Shaken and Admonished in Pittsburgh, Pt. 1

In Part One of an exclusive travelogue, Seahawks.NET's Ryan Davis brings a few of the NET Nation to Pittsburgh to witness the co-stars in Seattle's Super Bowl drama on their home turf. The "rematch" was a tepid non-starter for the Seahawks, but Ryan found more than enough experiences to make the trip worthwhile.

“In Seattle football’s a trend. In Kansas City it’s a passion. In Pittsburgh – it’s their identity” - Ancient Klingon Proverb

If you’re reading this, you’re either a diehard Seahawks fan and/or an immediate relative. So, I won't bother detailing why the inclusion of the Pittsburgh Steelers on the Seattle Seahawks’ 2007 schedule elicited unadulterated, maniacal outbursts from yours truly.

Truth is, the news spun me into such a spell, only a slap and a firm “you can start by ACTING LIKE A MAN!” from an obese and deceased genius, coaxed me to usefulness today. While in that very instant, The Don’s slap was speaking to my obsessive overreaction to a football game, it soon resonated as a metaphor for something greater.

Now being a married, parent of an instant 11 year-old girl, it was time for me to take Mr. Corleone’s advice to heart. It was time to let go and move on with most things irresponsible in my life. Let go of the burden of angry thoughts and grudges. Scrape away the unmovable ideals I pressed upon others. Leave behind the days of drunken and drugged rowdiness…for drunken and rowdiness’s sake. And, finally, let go of the unchangeable memories clogging and morphing my very existence. One of which, is, of course, Super Bowl XL.

Coincidently, at the time of the schedule release and aforementioned vision, the Jerramy Stevens era was coming to a close here in Seattle. The man, whose jersey had donned my squatty frame for over five years, was no longer welcome in Seahawks land.

It was time to let go of the jersey, also. A jersey I had used as comedic crutch, due to the custom and inappropriate phrase blazoning its stern side.

But, like all things I do, the “burial” of said jersey had to be both over and “melo” dramatic. It wasn’t befitting of a jersey that had seen so many ups and downs, to be relegated to the closet, like some Ralph Lauren shirt you keep…just because of the brand. Nothing I came up with, however, seemed to quite capture the desired symbolism.

It wasn’t until August that I made the obvious and quintessential leap, connecting my need to heal wounds left by SBXL and the ridiculous retirement of my self-important jersey. The jersey was going to find a final resting place, in Pittsburgh, the home of the Steelers. A Steelers team that, one could argue, took a major role in beginning Stevens’ spiral into becoming a part-time NFL player.

I was going to Pittsburgh, to witness the sure thrashing my beloved Hawks would unleash onto the hapless Steelers. The victory would help heal the wound left gaping by SBXL. Pittsburgh as the final resting spot for my jersey seemed both comedic and poetic. In other words, perfect.

As I do all things grand in the scope of Seahawks fandom, I shared the thoughts on, the only message board community I’ve ever participated in. I did it for the reason I do most things, to garner attention and reaction, but I also did it for a reason more earnest. Knowing that the community is filled with diehards, just like me, I wanted to allow the trip to be for more than just myself. I wanted to offer others a chance to vicariously quell the bitter memories we had in common…SBXL. I posted a thread requesting ideas and participants for my make-believe pilgrimage.

In the beginning, the ideas were dominated by wild, hair-brained monkeyshines that would’ve surely landed all parties in jail. And, as all things of that nature do, it inspired many parties volunteering to participate – despite the steep cost.

But, in the end, there were a total of three regulars that attended the event. Three who braved journeying along side me and my questionable reputation (some of it earned and some of it exaggerated).

So, on October 5th, in the Africa Lounge within SeaTac Airport, I met my counterparts for the weekend; Scott (Sign37), Dominic (TechWorlds), and Matt (MysterMatt).

I have found out there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. - Mark Twain in "Tom Sawyer Abroad"

Matt and Dominic I already knew, through various events and games.

Dom and I had met a few times before games, and in Cheney the year before, where both of us partook in the “Cheney Seahawks Training Camp Experience”. Dom is a good guy that loves to talk, and talk, and talk. He’s as easy going, as he is overtly social.

Matt and I had taken to attending games together in 2006, and even the Bengal’s game a few weeks prior to the Pittsburgh invasion. Matt was also the only one, I was 100% sure, had the stomach to deal with the possible outcomes that are requisites to accompanying myself. The year before, Matt had been involved in a rather large donnybrook while attending the Dallas playoff game, with a few friends and me. Matt understood the potential for ugly stupidity is always around the corner, and he was up to the challenge.

I had only spoken to Scott a few times, via e-mail. And, in that time, it became apparent he had zero idea of the types of ruckus personalities he had signed up with. But, as it got closer to d-day, Scott began to unveil a side of him, which seemed to mesh perfectly with Matt and mine.

At $250 a pop, all of our roundtrip airfare came in a smidge less than the actual tickets the game. Given the price, an airline I’ve never heard, and the fact the company clearly stated no meals were served, I honestly expected my chariot to consist of a freight train with wings affixed via duct tape. But, to my surprise, it wasn’t half bad, as far as budget airline goes.
The day of travel was as uneventful as it was lengthy. We left Seattle at noon, stopped in Atlanta for a bit under two hours, before finally arriving in Pittsburgh close to 1 AM. By the time we arrived at the doorstep of Robinson Extend-a-Stay, it was nearing 2 AM.

Under the spell of fatigued eagerness, we approached the first of the lobby’s two glass entry doors. Before the panic of the first door being locked had a chance to set in, a hotel employee greeted all of us.

“We’ve been waiting for you”, the smiling man said while letting us all in.

Thankfully, the hotel had insured all of us a speedy check-in, just handing over a few documents to sign. And although our entire party consisted of numerous extroverts, the small talk remained just that, small. Until I asked for the code to unlock the hotel’s WiFi.

“Oh, yeah, sure. I’ll even give to you guys for free, because I feel sorry for all of you. Coming all that way to watch your team lose. What a shame”.

It wasn’t what he said that both surprised and intrigued me. It was the way he said it that did. You could tell the statement wasn’t just thrown out there as a jovial means of endearing ones self. The man honestly felt and meant what he said, and more importantly, you could just tell he knew the game, and knew it well.

And, as I began to realize throughout the trip, encountering a knowledgeable NFL fan during my first conversation with a resident of “The Burgh”, wasn’t chance. Amazingly, everyone in Pittsburgh is a fan of the Steelers. And, everyone in Pittsburgh is a knowledgeable NFL fan. Two admirable characteristics vacant from my hometown, Seattle.

I was awoken about 10:30 AM, Eastern Time, to a call from Dominic. Apparently being the one who pitched the idea, also anointed me “Events Coordinator”. Dominic called to ask what our plans for the day were. I honestly didn’t think or know of any, so I just spouted out the name of the establishment across the street; Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar.

So, that’s where we all decided to start our day off. I made a call to Scott, informing him to meet all of us across the street. As well, I made the call to Matt, who, as it would become apparent throughout the weekend, replied in such a way to imply distance. He never really seemed happy with the company kept on the trip, and acted bothered by any and all folderol.

After the calls, and partaking in a complimentary pot of room coffee, I sauntered downstairs to witness what this surprisingly nice establishment offered for “breakfast”.

While asking the plain, yet oddly attractive, clerk behind the counter for some cream cheese to accompany the lone eatable item, plain white bagels, I noticed something horrific behind the counter. Something that had not been there when we arrived earlier that morning. Hanging, in plain sight, meant to agitate us and us only, was an infamous “Terrible Towel”.

“Wow, that’s not very welcoming” I jokingly blurted to the woman. “Can I borrow that later, when I really need it?”

“Huh, I don’t care” the woman replied. “I hate the!@#$*&^ Steelers” she proclaimed. It took me until the word “huh”, to recognize the accent. The curse word only helped my intuition.

She was a chowder-eating, lace-curtain lovely from Ted Kennedy’s stomping ground, Massachusetts. She was a Patriots fan, stuck in Pennsylvania. Poor thing.

After consuming the lovely breakfast of cream cheese, a bagel and cigarettes I set across the street to Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar.

Stepping into the establishment, the first thing that hit me was its grandeur. Sure, it was located in a suburb mini-mall, but it’s enormous. It was easily the size of a chain, “ham n’egger” restaurant like Olive Garden, Red Robin, TGIF and the likes. But, Buffalo, is devoted solely to slinging beer, booze, and wings.

Hanging in every available nook and cranny of the entire structure, were TV’s, obscured by even smaller TV’s. At least 7 big screens and 45 smaller televisions resided throughout its depths. Think Fox Sports Grill, without the pretentious.

After getting over the initial awe of the entire gimmick the place had going for itself, is when I noticed something else, just as rare and spectacular. My olfactory senses tingled with a smell I had long since forgotten. Pennsylvania, more specifically Pittsburgh, is still the United States of America. It’s still a place where business proprietors, and patrons, could make their own decisions. It’s a state and town where indoor smoking is still allowed.

Immediately I lit a cigarette, showing my allegiance with the Founding Father’s and Penn’s version of “individual freedom”. It was also a way of me rebelling against “the man”, who’s made the life of a smoker, that of an animal. I felt like a man, enjoying freedom, again, during that first cigarette. It was fantastic.

After that cigarette, some tattoo flexing and Seahawks smack-dialogue with the staff, is when I noticed Dom sitting smack dab in front of me.

A beer by Dom and me later, Scott joined our party. Scott too, took full advantage of the indoor smoking.

Then finally Matt arrived, seeming again a bit perturbed over the situation he had got himself in, but he too utilized the chance to smoke like a man, a human, once again.

And there all of us sat, smoking, drinking, talking Seahawks, and speaking to the seemingly thousands of college games colliding our every senses. A few hours in, with a good buzz going, is when I got an initial communiqué from the wild card of the entire adventure.

The ace in the hole, at least in my opinion, for the entire trip, was a mysterious man name Leif from one of the Dakota’s. Known as “BestFightStory” within the community, this madman from “Where the Buffalo Roam” was a man after my own heart.

Based irresponsibly on one brief in-person meeting, numerous digestions of his message board rhetoric, and a handful of e-mails exchanged, I had deduced him and I were very similar. Or, more simply put, he and I shared a similar passion for the possibilities that certain substances offer. Neither of us is afraid to open a door of perception, by any means.

Leif had been doing the hokey-pokey with his presence, the entire week before. No matter how much I reminded him, “as your attorney I advise you to fly to Pittsburgh”, the possibility of his arrival seemed bleak. But, to my delight, his text read “I’ve landed – where are you?”
When I told the others, they didn’t quite understand my excitement. The only way I could describe Leif was “he’s a maniac….beautiful”. But, they still didn’t understand, or get behind my excitement.

In the interim, and throughout that entire day, all of us platonically bickered with the staff and locals about what was going to transpire that Sunday.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare scribed, “the lady doth protest too much me thinks”. And that quote is the best and most accurate way to describe how residents of Pittsburgh feel about SBXL.

The entire day, and the entire weekend, all of us were bombarded with “you going to blame this loss on the refs too”, or “finally, well prove it” before ever uttering an opening salvo. It seems as much as all of us Hawks fans carry around regret of that Sunday, people from Pittsburgh carry guilt for not winning the game “out right”. On numerous occasions, some fans would even say flat-out, “you guys were screwed”. But, surprising to me, I only encountered rude Steelers fans on one occasion, which I will speak to later.

In my mission to have the trip be for not just me, but Hawks fans everywhere, I had volunteered myself online to retire any old Seahawks paraphernalia, within the ‘Burgh, on their behalf. And one such person had volunteered a few items, a man named James, aka. Dr. Diags of Seahawks.NET fame.

James had bequeathed a few items. But, the jewel of the package was a NFL authentic Jerramy Stevens jersey. The jersey’s the exurbanite type, equipped with professional stitching and the lifelike size of Mr. Stevens himself. It was the generous offering of a man, who clearly understood the mission. Even more so than my own, I wanted to insure the jersey had a memorable and historic resting place.

The manager of the Buffalo was the only person, aside from the Hotel Clerk, I had met void of any Steelers allegiance. With that, he offered us the best chance of hanging a jersey in that prime location.

The manager was a Browns, and oddly enough, a Charlie Frye fan. So, he had little love or bias towards the Steelers. But, he was also a very smart man, so he balked at my original propositions.

I tried to convince him that if the Hawks won, James’ jersey should hang in the rafters, amongst the more locally friendly gear. He said no. I suggested that if the Hawks won, one of his staff should serve their food and beverage, swimming within the jersey. Again, he balked. But then, someone noticed a sure-fire way to get the jersey hanging.

Throughout the establishment, hung evidence of a charitable drive, which presented funds, to children living with cancer. It was the type of drive that allowed the donator to write their name on a flyer, with the flyer then hung in the establishment for everyone to marvel over the good deed. This option, the manager had no choice but too accept. The manager agreed to hang the jersey, if we donated a little over $100 to the fund.

By this time, the man who looked like Bill Murray, but walked and functioned like Hunter S. in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, Leif, had also joined our party. For the next hour, Matt, Leif, Scott, a drunken Dominic and I all scribed over a hundred of the flyers (each flyer represented $1 given).

Of course, all of us insured that we represented ourselves on every flyer, the jersey’s original owner, as well the owner of (I forget his name) and some legendary Seahawks. We also through in some shots at the city of Pittsburgh, as well rubbed their nose in some of their less-desirable football history.

Some examples are below:

Dave Krieg
Chuck Knox
$BXL Ref$ “You’re Welcome”
Bernie Kosar
Larry Brown (SB MVP that intercepted O’Donnell multiple times)
Cortez Kennedy
Bubby Brister
Louis Lipps
Michael Friar’s clean shoe soles

Ryan Davis is an armchair quarterback with a vibrating recliner. Feel free to contact him here. Top Stories