for opposing fans when Steeler Nation invades their towns and, in some cases, makes it a "homefield advantage" for the visitors.
Now I know why some ticket offices of opposing teams have blocked calls with "412" or "724" area codes in the weeks leading up to huge playoff games. Now I know why politicians have begged and pleaded with residents to not sell their tickets to Steelers fans. Now I know why the Terrible Towel isn't exactly as cherished and beloved in other cities as it is in the Steel City.
I can just imagine what opposing fans must think when they're in their own stadium and they see entire sections of Steelers fans waving their Terrible Towels in unison when Pittsburgh does something positive. It has to be frustrating.
If it's frustrating for fans, imagine how demoralizing it must be for their teams. Even the most emotionally unattached professional athlete has to feel at least a little dejected when he's in his team's stadium getting ready to play a "home game" and sees nearly half of the fans decked out in black and gold.
Remember that Steeler game in Dallas back in 2004? The number of Steelers fans who traveled to Texas Stadium for that game was mind-boggling. There must have been 30,000 Steelers fans in attendance. You talk about a shot to Jerry Jones' ego. I thought the Cowboys had a strong fan base. I thought a ticket to a Cowboys' game was tough to come by. This wasn't Jacksonville or Cincinnati. This was Cowboy Country. This was "America's Team". It was certainly a joy to watch on television.
Wasn't Jason Campbell forced to use a silent count in that Monday Night game back in 2008 when the Steelers traveled to Fedex Field to take on the Redskins? I thought I read or heard that somewhere. Maybe it's just an urban legend, but I do know that it certainly seemed like a home game for the Steelers even though they were wearing their road whites.
Now that I've experienced how annoying it is to see opposing fans come into my park and make themselves at home, I'm even more glad to be part of the Steelers' fan base. No fan base in professional sports makes themselves at home on the road like Steelers fans.
I've never been to a Steelers road game, but that's certainly one of my goals in the near future. It's comforting to know that when I do travel to see my team, I'll be joined by thousands of my closest friends.
Steeler Nation, I'm glad I'm on your side.