Monday, September 17, 2012

Tebow's leavin' on the Jet's plane... don't know when he'll be back again

Big game with a late start.  Yesterday was a fun one.  Gigi got done with work around 3pm.  She had a co-worker drop her off at the stadium.  We zipped over to her relatives' tailgate (DJ, Sally and friends), squashed a couple beers and set out on our customary quest for free tickets.

It had already been an interesting morning.  She got to interview Jill Biden and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Pretty powerful duo, ehh?  Yep, that's what I'm talkin' about!  Regrettably, the final product churned out by the news was less than stellar.

The ticket scene was fluid, but guarded.  Not a whole lot of action.  Even big shots like this guy were out of luck.

I had anticipated some degree of difficulty.  But Gigi stepped up (both figuratively and literally).  Within about 10 minutes, this older guy saw our sign and dished out 2 freebies.  KA-POW!  Considering that it was a home opener with quality and historic opposition, a judging and worshiping Tim Tebowing contingency on hand, the fantastic weather and the late 4:25 pm start,  I thought it would be much tougher. 

The ticket stub featured a lifelong Steelers fan named Angelo Cammarata of Pittsburgh, PA.  The Post Gazette wrote an inspired story about the man and his connection to Art Rooney Sr.  Interesting that the deceased Rooney needed a free ticket while Angelo is wielding dual stub-stacks.

It was a celebration to last throughout the years.  Kool and the mutha fucking Gang.  But Gig wasn't done.  She continued to hold the sign and sure enough, this woman handed her a $200+ club seat.  One of our scalper acquaintances observed what happened in a state of mild disgust/disbelief.  He said we should sell it to him.  He offered a paltry $16.  For some reason, I didn't put up any resistance.  I'm sure I could have sold it for substantially more, but we just let it go.  I looked down at the crumpled wad of cash and he had handed me only $11.  But for some reason we just smiled and laughed.  It all seemed to make sense.  After all, our veracity surrounding the final ticket snag was a wee bit shaky.

 We strolled in right after kickoff.  We used most of the proceeds for a Primanti's capicola sandwich and a dill pickle.  We wolfed down the food in about 3 minutes.  Towards the end of the first half, we met up with her relatives.  They had front row seats along the North End Zone goal line.  And when I say front row... yep, I'm talkin' Row A.  Here's where things got a little weird.

We noticed two open seats in Row B at the end of the aisle.  Like I said, here's where things took a strange turn.  We asked the couple behind us if anyone was sitting in the seats.  They replied in unison, "Nope, but whoever was sitting there, threw up all over the place.  I looked down and noticed the splattered remnants of vomit on the seat.  On the concrete below was a clump of pukified napkins and a capless, plastic bottle of Pepsi in an upright position.  The bottle of Pepsi was about 80% full and had this frothy, chunky film.  A noticeable, thin layering of vomit separated the clashing liquids.

The couple behind me chimed in, "Oh my god, you're not really going to sit there, are you?"  I replied, "Well, maybe we can salvage the situation."  I used some napkins and wiped down the seat.  But I still had to contend with the bottle.  Personally, I couldn't detect the smell of vomit but Gigi could.  Gigi said she was going to Guest Services to see if they'd send down a clean-up crew.  

I asked the kid next to me for his thoughts on the vomit fiasco.  The kid looked a little like this guy.

I wanted to know what he knew, see what he'd seen, smell what he smelt.  But the kid didn't have any answers.  I pressed forward a little more aggressively.  Assuming the role of a psychiatrist, I asked him, "How does the vomit make you feel?  What's it like sitting in such close proximity to the vomit?"  He muttered that he didn't like it and turned his head to the action on the field.  

So right now, it's just me gazing at the Pepsi bottle.  I decided to take action.  With an almost delicate, dainty napkin-handed tweezer-like grip I moved the bottle to the lower row.   But just as I placed it down, it SPILLED OVER.  It went all over the person's commemorative program and started to encroach on a folded t-shirt.  The fans in front of me didn't see what happened but I suspect they may have noticed the strengthened stench of vomit.  I was starting to feel like we may have overstayed our welcome.  At this exact moment, Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a touchdown in our corner of the end zone.  The crowd erupted.

Gigi returned with this official intern-looking kid.  It was his job to oversee the vomit clean-up process.  He asked if either of us were sick and we said no.  "So it wasn't you guys that threw up?"  He then asked if we were in the right seats.  "Uhh, you can't sit in seats if they're not yours."  I flashed Gig a "let's just get out of here and regroup look."  We had just been de-seated in the butt hole.  We moved too close to the field, on the puddles of vomit.  George Costanza would call it "riding too close to the sun on the wings of pastrami."

So we said our goodbyes to everyone and made our usual exercise loop around the stadium. On our way down the South end ramp, we spotted 3 successive piles of vomit.  One, two, three.  The piles looked a little like this... but without the cigarette butt.  And each pile was a bit more liquified.

I've got to remember to use my phone to take pictures.  I see shit like this all the time but it rarely dawns on me to take a picture or role i-phone video.  In fact, I think everyone should take photos of their respective vomit and post them on facebook?  Just seeing another person's vomit really helps you identify with their journey.  Empathy via vomit, or if you will... E.V.S. (empathic vomit syndrome).

In a prior blog about the Carolina preseason game, I wrote about the "Steel Pit Runners" - an idea for a committed group of runners to jog in place for the entire game.  You watch the game on the widescreen from the back of the Steel Pit.  Basically, you run a marathon at your preferred pace.  Regardless of a Steelers win or loss, you're a winner all the time.  

I have a confession to make.  Steel Pit Runners was a really gay idea.  Almost attaining the much-heralded status of "super-duper faggolicious."  In retrospect, it was not good.  "There's good and there's not good.  This is not good." - Hesh on the Sopranos listening to Visiting Day's cd (the band was formerly known as Defiler).  But out of the Steel Pit Runners, a new idea spewed forth with a cum-like, almost venomous acumen.  And this one is NOT gay.  I repeat... no gay no beret I will not come out and play.  This idea is supremely heterosexual.

Why not have a 5K that runs through Heinz Field and PNC Park?  You start at the casino and run down Casino Drive which segues into North Shore Drive.  Enter the Heinz Field South end zone, Steel Pit area.  Funnel through the rotunda and into the upper level, back down and do a loop on the lower level.   Out onto West General Robinson Street.  Follow the steet and enter PNC through the right outfield.  One lap on the 100 level, up the ramp and into the upper level.  You might scratch the upper level because it poses some weird logistical turn-around issues.  Exit the ballpark and jog down the North River Trail along the river.  Finish ON the Heinz Field surface.  

You really get it all with this course.  Casino, the river, the stadiums, the views.  It's just insanely cool.  But here's what makes this idea particularly strong.  It ties into cities all over the U.S. that have tried to reinvigorate their downtown areas with baseball and football stadiums in close proximity  They all have these redevelopment initiatives and professional sports complexes.  Very forward thinking.  

The only downside - if you're competitively running down the ramps, it could get ugly.  Although difficult, someone could trip and end up hurling themselves over the concrete wall.  I've often wondered why more people don't kill themselves by lunging off the upper tier of stadiums.  Not to sound morbid, but it's pretty much a sure thing.  Both quick and effective.  Quite dramatic, I might add.  Definitely get your 15 minutes of fame.  I'd suggest wearing a t-shirt like this....

I bought that shirt at a 1997 preseason Steelers -Falcons game at Mountaineer Field.  Normally, I'm not too big on impulse purchases, but I loved the idea of some rogue parking lot dude selling a Dallas Sucks shirt so far away from a relevant "home base."  The Cowboys weren't even playing, yet here's this guy dishing out the propaganda.  It was $10.  And I didn't even try to barter.  I mean, how could you?

But here's the dilemma if you wear that particular shirt while committing suicide, people would invariably ask, "Why would a guy with such a cool t-shirt and proper societal outlook want to kill himself?"  Sends conflicting messages.  I'd sooner where a shirt with this guy on it...

God-damn!  Is that guy creepy or what?  No offense to my Roman Catholic brethren, but what a fuckin' freakshow!

Back to the 5K idea.  At some point, you'd have to limit the number of entrants.  Many 5K's cut off the number of participants so it's not that big of a deal.  You'll need cooperation from the cities and team ownership.  As usual, the biggest obstacle to anything cool is overcoming the insurance hurdles.  Worst case scenario - just make it a 5K Walk.  This would have strong appeal to the community at large.   Greater participation of the fatso contingency, who under regular circumstances, would dismiss the idea from the git-go.

One last thought random - what the fuck was up with that phantom pass interference call on Ike Taylor early in the 4th?  I wonder when Goodell will cave to the demands of the first string refs.  Fortunately, Pittsburgh wasn't going to throw the game on a bullshit call.  But at some point, one of these teams is gonna lose a prime time game.  And the fans will go ballistic.  I doubt they'll stampede, but you never know.  The real refs average about $149,000 per year.  Their union wants the median increased to 189,000 by 2018.   Their demands don't sound that outrageous.  I expect Conquistador Goodell will follow the same path he took with me.  Ignore the problem and maintain the status of a gutless coward.  I sent Goodell a letter... 

May 1, 2012

Roger Goodell, National Football League Commissioner
National Football League
280 Park Avenue, Suite 12
New York, NY  10017-1216

Re: The prospect of an artificially generated stampede in National Football League stadiums

Commissioner Goodell:

In 1913, 73 people were crushed to death in the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan.  This event is generally regarded as the basis for placing reasonable limitations on the First Amendment.  Most refer to it as "falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater."  Roughly a century later, allow me to pose a similar question.  Is it conceivable to text "fire" in a crowded NFL stadium?  If a significant number of individuals received a text message conveying IMMINENT DANGER and/or the NEED TO IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE, the consequences could be catastrophic.  It would likely result in an artificially generated stampede.

Following the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, companies offering mass text alerts became more commonplace.  Many of these companies offer SMS (short message service) systems to anyone willing to pay for them.  It's just a matter of time before someone with a pernicious agenda opts to utilize this platform.  Furthermore, a perpetrator would probably seek maximum impact as it would likely be a one-time occurrence.  

While security and safety measures have been greatly enhanced in the last decade, there has never been a credible plan to safely evacuate an NFL stadium in the event of a sudden panic.  Why?  Because it's simply not logistically feasible.  We have already witnessed the evolution of flash mobs and the recent spread of dangerous viral text hoaxes.  The prospect of hacking and manipulating a text alert system or cellular service provider represents the gravest concern.  But it's simply the mere existence and availability of lengthy lists of cell phone numbers corresponding to individuals in a confined location.  This, combined with the established level of trust placed in emergency SMS communication, represents the underlying problem.  

While I doubt that I am the first person to conceive of this potential threat, I do suspect this is the first time you've heard about an artificially generated stampede.  Other than virally spread text hoaxes, I've seen nothing about deliberately transmitting false texts in an attempt to create a sudden, mass panic.  There seems to be no discussion of this asymmetric security issue in the public domain.  And if you connect the dots between large crowds and the potential misuse of SMS technology, I think you'll agree that my concerns are justified.  Please consider the following:

    •     The potential for hacking or intentional misuse of any relevant text notification or fan alert system.  Due to their wider accessibility, socially driven media platforms such as Twitter represent another area of concern.   
    •      The acquisition of cloned cell phone lists linked to season ticket holders and employees.  A spoofed (disguised) message could easily be configured to appear as though it was sent from an opt-in notification system.

    •      A message originating from a wireless carrier.  You may recall the December 12, 2011 "Civil Emergency: Take Shelter Now" alert sent to Verizon customers in central New Jersey.  Termed a "malicious hoax" by Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden, the event remains unexplained.  Although an apology was issued, there has been no admission of negligence or responsibility.

Being a whistle blower for a hypothetical national security threat is not something I relish, but I cannot in good conscience remain silent.  So in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security's "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign, I have made a moral determination to send you this letter.  I would encourage you to research this issue and take preventative action.  And while this problem is well beyond my area of expertise, I do have some suggestions.

    •    Acknowledge and prepare for an unpleasant reality.  In the event of an artificially generated stampede, any emergency evacuation protocol would most certainly be rendered useless.

    •    Understand that your incident commander may not have ultimate control over the content, timing and delivery of an evacuation order.  This represents a profoundly changed dynamic in stadium security.

    •    Assess the security of any cell phone lists associated with season ticket holders and employees.        
    •    Be cognizant of the timing and context of official social media updates.

    •     Employ a looped message via the public address system warning fans of the possibility of an artificially generated stampede.          
    •     Include an assumption of risk disclaimer on the ticket stub similar to a foul ball or broken bat warning: Cellular communication devices can be used to create artificially generated stampedes.  If you receive a message demanding an immediate evacuation, wait for official confirmation from the public address system.

    •     Conduct general awareness campaigns as a matter of policy.  A simple slogan such as "Think before you run" could prove very effective in thwarting a text-induced stampede.     

While you may have sufficient confidence in your own stadium emergency evacuation protocol, your security could be compromised by mere association with the wider NFL community.  We live in an era of breaking news and instant, personalized communication.  Because many NFL games overlap, revelations of a stampede at one or more stadiums could trigger additional stampedes, creating a domino or cascade effect.

An event of this nature would likely not be a hoax or accident.  It would be executed with malicious intent.  National Football League stadiums provide one of the most easily recognizable targets.  As the leaders of the organizations that put people into these crowded and therefore potentially dangerous environments, you have a moral obligation to warn people about the dangers of panic-laden text messages.  We need to raise awareness before a catastrophe transpires.  There will be no dress rehearsal.

I believe that the federal government will not address this issue until after a disaster has occurred.  Therefore, I would implore you to work with each other and exercise your considerable influence with state and local governments.  It is imperative to devise a time-sensitive game plan.  I am willing to meet with you personally to review this matter.  Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

"There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction." - John F. Kennedy


Eric Saferstein
contact info omitted

cc:    National Football League ownership
Letters with similar content have been sent to the following individuals.
    Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security
    Chairman Julius Genachowski, Federal Communications Commission
    Secretary Arne Duncan, Department of Education       
    NCAA Division I university presidents and chancellors   
    Representatives of Indy Racing League, Inc.
    Representatives of National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.

... for him to read.  So what did he do?  Yep... nothing.  In fact, he did the exact opposite.  A few weeks later at an NFL owners meeting in Atlanta, he lobbied for total wifi access for every fan in all 32 stadiums by 2014.


By the way, LSU's campus was evacuated today.  Here's their official tweet...

A bomb threat has been reported on the campus. Please evacuate the campus as calmly and quickly as possible

Under exigent circumstances, this is a fine example of something that could trigger a stampede.


sonofsaf said...

One final thought... on a completely unrelated note, Elton John is in Wheeling tomorrow night. I doubt I'll go, but I would like to see someone bring back one of my favorite signs of all-time.


Anonymous said...

I am surprised that my flask at the DOM the other night wasn't mentioned. I was taking a sip of it & you noticed & looked shocked/disgusted. Maybe it was something else though, but I had a reason as to why I was using it that night.

sonofsaf said...

I generally applaud "renegade" behavior. You need not worry. There was no shock or disgust. And even if there was, you should only be concerned about the judgment of the almighty... the BOJC. That's the popular abbreviation for Boss of a Jewish Carpenter