No-shows worrisome to Steelers, NFL

September 13, 2013
By Bob Smizik

Here's what it would take to get me to a Steelers game at Heinz Field:

Limousine picks me up at my front door; drops me off at my gate at the stadium 15-30 minutes before kickoff.

Elevator whisks me to the private box near the 50-yard line where my free seat is located.

Persons with tickets to the private box must be approved by me.

Private box must be stocked with a full bar and Yuengling and Dogfish. Wings and pizza will be available the entire pre-game and during the game.

Upon the conclusion of the game, or when I decide to leave, the elevator will whisk me to ground level where my limo will be waiting to take me home -- well ahead of the legendary traffic jam.

If that offer is not forthcoming, I will stay at home and watch on my HD TV.

There was a time when I would not have been so free in admitting my aversion for mixing with the masses at Heinz Field for fear of being labeled un-American or, worse, old.

Nowadays, however, I proudly assert my belief that Heinz Field is no place to watch a Steelers game. There's a growing body of people -- millions -- who believe the NFL game-day experience is more enjoyable away from the site of the game. That's what 50-inch high def TVs will do.

It is, of course, more than that. It's a hassle to go to any crowded event -- parking, traffic, bathroom access, price of concessions, concession lines, price of ticket, availability of ticket, etc. And, face it, there can be people who drank too much, as in being drunk, sitting close by at NFL games and such people have been known to be annoying and/or belligerent.

Why not watch at home? Or at a bar with multiple gigantic TVs?

Why not have multiple replays of controversial calls? And expert opinion from commentators? And on a cold day, warmth?

The reasons to stay away from the site far outnumbers those that might attract one to an NFL stadium. This is nothing against fans who love the thrill of being there. More power to them. To each his own. Actually, I owe them a bit. Watching at home wouldn't be much fun if the game were played to an empty house.

There were 5,000 no-shows Sunday at the Steelers opener. That has to alarm the Steelers and the NFL, which is openly concerned about fans preferring the game-day experience away from the site of the game. If the Steelers lose Monday night at Cincinnati, not an unlikely prospect, it will be interesting to see how many fans stay home for the 8:30 p.m. Sept. 22 game against the Chicago Bears.

A friend who has season tickets since 1973 got tired of the hassle. He wanted to sell his tickets at face value and keep his seat license. He sold the tickets, but not as easily as you might expect.

The NFL is trying to do more to make the on-site experience a better one and equal to the the ease, comfort and savings of watching at home or a bar. But it's not an easy job. In fact, it's an impossible job.