Last weekend Adam and I went to Pittsburgh with tickets in hand for two live sporting events. (As you all know, I am from Chicago but Adam is from Pittsburgh. Therefore, through Adam's influence I am a big fan of all the Pittsburgh sports teams in addition to my hometown Chicago teams.)
On the agenda for the weekend:
The Pittsburgh Penguins vs the Vancouver Canucks at the Consol Energy Center
The Pittsburgh Steelers vs the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field
Before we talk further about either game, let's address the pink elephant in the room. Or rather, let's address the giant yellow rubber ducky in the river. We finally got to see it in person!
NOTE: It's more intimidating than you might realize to see a 40-foot tall duck on the horizon with eyes that are bigger than your head. The duck doesn't even blink when you stare at it.
Now, moving on to the Pens game. Here are some pictures (all but the upper right picture were taken during the pregame warm-ups):
- It's always fun to visit the Consol Energy Center. It is a shiny, sparklingly new, and modern arena. I've been there four or five times and each time I've discovered fun new features and exhibits. Touchscreen Stanley Cup display? Check. Interactive Nintendo Wii games for the kids? Check. Giant goalie mask the size of my bathroom? Check.
- There is a surprisingly nice selection of food at the Consol. In addition to the usual suspects for food vendors like beer, hot dogs, and Primanti Brothers sandwiches (this is Pittsburgh, after all), they even had such gourmet offerings as sushi. Love it!
- The game started at 1:00 PM. I find that the crowd is usually not as fired up for the weekend matinee games, presumably because there tend to be a lot more kids in the audience. This was too bad, because...
- The Vancouver Canucks are one of the Blackhawks' most hated rivals. Therefore, I wanted the Pens to win this game both for their own glory, as well as on behalf of Blackhawks fans the world over.
- Unfortunately even the Pens and the Canucks did not seem very fired up for the game. It's definitely early in the NHL season.
- We had good seats in the lower level. Despite the lack of game intensity, I still relished getting to observe the speed and skill of the game and the players up close and personal. After seeing these guys on TV so much, sometimes I almost forget that they are real people.
Next, the Steelers game. Some pictures:
|Upper left: me on the Gateway Clipper enroute to the stadium|
Lower left: Crowds lining up to enter the stadium
Upper right: Action shot during the game
Lower right: The scoreboard and the upper-deck pedway with some of the standing-room-only fans
|The view from our seats|
I really just have one giant comment to make. Since we are talking about hated rivals, the Steelers and Ravens have one of the most, if not THE most vicious rivalry I've ever seen. Let me take a step back to share some personal context:
A few years ago Adam and I went to a Steelers-Ravens game in Baltimore. Heaven knows that neither Adam nor I were doing anything to draw attention to ourselves other than wearing Steelers attire. However, Ravens fans were kicking the back of my seat, elbowing me, screaming profanities in my face, throwing beer bottles and various other objects at us. It was literally to the point where I was fearing for my physical safety.
I understand that visiting fans are subjecting themselves to some ribbing by the home fans. But when that ribbing crosses the line to the point where someone may sustain physical injury as the result, it has gone too far. Visiting M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore was by far the most scarring experience I've ever had as a sportsfan. I have definitely been to hostile sportsfan territory before. However, after what I experienced in Baltimore, all other places have pretty much rolled out the red carpet for visiting fans by comparison.
As a result of this experience, I was watching visiting Ravens fans carefully during the game to see how they were being treated by the home crowd in Pittsburgh. The verdict? For the most part, everyone left the Ravens fans alone. No special treatment, barely any acknowledgement, certainly no verbal or physical abuse. How's that for comparison?
Stay classy, Ravens fans.
OK, enough about that. Let's lighten things back up here.
- Before going to the game, Adam and I went for brunch at the Grand Concourse with his mom and stepdad. For those of you not familiar, it is a restaurant located in the restored Pittsburgh/Lake Erie railroad station, overlooking the riverfront. I happen to love the romance of historical railroads and stations, so this was a treat. Here's a picture:
- Given the elegance of the Grand Concourse, I was reluctant to go to Sunday brunch in sportsfan attire. Adam told me that it wouldn't be an issue. But I went ahead and wore something else anyways, bringing along my Steelers jersey to put on afterwards. Imagine my surprise when we got to the restaurant and saw that 90% of the people there were already wearing Steelers jerseys. Adam grinned and said, "In Pittsburgh, Steelers gear IS Sunday brunch attire!"
- There are insane security restrictions on what fans are allowed to bring into the stadium. With minimal exceptions, women aren't even allowed to bring in purses, for example. (To make up for this, I brought a jacket that has about fifteen different pockets and I stuffed belongings into every single one.) Therefore, I was really surprised to find out that fans are allowed to bring outside food and drink into the stadium as long as the food is in a clear plastic bag and the drink bottles still have their original factory seal.
- This has become one of my new favorite songs/videos (they play the music on the scoreboard with varying team highlights during every game at Heinz Field):
- The weather ended up being perfect for an outdoor NFL game in mid-October. I put on a hat and gloves midway through the second quarter, but didn't even feel the need to put on my jacket until late in the fourth quarter.
- The game was a nail-biter. Towards the end as the clock was ticking down, I could feel my heart pounding in my throat.
- With the exception of the atmosphere, I actually like watching football on TV better than in person because you can see the field from much better angles on TV. Unfortunately, during the final play of the game (a field goal attempt), I couldn't tell from where we were sitting if the field goal was good or not. I had to wait a few agonizing moments to hear the crowd's reaction in order to find out.
The final result? Steelers win!
|Adam and me post-game|
I realize this entire post has had pretty much nothing to do with running. So here you go:
I squeezed in a 30-minute run on Saturday morning before going to the Penguins game. WOW, are those local hills tough. (If you look in the dictionary under the term "Midwestern Flatlander" you will see my picture.) I tried shifting into "low-gear" (i.e. running with shorter strides) on those hills, but my glutes were still screaming bloody murder.
I know that some runners from Pittsburgh complain about how Chicago's flatness is so boring. But I've come to realize that I actually like boring. Boring is good!!!