Talk about your traffic nightmares.
I've found at times that Pittsburgh isn't the easiest city in the nation to navigate through, but come Sunday I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the Steel City, especially in the late afternoon hour.
That's what the western Pennsylvania city will be dealing with Sunday, and it has nothing to do with orange barrels and construction, which could also play a role in some areas of Allegheny County and the surrounding tri-state area, but a pair of professional events just blocks away.
Who could've ever imagined this?
-- the Pirates playing a meaningful final home game of the regular season at sold-out PNC Park against Central Division rival Cincinnati at 1:35 p.m. with all kinds of National League playoff implications on the line;
-- the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Chicago Bears in a nationally-televised NFL game at approximately 8:35 just before another standing-room-only crowd up the street on the north shore at Heinz Field.
My big question.
Who allowed this to happen?
Both professional franchises had to be aware of each other's schedules!
According to published reports, Steelers' fans will not be allowed to enter the parking lots, which are located between the two stadiums and all around the adjoining area, until, at the earliest, 6 p.m. That's if the Reds and Pirates don't go into extra innings. Plus, it's the final regular-season home game for the Buccos. Don't you think the loyal Black-and-Gold believers, who have waited 20 long years for a winning team, won't stick around, winning or losing (the Pirates' magic number to clinch a coveted playoff berth is three with nine games left), until the final out?
The entire NFL experience, much more the major league baseball, is all about tailgating. Some fans arrive hours and hours before kickoff to set up their elaborate spread for countless numbers of fans. And, Pittsburgh might be one of the best-known NFL cities for its tailgate get-togethers.
In a published report Thursday in Pittsburgh, a Steelers' spokesman said at a Wednesday press conference, "This will create a unique experience for both teams' fans. (Steelers') Fans will still be able to tailgate, just not as early as they usually do."
I don't find that to be true. I've been to more than a couple of (football) tailgate parties in Pittsburgh during my days and, most, if not all, start very early for 1 p.m. kickoffs. When prime-time games (Thursday, Sunday or Monday nights) come around, Pittsburghers, like most NFL fans, try and make the best out of a good situation.
Baseball fans tend to arrive a little later than football fans. For some unknown reason, tailgating before baseball games just isn't the same as it is before football games
One thing that should alleviate some problems is the fact that most, if not all, Pittsburgh fans are lovers of both the Pirates and Steelers. That being said, if I was a Steelers fan, which I am definitely not, I would also be a Pirates fan, which I've somewhat grown to be, Sunday.
I would get to my parking spot, wherever that might be, awfully early Sunday morning. I would tailgate prior to the Pirates' game whether I've got a ticket or not, and maybe enjoy an afternoon of what should be playoff-caliber baseball on the radio.
I would then change from my beloved Pirates' jersey to my beloved Steelers' jersey (being a Reds and Miami Dolphins fan I can't believe I just said that), and continue tailgating prior to just before the kickoff and heading inside.
Thank heavens the Penguins don't play Sunday!
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org