My trip to Heinz Field (aka - The Death Star) Part II.....An unexpected turn of events.

As we were heading towards Heinz Field yesterday (less than 2 hours from where I live) my buddy and I were jacked. Had the Metallica pumping as we couldn't wait to hit the parking lots around Heinz Field to begin our pre-game ritual of stuffing our faces with all things fried and grilled. Upon first getting there you can't possibly mistake where you are and what event your attending.....there is black and gold jerseys as far as the eye can see, as circles of people are huddled around grilles, coolers, beer bongs, etc. to indulge in our favorite Sunday afternoon ritual. We pulled into a pretty quiet tailgating spot (as with most sports venues these days, every lot cost between $35-$40 to park). We hopped out and immediatley were met by two steelers fans already swilling a couple of large beers. One looked my white #18 jersey up and down and simply stated "shi%." I'm thinking.........strike one. And we continue.....

We decided to hang with these couple of folks around where we were and kind of get a feel for the lay of the land. You could walk in any direction around the stadium and tailgate, North, South, East or West will land you right in the middle of someone's tailgate party somewhere. We started casually talking about football with our newfound Steeler friends (my buddy is a Steeler fan as well, everyone has a flaw or two I know). They were interested in where we were from, how we got here, why on "God's green earth (direct quote)" I'm a Bengal fan, etc. The next phrase out of one of our new friends mouths was priceless, "At least your not a couple of Browns fans. They really suck." We all shared a nice laugh at our fellow AFCN rivals expense and clinked our respective beverage bottles. So far, so good.....

After walking only a short trip to the field, we encountered several more tailgate hot-spots. One of note that I would like to mention was a group that had a huge Christmas tree decorated in black and gold, each time someone finished one of their huge cans of beer they would all yell whatever obscenity came to mind first and place it on the tree as a new ornament. I must say, it was pretty cool. I walked past and kind of braced myself for whatever wrath would be unleased upon noticing the orange and black attire I was wearing.....and funny thing happened, nothing. Walked right on by, not a peep. Odd I thought, maybe I caught them mid "chug" and they simply couldn't we continued.

After approaching the security line (which moved fairly quickly, PBS take note of this), the security guard had one of the better comments of the day. After waiving his wand over me to ensure my prison shank had indeed been left at home (thought about bringing it, but it's my favorite and don't want to risk forfeiture) he stated with a stone-cold serious face "Your all clear, now just remove that jersey. It's illegal to wear on the premises." I stopped for a second and realized that the security jockey had just made a pretty good funny in which I replied "Well played, sir. Well played." The 10,000 Steeler fans around me all let out a huge roar as they laughed. I must say, not only a security guard with a good quote, but also with a sense of humor? Improbable I thought, this trip just keeps taking turns for the unexpected. We continued on into the game.........

Upon finding our seats I was greeted warmly "Ah shi*, not a damn Bengal fan!" for one. My personal favorite (directed at my buddy, a Steeler fan) "How nice, you picked up your special cousin from the "gifted" school and decided to bring him along." I must admit, that was pretty damn funny, I laughed and even high-fived the guy. The rest of the group we sat with we're very cordial and curious as to how my adventure as a Bengal fan began and where I'm from. I find it very interesting how people almost act like you've caught a case of something (i.e. - a virus) that caused you to become a Bengal fan. But I digress....

The game was fantastic. Largely a defensive battle, but who cares. It was close and the best and most deserving team won. When Reggie picked off that ball with less than 10 seconds left you could hear a pin drop. It wasn't a pin actually, it was the sound of 65,000 jaws dropping at the fact that their beloved Steelers just lost to the old Cincinnati Bengals. You know, that team with the reclusive owner and goofy saying (Who Dey?!! I must say is very largely not understood by opposing fan bases). When the ball sailed through the uprights off Josh Browns recently signed foot, I imagined a torch passing between a team with a rich history and tradition, now going over to the new kids on the block (God I hate that group too, hated to even mention that phrase, but seemed apporopriate) who are young, exciting and looking to write some history of their own. The stadium fell silent like one might expect after horrific news was just delivered by a late night phone call......just nothing, but stunned silence. It was quiet, majestic.......beautiful actually.

A quick jaunt back to the car, couple more pulls off my last alcoholic beverage and I hopped into the passenger seat for the voyage home. A couple of last points to discuss about our trip:

1) Steeler fans were very respectful. Now this could be the type of respet the neighborhood dorky kid gets because the other bigger kids don't really deem them any sort of threat? I'm not sure, I can never be sure they so believed they would crush us that the respect I felt was more out of empathy. But I don't think it was. I sensed something while talking with the many fans we came into contact with, a sense that disappointment was looming with this team. The folks I had the pleasure of speaking with spoke in disdain about the Steeler run game, constant path-work offensive lines and Ben's inevitable decline as age and constant hits continue. This was largely unexpected, I expected the chest-thumping, "We're the Steelers and your not" mantra. I did not hear this at all.

2) Steelers fans were very knowledgeable. Not only about their own team, but they were very aware of the Bengals statistics, season notes and roster. I very much enjoyed hearing a different perspective from a third party. Note to last lot we visited before entering game: Corey Dillon was one of the all-time great backs. Played on some lousy teams, but the guys numbers speak for themselves.

3) Heinz Field is a pleasant place to watch a ball game, complete with good food, aceesible beer tents and a common love of football. Wearing orange and black will not get you stoned, slashed, or bruised. The only true harassment I received was by a young gentleman, who can only be described as about 6'6", weighing 98 lbs. and rocking a mullett that would make an 80's music video jealous who approached me and began yelling "Ochocinco sucks." My simple reply was, "Yes, now that he's out of football, he is indeed not a very valuable player." This did not sit well with Billy Idol, whose girlfriend luckily had the good sense to drag him towards the beer tent. Also of note: Do not call someone "Flock of Seagulls" or state "Business in the front, but a party in the back!" They do not respond well to this...

All and all, a great trip with a good friend and a great game. What more could I possibly ask for? Looking forward to going back next year and rooting our boys on........Who Dey?!!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors.

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