So I went down to PNC Park last night. Figuring it was their first playoff game in 21 years AND it was a "win you're in" / "lose you're sucked" proposition, I thought it afforded an outstanding opportunity to monitor crowd dynamics.
Ohhh, the crowd was rocking. Chants of "Let's Go Bucs" and "Here we go Pirates, Here we go!" The fans were grilling and chilling, smiling and happy. And if you think that's the essence of this article, you'd be far better off reading the recap in the Wheeling Intelligencer.
I will admit one thing. For a Pirates game, the energy level was like nothing I've ever seen. It wasn't cautious optimism, it was energized optimism. I don't think losing was a credible option last night. A negative outcome could have lent itself to some incidents. Not looting or setting vehicles on fire, but maybe isolated acts of violence against Reds fans and possibly window smashing. Lots of first timers at the ball park. You wanna know something? Over the years, I've come to a vital realization. These days, there are two types of sports fans --- those who want to go to the game and those WHO WANT TO TELL PEOPLE THEY WENT TO THE GAME. The latter group is the one on the rise (percentage-wise).
As expected, I saw a half dozen people get discreetly turned away with counterfeit tickets. I even predicted one of them! Now that's unprecedented. I'm decent at predicting if people have extra tickets (when they're not holding them up), but who the hell has ever heard of a "I think that dude might get turned away for a bogus ticket." Now that's some Buccos Nostradamus shit.
Here's what tipped me off. First of all, this guy in his early 20's was heading in solo. He had a small hastily made sign that said something to the affect of...
IC Light - $8.00
Parking - $20.00
Pirates wining a playoff game at PNC Park - PRICELESS!
But he was holding a black and white, 8.5" x 11" printout in his other hand. And he was nervously whooping it up. He looked skittish and distracted, but at the same time, he was trying to get the crowd going with a "Cincy Sucks" chant. The crowd embraced him for about 4-5 seconds. But I saw something different. I think in the back of his mind, he already new the truth.
I'm not sure where this guy bought his "ticket." Might have procured it online. Might have been from a renegade scalper (all the regular black guys are legit --- if you resemble a pigeon, they might try and rip you off, but they'll never knowingly sell you a bunk ticket or a xeroxed print-out). Well, sure enough, this guy got turned away. He didn't put up much resistance with the ticket scanner dude. Just had a pitiable, shell-shocked expression and sulked away. I almost thought about venturing over and having a word with him, but I didn't. What would have been the point?
He wasn't the only one turned away. I saw 5 others do the "No soup for you turn around."
(Great closer - "Come back! One Year!")
Anyway, two of them looked like complete idiots. I know it's not politically correct, but I believe the term is "wiggers." Two white guys decked out in Pirates gear, gold chains, high-top Jordan-Air Nikes with their straight-bill ball caps at the quintessential 127 degree angle. The Enimem-ish one guy was holding a large manilla envelope. I suspect he didn't open it til the last possible moment. When their printouts didn't beep upon being scanned, they looked at each other with this "bozo gaze of incredulity." It was as if all their imagined street-cred was flushed down a thug-toilet of despair. They both got en-em-uhhed or M&M'ed in the butthole. Neither went to the cops to complain.
I also watched as a couple guys slipped in with the sneaky assistance of a PNC Park employee (while 2 cops purposely looked in the opposite direction). Surprisingly, this happened around 7:15pm when the crowd was near its peak. No money was exchanged. One of them had to be a good friend, or at the very least, a recognizable acquaintance. It was executed with such brilliance and perfection, I almost feel guilty writing about it. Hey, I'm someone who has attended over 50 games and adamantly refuse to spend ANY sum of money (I once turned down a scalper who wanted only 3 bucks). This is based on a sound principle --- the outright refusal to monetarily contribute to the Nutting empire. So obviously, I enjoy it when an official Bucco rep subverts the process. Not only that, I will salute him/her and this tantalizingly destructive behavior.
A similar incident occurred about 20 minutes later. This time it was 4 men, but something went wrong during the negotiation process. I think only 2 people were supposed to slither in undetected, but the crew's expectations were a bit too lofty. They wanted it all. They rode to close to the sun on the wings of pastrami (George Costanza).
I also saw 2 individuals getting wheeled out of the ball park on a stretcher. Alcohol poisoning would be my best guess, but who really knows. I was off in the distance, so I couldn't even make out if either was a man or woman.
Single tix were very scarce. Most of the scalpers wanted around $150-$200. But it was just too hot a ticket. Lots of demand and virtually no supply. And much of the crowd seemed content to hang at the bars. The street scene off the Roberto DiClemente bridge was definitely a-rockin'. And the sheer quantity of boats and kayakers on the water was pretty spectacular. And the weather was perfect as well. So naturally, I made a hasty retreat back to Wheeling at 8:12pm. First pitch was at... yep, you guessed it, 8:07pm.