Besides the noise tremors brought on by the full enclosure of Three Rivers Stadium, the other benefit sacrificed in the transition to Heinz was the ability to heckle our opponents (not their fans, their players) as they arrived on Game Day.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Heinz. I like the view of the Pittsburgh Skyline. But….if a view of the skyline is so damn important….go stand outside!!
On to the heckling. At TRS, the busses came into the North Side in full view, and came to a stop on the street underneath Gate A. The players disembarked not onto the sidewalk, but onto the street, and any assembled masses were kept on the opposite sidewalk, all of about 6 feet away from the players. Of course, this was a heckler’s paradise. Three games stand out from my personal Heckler’s Remembrances:
1. Nov. 9, 1997: Steelers v. Baltimore Ravens, Sunday nighter. My then 13 year old nephew and I are on the sidewalk. Who gets off the Ravens bus, but Vinny T. Being a Penn State fan, I’m conversant with Vinnie’s blaming his slow professional start on his being haunted by the ’87 Fiesta Bowl where Vinny threw 5 picks into the hands of the Nittany Lions (and where said Nits kicked Michael Irvin’s ass ALL night long). Simple mantra I employed that night, “Hey Vinnie, Fiesta Bowl, Vinnie…hey Vinnie, Fiesta Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Fiesta Bowl!” That was it. Let the record show that on every one of the Ravens first three possessions, Vinnie T. threw interceptions. He was then pulled from the game. Steelers won, 37-0. I’ll take credit for that one, thank you.
2. January 3, 1998: Steelers vs. New England Patriots, Divisional Playoff: My nephew and I are at our posts. Myrna Kraft is standing nearby, waiting for Jonathan. She enters the stadium. First bus pulls up. A handful of players disembark. Drew Bledsoe had just been in the news for a crowd surfing episode at a Boston nightclub where a young woman was injured. “Where’s that faggot, Bledsoe,” I call out. “This isn’t the (name of club, which escapes me). These are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bledsoe…gonna kick your ass today. Where’s that faggot, Bledsoe.” The laughter behind me escalates, louder & louder. It occurs to me…..my people love my heckling. It’s intoxicating. I continue. “Where’s that faggot, Bledsoe.” All of the players are now within the stadium. I cross the street. I approach a security guy that’s clearly in charge. I ask him when the next bus is coming in. “I don’t know,” he says. I look at him quizzically, “You don’ t KNOW,” I respond. A few minutes later, same security guy crosses the street, approaches me. “Hey,” he says, “you’re the one that was bustin’ their balls, right?” I say, “Yeah, it was me.” He says, “Next bus’ll be here in 20 minutes; you keep on bustin’ their balls.” THANK YOU, my Steeler brother….and so I did. Steelers win, 7-6.
3. December 6, 1998: Steelers vs. New England Patriots. Heckling admittedly backfired on me this day. I travel to Pittsburgh with my two brothers-in-law, both Pats fans, two of my employees, both Pats fans, one of whom’s wife only permitted him to make the trip ‘cause he was going with me…figured I’d be safe & reasonable…HAHAHAHAHA. My nephew was along, as well as my friend Freado and his son. After burning a Drew Bledsoe jersey in the parking lot, we proceed to our heckling spot. Please note that this was in the midst of the Kordell/gay/Schenley Oval rumors. Please note additionally, that Terry Glenn had been referred to as “she” by former coach Bill Parcells, the Tuna talking ofo Glenn wearing high heels.Off the Pats bus comes Chad Eaton, Ted Johnston, Willie McGinest….and….big ‘ol Zeafross Moss. “Where’s Terry Glenn and his high heels,” I shouted, “Hey…Kordell’s going to run all over you wimp-asses today.” Chad Eaton scowled. Ted Johnson laughed. Zeafross Moss in a departure from the dead silence always garnered by my heckling (no one had EVER said anything back), turns to me says loudly, “Kordell sucks dick.” True story….swear to God. I was speechless. Couldn’t respond. Later on, thought about my “should saids.” Shoulda said….”So’s ya momma.” I pictured it….Moss chases me, beats on me, suffers a groin pull in the process. I contribute to a Steelers victory. But alas!! I was speechless. Said nothing. The game? Terry Glenn catches an 87 yard TD from Bledsoe. Chad Eaton plays like a man possessed. Ted Johnson? Tears a bicep muscle, tackling Jerome Bettis. Kordell? Has beer poured on him leaving the field. Steelers lose, 23-9, the second of 5 straight losses to close the ’98 campaign.
Heckling days seems to be over at most stadiums in this regard. Busses pull safely within the stadium compound, no direct access. Now, one must be satisfied with heckling the opposition fandom…..in person….and…in cyber-space.