John Steigerwald

Column John Steigerwald

John Steigerwald has been a fixture of TV, radio, and newspaper sports in Pittsburgh, and has a Sunday column in the Observer-Reporter.

It’s time to call out the (bomb-sniffing) dogs

It’s time to call out the (bomb-sniffing) dogs

April 20, 2013

Call out the dogs.

There has been a lot of talk this week about security at major American sporting events in the wake of the bombings Monday at the Boston Marathon.

And it didn’t take long for the dogs to start showing up – the bomb sniffing dogs. Humans have come up with some amazing technology over the last few thousand years, but they can’t beat a dog’s nose when it comes to sniffing out trouble. And every time I see the little kids and old ladies being patted down and/or wanded on their way into stadiums and arenas, I wonder why there aren’t more of them.

It’s been 11 1/2 years since Sept. 11, 2001. By now, there should be dogs at every stadium gate.

I was a regular traveler on the Steelers’ chartered plane for about 15 years, and there is no better way to travel.

No airport security.

Park your car 50 yards from the plane.

No one in the middle seat.

Bus waiting on the tarmac when you arrive and a police escort to the hotel.

Ride the team bus to and under the stadium on game day.

Police escort to the plane sitting on the tarmac after the game.

Things got a lot more complicated after 9/11, though. We had to be wanded and have our bags checked before getting on the plane. When we got off the bus at the stadium, security personnel would be waiting there to check our luggage and briefcases.

Every once in a while, we had to go through airport security. Not the worst thing in the world but kind of time-consuming and annoying.

Then we went to Cincinnati for a game Dec. 30, 2001. When we got off the bus, a cop said, “Gentlemen, just stand in line over here and put your bags in front of you.” Two yellow Labrador Retrievers showed up and sniffed an entire team’s worth of luggage in about two minutes.

I said to the cop, “Wow. That was easy. Why doesn’t everybody do that?” He said, “Those are the only two bomb-sniffing dogs in Hamilton County.”

Ever since that day, I have been waiting for a smart politician to call for a massive program to train bomb-sniffing dogs. It wouldn’t be cheap. Each dog costs between $16,000 and $200,000.

A few years later, after a terrorist tried to light his shoe on fire on a transatlantic flight, we were all required to take off our shoes before getting on the charter.

I never got over the spectacle of watching Bill Cowher and Dan Rooney being wanded and having their shoes checked. I think about it each time the topic of stadium security comes up.

How much money is being wasted on that kind of stupidity all over the country? How many dogs could you produce with the money that’s being paid for the personnel required to do all of that useless shoe checking?

After being on local TV for 30 years, I had a pretty recognizable face, especially around stadiums. Every Sunday after 9/11, I would walk into Heinz Field and the security guard would say, “Hi, John.” Then he’d ask me for my ID. I would take my driver’s license out and show him that he got my name right.

Cowher, and I believe Dan Rooney, went through the same ridiculous exercise.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, the Boston Bruins play-by-play broadcaster mentioned that security measures had been greatly increased. He knew because he was wanded for the first time in many years.

If I were to make up a list of people who I might suspect of plotting to blow up an arena, the home team’s radio announcer would be pretty far down the list.

How many terrorist plots are being hatched while our tax dollars are being wasted at stadiums on this kind of feel-good stupidity?

• The Steelers have plenty of holes to fill in this week’s NFL draft. That’s what happens when an aging team goes 8-8 and loses some key players to free agency. Sixteen teams will pick ahead of the Steelers, and if they all pass on West Virginia wide receiver/return specialist/running back Tavon Austin and the Steelers don’t take him, then they will regret it for a long, long time. He’s small – only 5-8, 179 – but he will be one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL the minute he puts on a uniform.

Though Austin’s stock has been steadily rising, you don’t have to look far to find someone who will tell you that Austin shouldn’t go that high. There are plenty of experts out there who are fixated on his size, and when he scored a 7 on the Wonderlic Test, a few more red flags went up.

Go to Youtube and find Austin’s game against Oklahoma last season. He had 572 total yards. That’s half a season for a lot of pretty good players. Watch the guy when he has a football in his hands. Any coach or scout who watches that kid play and comes up with lots of reasons for not having him on his football team is working in the wrong sport.

• A player who scores 7 on his Wonderlic Test shouldn’t make you wonder if he’s smart enough to be an NFL wide receiver. It should make you wonder how he lasted four years in college.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.



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