Ravenwood - 01/17/05 07:00 AM
The Steelers have fought their way to another home AFC Championship game, and I am reminded of another time that it happened. On January 1, 1998 I quit my job and became voluntarily unemployed. I laid around the house for a week, drinking heavily and playing video games. On Friday I told my mom (yes, I was living back in Virginia Beach with my folks) that I was going out to run some errands and would probably not be home in time for dinner. I went over to Lope's house, which was a frequent meeting place for me and my girlfriend. There were three couples there, with Lope and his wife playing host, and MonkEspank (a/k/a Bill) and his wife visiting as well. At about 2 AM, my girlfriend left, and Monk's wife took the car and the kids home to put them to bed. Lope's wife retired for the evening, and the three of us were left alone to bullshit the night away.
Monk, Lope and I stayed up the rest of the night pounding beers. The beer ran out, and the three of us had successfully killed several 24-packs. I passed out about 6 AM, and less than an hour later, Lope was waking me up with a gentle kick to the head.
I lay on the couch and opened my eyes to the sunlight pouring through the front window. Lope was saying something to me, but I didn't understand him and just stared into space with a stupid look on my face.
Finally he got through to me. "We're going up to Pittsburgh to see the AFC Championship game," he said. "Are you going?"
I didn't have a job or anything better to do, so I managed to say something like "Sure, what the hell."
Lope already had a book bag packed with some clothes, and Monk was out trying to pack the car with snacks and drinks. I felt dead to the world, so I stumbled outside to the puking tree on Lope's front lawn. I let loose a few good heaves and figured better here than in the car. I washed my face and got a drink of water before we were off to Monk's house. I crawled into the back seat and slept the whole way over.
Bill woke up his wife and told her where we were going. He quickly packed a bag and grabbed some beer and gatorade for the ride up to Pittsburgh. He was from Pittsburgh, so he called his dad and told him that we were on our way.
When it came down to packing my own bag, I was told that we wouldn't be stopping at my house. I was deemed a flight risk and outvoted. I certainly wouldn't have backed out on the trip, but my house was about a half hour out of the way. Not having a say in the matter, we hit the interstate and pressed Northward. I wasn't in much of a state to protest, so I rolled over in the back seat and passed out. When I woke up, we were just outside Washington D.C.
I looked outside and asked where we were. Monk told me, and then handed me a Gatorade bottle and asked me if I wanted a drink. I can't stand Gatorade, and it was a good thing too because what was inside didn't look like Gatorade. My instincts turned out to be correct, and rather than lose time stopping at rest stops Monk had used the empty bottle instead.
We did stop once for lunch and gas, and pressed on into Pittsburgh that evening. We arrived at Monk's father's house. He lived way up in the mountains of the Pittsburgh suburbs. It was cold and snowy outside, and when we stepped onto the porch I noticed that people just set beer on their porch rather than waste room in the fridge.
Bill's mom was very nice and welcomed us into their home. I was beginning to regret not having a change of clothes. Bill's dad was nice but gruff. As he shook my hand, his first words to me were, "Nice to meet you, now get the fuck out of my chair."
I cleared out of his way and went out front to grab some beers off the porch. It helped cure my hangover while we talked strategy about the next day.
Bill's dad was amazed that we had just driven up there on a whim. We didn't even have tickets for the game. Lope's father, Pete, had just died and left him a few thousand dollars. It wasn't much of an inheritance, but Lope promised to pay for the tickets if we picked up the rest of the trip. We drank a quick toast and said, "Here's to Pete."
We spent the rest of the night drinking and shooting the breeze. The game was the next day.
We arrived in Pittsburgh and started looking for parking and ticket scalpers. There was no shortage of guys standing around outside the stadium with signs that read, "We need tickets". Lope and Monk saw that and figured we didn't stand a chance of getting into the game. That's when it occurred to me that they had never been to a football game before.
"They don't need tickets, they have tickets," I told the guys. "The other side of that sign is probably a seating chart."
I was right and we started negotiating with the scalpers. Finding three tickets together was proving to be difficult. We finally found a guy with three decent tickets, so Lope forked over $750 from Pete's inheritance. We were both grateful, and Lope promised to try to drink at least that much in beer at the stadium. We promised to pick up his tab and went inside.
Inside, Lope and Monk were both giddy. They had never been to a game before, whereas I had been to several games in college. Lope and Monk are both socialites and quickly made friends with everyone in our section. The Pittsburgh fans are fantastic and we were the talk of the section. Our story of driving up there on a drunken whim seemed to play pretty well. I purchased another round of beers and we made another toast, "Here's to Pete."
The Denver Broncos jumped out to a big lead and unfortunately Pittsburgh never recovered. It's hard to describe the disappointment We had just assumed that if we went through all that trouble to go to the game, Pittsburgh would win. We sat there for about a half hour after the game was over and watched the AFC trophy awarded to John Elway. We were bitter about the loss, but the trip was still worth it.
Back at Bill's, I was able to do some laundry and finally get into some clean clothes. We left on Monday but didn't head home right away.
We dropped in on Racer X, who lived in Ohio, and stayed the night. His wife wasn't exactly pleased that we were there, which I don't really understand considering all the money we added to her swear jar. On Tuesday we drove over to Canton and visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We toured the Hall and paid homage to all the greats who had ever played the sport. I had hoped to press on into Ohio and visit my relatives, but I was outvoted again, so Tuesday night was spent back at Racer's.
Wednesday both Bill and Lope were homesick and missed their wives and children, so we headed home. We dropped Bill off and headed to Lope's house where I had left my car.
We said our goodbye's and on the drive home, I reflected on the good times we had just experienced. I arrived home to a worried and pissed off mom. In retrospect, going out to "run errands" on Friday and not showing back up until Wednesday was a pretty awful thing to do to the woman. She got over it though and was just happy that I was okay and had had a good time.
Denver went on to win the Super Bowl, and I eventually ran out of money and got another job. I moved away from Virginia Beach, as did MonkEspank. I don't hear from Lope or Monk much at all any more, and that girlfriend is now a distant memory. Still, I have many fond memories of all of them. I also keep a bag packed in the car with a spare change of clothes.
So this weekend when I watch the AFC Championship game and root for the Steelers, I think I'll make a familiar toast. "Here's to Pete."
(c) Ravenwood and Associates, 1990 - 2014