First Down: Six Rules for the Road to 7
Steelers Nation is loud and proud, yet because of the team's greatness, opposing fans often develop a strong hatred for supporters of the Black and Gold.
I've attended Pittsburgh Steelers games in 13 hostile cities (including Cleveland and Baltimore), and this year I plan to hit Chicago (first time), plus make return trips to Cincinnati, Denver and Miami. Along the way, I've managed to meet some really great people, and by following these six simple rules, I have managed to stay out of trouble.
1. Always travel in pairs. Going to a game with a buddy is a great way to explore a strange city with a fellow Steelers fan. Your partner in crime also can be your spotter on the road and can split the cost of a hotel. Plus, this person can provide you with added protection when surrounded by the enemy.
2. Get a ticket without giving up your firstborn. Ticket holders always circle the Steelers on their schedules because they know they can make top dollar when Steelers Nation invades town. Many people will buy tickets from licensed brokers such as Stub Hub, but you'll pay a premium price! Personally, I prefer eBay. The key is to find sellers that accept Paypal for your protection and have outstanding feedback ratings. Another option is to purchase from a scalper on the street. The goal is to find a licensed scalper near the stadium. The farther out, the higher the price you pay. Also, if you don't mind missing the opening kickoff, you can save a bundle and get great seats (often below face value) in the process.
3. Find a Steelers bar near you. Practically every NFL city has at least one Steelers bar where fans of the Black and Gold can partake in a cold beverage. These are great spots for you to meet local Steelers fans and to network with others from across the country. You also can use these places to locate tickets, to learn about the best food options in town and to ask about the "must-see" places and those you need to avoid.
4. If you drink, don't overdo it. You always have to remember you're in hostile territory. With that in mind, not only should you avoid becoming overly intoxicated, but you also should avoid getting into arguments with opposing fans who have been drinking. I've had drunk Cincinnati Bengals fans, of all people, come up to me after a game talking smack about how if we hadn't cheated, etc., they would have won the game. In fact, they pretty much blame us for every loss in their team's history. Instead of taking the bait, I just ignore them and walk away with the knowledge that we have six Lombardi Trophies in our case.
5. It's OK to wear your team colors if you know how. I had a friend - I'll use that term loosely since he is a Dallas Cowboys fan - come to a game in Pittsburgh afraid to wear his team's jersey. I told him the key to wearing your colors is to expect some friendly ribbing. You may even hear some not-so-kind comments. Just take it all in stride. And most important: Whatever happens during the game, don't go rubbing it in the face of the home team's fans. That doesn't mean you can't cheer for your team; you just don't want to be obnoxious about it, especially since you're going to be severely outnumbered.
6. Make friends with the enemy. A little flattery will go a long way in enemy territory. This has often helped me turn opposing fans into helpful allies. Start a friendly conversation with those around you. Compliment them on their city, even their team. This gives them the impression that you are not cocky and arrogant. Also, give the opposing team its props when it makes a good play. The home fans will eventually start treating you as a football fan and not just a hated Steelers fan.
The above listed road rules will help you survive a game in hostile territory, but there is one other golden rule. Before you go on a road trip, get the OK from your spouse, or you may find you're going to spend a lot more time away from home than you expected. GO STEELERS!
Mike Pearrow works in the FSN marketing department as promotions manager. Since 2001, he has been senior producer in the creative- services department at WLWT, the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati, where his work has been nominated for multiple Emmy awards. Before that, he was a promotions producer at WWCP (Fox) and WATM (ABC) in Johnstown and KFXK (Fox) in Longview, Texas. Pearrow is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan and has been a Steelers season-ticket holder since 1997. He also volunteers his time as a PIAA football official.