Colin Dunlap: A Spectator Guide To Steelers Training Camp Spectators
Friday is a special day here in Western Pennsylvania.
The Steelers will report to training camp at Saint Vincent College.
You know what that means? Local news coverage — wall to wall — of big, sweaty football players pulling up in expensive cars and carrying large televisions, and assorted other objects, into a dorm room.
Saturday at 3 p.m. offers the public a first opportunity to view practice, albeit it will be a session in helmets in shorts (for the players, not you).
That said, it feels right to offer a primer for those headed to Saint Vincent.
We will call it ‘A Spectator Guide to Steelers Training Camp Spectators’ as many of the fans you will come across can be grouped into one (or more) of these categories:
-Adult Autograph (Wo)Man: This is the camp spectator with the least amount of shame. This person has no qualms about using their elbow, knee and/or hip as a shielding mechanism to block a 6-year-old from getting an autograph so they can get one on their 1980s Hutch football helmet … from some ninth-string guard from SUNY-Brockport who has no chance of making the team.
-Knows Everything About Every Player Guy: You innocuously ask the spectator sitting next to you, “Who is 91 on defense?” … what a mistake. He now bends your ear for a half-hour on Nick Williams from Samford and how he “seen him play ah-genst Elon and he made ah-million stops.” Then, unsolicited, this guy tells you all you never wanted to know about Omar Hunter and Nigel Malone and Nik Embernate and Kashif Moore and how he “seen all ah-dem play in cawledge.”
-Unprepared for the Sun Guy: Generally about an hour in, this man’s dome starts to take on a pinkish tint. About three-quarters of the way through practice, he’s full-on burn and, whilst walking back to his car, guy has fire engine red arms, neck, ears and head.
-Big Straw Hat and 9 Gallons of Sun Block Guy: The converse of the previous guy. He will have a good day tomorrow. Those who were unprepared will have theirs filled with aloe.
-Sneaks in Booze Guy: Alcohol is forbidden at training camp, but that hasn’t slowed the perseverance and dedication of this man. Sir, we are naïve, but only to a point. See, that protrusion in your sock, the one in the shape of a half-pint bottle of Wild Turkey, well, it is a half-pint bottle of Wild Turkey. And, when you ask your wife to lean forward in her lawn chair to obscure the security guard’s view of you, I know exactly what is going on, and so does everyone else when you pull out that Thermos.
-Ben Ain’t No Good Guy: After 127 games, 2,300-some completions for almost-30,000 yards and almost-200 TDs to go along with two Super Bowl rings, this guy grips hard to his go-to, familiar refrain …. “Ben ain’t no good.”
-Sleeves Rolled Up (or absent altogether) to Show Off your Steelers Tattoo Guy: This guy might be my favorite. Generally, the man has hairy shoulder blades and back hair protruding up through the neckline of his shirt. But that doesn’t stop him. No way. See, he took his hard-earned cash and, in the offseason, decided it was in his best interest to get a tattoo of Heinz Field, or six Lombardi Trophies, or The Chief, or a Steelers logo infused in some barbed wire and, you bet your behind he’s going to show it off. So, the gameplan works one of two ways: Either the gentleman rolls up his sleeves to display the noted piece of art or (and this is becoming increasingly popular) he forgoes the sleeves altogether, opting to cut them off of his Ed Hardy T-Shirt. Tank-tops, also, can be utilized in this endeavor and have similar impact as a presentation mechanism.
-Tailgates for Training Camp Guy: Practice sessions at Saint Vincent normally get underway at 2:55 p.m. That said, some have to fine-tune their readiness for the season and get to the parking lots early in the morning — RV and all — and tailgate to watch a practice. See, it isn’t only the players who need to equip for the season, but the fans. The parking lots don’t open until noon, but that has not slowed some from finding a spot near Saint Vincent to get the party started to watch football practice. Yes, football practice. These are the same people who have in their will that they will have a tailgate-themed funeral wake, with Jimmy Pol songs playing on a loop at the funeral home.
-Dragged His Kids Who Don’t Want To Be There Guy: OK, so we have a nice family day, a wide open Saturday, know what dad thinks is a wonderful time? Throw everyone in the Truckster, roll down Route 30 and watch some football practice. You know who isn’t interested? The 14-year-old daughter, that’s who. She can, definitely and defiantly, be spotted with a huge frown, holding her smartphone as she plays Candy Crush in between posting Vine videos to the Internet explaining to everyone how much she hates her dad.
-Took Vacation Day From Work to Watch Training Camp Guy: This happens. Swear. I know people who have done it.
-And Then You Wonder Guy: This guy, for years, has decided to poke the bear at Saint Vincent College. Why, oh why, must you wear a Ray Rice Ravens jersey? You parade around like it is a surprise when some Yinzer, already not thinking straight from too much sun, filled to the brim with testosterone and now seething from your team winning the Super Bowl wants to fight you? Come on, man. And then you wonder. Your dedication to your team might be commended by some, but it is, honestly, idiocy in this regard.
-The Coaches All Suck Guy: This is a close descendant of the Ben Ain’t No Good Guy, but his venom is generally reserved for Todd Haley and, at times, Mike Tomlin. And what are his credentials? Well, he was the assistant tight ends coach for a pee-wee football program down in Glassport for a year in 1981 before the head coach, naturally, “didn’t know what he was doin’” and it wasn’t worth his time to coach with that guy anymore.
-The History Lesson Guy: This nobleman has been going to training camp since 1966, when the Steelers first started holding them at Saint Vincent. And he is going to tell you about it. He will especially tell you how the players now are soft, and they used to hit at training camp but don’t really hit now. How Greene and Greenwood and Ham and Lambert and Russell and Wagner and Blount and Shell were real men and how these guys now are overpaid, overhyped good-for-nothin’ jerks. But he just can’t seem to stay away, can he?
-Obscure Jersey Guy: Apparently, your No. 84 Tim Jorden jersey was dirty today, so it made sense to go with the No. 62 Roger Duffy. OK, fair. That makes sense.
-The Steelers Are Going To Be Terrible Guy: After watching an hour of practice in the first week of August, with many down-the-liners participating, this guy can firmly arrive at the opinion the Steelers will go 5-11.
-The Steelers Are Going To Win The Super Bowl Guy: After watching an hour of practice in the first week of August, with many down-the-liners participating, this guy can firmly arrive at the opinion the Steelers really don’t have a peer in the NFL this season.
Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.