Since we’re in the middle of Thanksgiving weekend, I'd like to take you back to a time in August, mere months after the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League won their second-straight Stanley Cup.
Since the Penguins had indeed clinched their second-straight title, many began to wonder if Pittsburgh was transforming from a football city to a hockey town (or tahn, as they say around here—at least on t-shirts).
As a bona fide, diehard football/Steelers fan, I woke up on the morning of August 20, 2017, seriously wondering if football had permanently taken a backseat to hockey in the City of Pittsburgh.
But like every other Sunday since I began losing weight at the end of May, I had to prepare for my official weekly weigh-in, with the hopes that the number on the scale would drop a bit, so I could annoy people by posting a picture of it on Facebook.
And around 1:30 in the afternoon, I put on my gray running shoes, tied my florescent-orange laces and drove to the West End for my weekly pre-weigh-in walk that takes me through the North Shore, downtown Pittsburgh, and back.
I kind of forgot that the Steelers were a few hours from kicking off the home portion of their preseason schedule against the Falcons at 4 p.m., but—again—this was hours before kickoff, so no biggie, right?
Turned out, it was a very big deal. Thanks to West End Circle traffic, what normally would be a five-minute drive from my apartment in Crafton to the little side street where I park my car, took 15 minutes. And when I arrived at my spot, I could barely open my car door, thanks to bumper-to-bumper traffic.
This traffic stretched down this little side street, over to Main Street, and all the way through to the West End Circle (I'm glad PennDot fixed this bottle-neck problem........).
As I was walking from my car to the West End Bridge, I could feel all these eyes on me for some reason, and at one point, someone from some car sarcastically yelled, "Nice shoes!"
Hey, what do you want from me? I'm 45, and comfort is my main thing these days.
Anyway, as I crossed Carson Street towards the West End Bridge, someone made a right-hand turn off of Route 51 and right into the bumper-to-bumper traffic, which, of course, drew several loud honks (the driver was obviously going the wrong way—thanks for making the West End Circle "less" confusing, PennDot.....).
As I was walking over the bridge, the bumper-to-bumper traffic seemed never-ending, and I was like, "For a preseason game?"
After I got off the bridge, the adjacent parking lot was quickly filling up, and those already there were firing up the grill, I guess, because a Joshua Dobbs start under center can't be enjoyed unless you're eating some of Pittsburgh's finest meats.
Walking from the bridge and towards the Rivers Casino, I was kind of annoyed, thanks to all the black-and-gold-clad fans slowing my pace down.
Jeez, can't a guy get some fast-walking in on a Sunday afternoon?
When I got to the casino, I was astonished to see that, in order to park there for the game, one would have to pay $60 (for that money, I would have insisted that Landry Jones start over Dobbs).
As I made my way towards Heinz Field, I was stopped every five feet by vendors peddling everything from bottled water to Steelers shirts. I was annoyed by this, because this was seriously messing with my biorhythms, and if I didn't get my heart-rate up to a certain point, I may not have been able to go on Facebook later that night and post an annoying pic of my scale.
I mean, seriously, can't a guy just get some fast-walking in over by Heinz Field right before a Steelers game without all the fuss?
At that point, I just wanted to make it to the North Shore because, once there, I would be able to hit my true walking stride in peace.
Not really, I mean, not unless "peace" meant countless Steelers boat parties, complete with grills and a bunch of smoke that I'm sure messed up my biorhythms even more.
It also didn't help that the North Shore was lined with Steelers fans who made my journey to the Clemente Bridge take much longer than it should have—and don't even get me started on the foot-traffic that existed on the Clemente Bridge.
Why can't a 45-year-old guy get some Clemente Bridge fast-walking in right before a Steelers game?
Anyway, I eventually completed my six-mile walk, but not before spotting a woman wearing a Pittsburgh Dad "3-2-1, win!" t-shirt, and some kid fishing while donning a Le'Veon Bell home jersey.
By the time I made it to my car, around 3:45 p.m., the bumper-to-bumper traffic was as strong as ever, and, consequently, I had to sit in my parking spot for 10 minutes until someone was gracious enough to let me pull out.
I made it home shortly after kickoff, but right as I sat down to take in a relaxing preseason game, I remembered that Bryan Anthony Davis had asked me to do a post-game podcast with him later that night. This meant keeping an eye on every fourth-string player in the game, just in case a caller much more knowledgeable than me asked about one of them during the show.
Anyway, the show went off without a hitch, but as I laid my head on my pillow and fell off to sleep that night, I was still wondering if Pittsburgh really had become a hockey town.