Could Roger Goodell’s recent twitter death hoax ominously foreshadow the demise of its biggest fans… those who regularly attend the games?
But it was only a harmless prank, right? We all had a good laugh, right? Well… not really. Regardless, at least Commissioner Goodell thought it was amusing.
On June 7, 2016, the official NFL twitter feed was “hacked.” I use that term in quotation marks because the mainstream media, and much of society, incorrectly defines anything “nefariously computer-oriented” as a hacking incident. What’s far more likely is this. Someone simply acquired a username/password and logged into an account. This does not constitute a hack. Such activity requires virtually zero technological sophistication. Incidents like this happen literally every second of every day.
Now fortunately, social media platforms like twitter are only used to deliver information. Nobody would ever use twitter to inflict mass hysteria and carnage. Wrong! The concept of “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you” is a bit outdated. Allow me to prove it.
There are an infinite number of scenarios. Just try factoring in a little creativity and a discernible level of malicious intent. Since I’m from Pittsburgh, I’ll frame it in a way the locals will surely understand.
The Pens just won the Stanley Cup. Hockey mania is sweeping the Burgh. I happened to attend the Penguins downtown victory parade. Everyone was chanting “HBK, HBK, HBK!” It’s a reference to the line of Hagelin, Bonino and Kessel. It was such a popular refrain that the regional restaurant chain Primanti Brothers concocted an HBK sandwich (Ham, Bacon and Kielbasa).
Now everybody in Pittsburgh knows about WDVE 102.5. The local radio station has 25,000 active followers on twitter and 75,000 “likes” on facebook. They’re the self-described “radio home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.” Now let’s say that in the middle of the first quarter of their home opener, WDVE tweets…
@DVERADIO loves our #Steelers. Free HBK sandwiches at ALL Primanti’s restaurants for the next 102.5 seconds… including Heinz Field locations!!!
Hmmm, an extremely time sensitive offer for a free yinzer delicacy in an alcohol infused environment. What could possibly go wrong? Not to worry. All 68,000 Steelers fans would be way too smart to fall for such an obvious hoax. Everyone in the stadium would be able to immediately discern how the freebie sandwich offer was purely fictitious. Even if you received the information via a family member’s retweet. And more good news. Heinz Field management has already thought of this specific scenario and devised a real-time contingency plan to alert fans that the whole thing was an elaborate ruse. Uhh, no.
What about the Steelers twitter feed?
Come get your $7.00 limited edition Stairway to Seven, BIG BEN #7 t-shirt at the Steelers Pro Shop Official Headquarters… while supplies last.
Once again, don’t sweat it. No Steelers fan would want something like that. Even so, stadium security has a plan in place. Event staff has been properly briefed and will make sure everyone forms a single-file line and behaves themselves accordingly. Even though it’s a phony offer and the product doesn’t exist. Uhh, no.
How about this one?
The Department of Homeland Security has ordered an emergency evacuation for Heinz Field. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Remain calm. Exit the stadium immediately.
Or this one?
*** FCC FLASH OVERRIDE ***
Bomb threat emergency notification. Classification: Imminent. All fans must proceed to the nearest concourse. This is not a drill.
Of course, something like this could never happen. Right? Newsflash: it already has happened. During a wildcard 30-17 playoff loss at Heinz Field to the Baltimore Ravens on January 3, 2015. A mischievous fan executed a real-world prank. Granted, it was a harmless one. But what if the individual wanted to reek absolute havoc? Judge for yourself…
Fortunately, Heinz Field security fixed the problem. Well, except they didn’t. In fact, they refused to acknowledge the incident even took place. This is not a good omen. I guess the playoff loss was too much of a burden to bear. After all, the Steelers season was suddenly over. Well cry me a river… or in this case, three rivers.
My point — I just don’t feel comfortable letting Heinz Field incident commander Jimmy Sacco handle this universal, generic security disconnect (68,000+ mobile devices capable of receiving false information in a wirelessly hyper-connective environment).
The NFL claims to have the finest security specialists. Many are retired FBI and Secret Service personnel. Isn’t it peculiar that all of these trained professionals are unwilling to admit how their emergency evacuation protocol is dangerously obsolete? That it has been irreparably compromised. That it doesn’t reflect real-world conditions. That the world has irrevocably changed since 1984. Hint: Everyone has a cell phone.
Does any of this ring a bell? Another Pixburgh hint n’at: Concussion.
Heinz Field security will tell you they have everything under control. That they employ sufficient security and undercover police. That they utilize state-of-the art video surveillance. That they already have an evacuation video. Yeah, okay. Meanwhile, back in the illusory world of virtual security, I just sent 30 of their Event Staff running to the 500 level of the North end zone. They were deployed to investigate reports of a woman who was stabbed in the ladies restroom. Someone texted a message to number 78247 of their in-house security system. Unfortunately, nobody realized that the information was sent from Karachi, Pakistan. Takeaway: On the planet earth, time does NOT stand still during the NFL 1 o’clock slate of games.
What about the prospect of persuading others to unknowingly and unwittingly exacerbate a panic? Steely Dan even wrote a song about it – “I’m a Fool to do Your Dirty Work.” Remember, cellular technology functions in real-time. Just compile the readily available contact info of everyone who works for the local media (television stations, radio stations and newspapers). Simply send them a coordinated barrage of tweets, spoofed emails, text messages, robocalls, facebook posts, live-streamed threats, etc. How long do you think it might take before some of them instinctively relay this false information to the general public? It’s called a “viral blitzkrieg.” Last time I checked, the media seemed especially beholden to the internet.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but my concerns are “undiscussable.” My concerns involve circumstances where emergency evacuation protocol is usurped from the incident command structure. I’m not talking about a challenge to their current evac protocol. I’m talking about the complete evisceration of their existing protocol. That’s a pretty big discrepancy. So how on earth do you address a problem if you’re unwilling to acknowledge the variables even exist?
You see, when it comes to the stadium, cell phones are only used for the fun stuff. Streaming replays, checking fantasy stats, responding to Steelers trivia questions on the jumbotron, showing off those overpriced 50 yard line seats to everyone in your facebook community, posting selfies with mascot Steely McBeam, you get the picture. Like I said, only the fun stuff. Uhh, no. Wireless communication and the internet are neutral, impartial entities. There’s no such thing as an omniscient cyber-deity who monitors everything and screens out the bad stuff in real-time.
So you’re probably thinking, wow this guy must really hate the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wrong. I’m actually a huge fan. I’ve been to over a hundred games… and have the ticket stubs to prove it. This isn’t about me. It’s about them.
All I want is for Heinz Field security to divulge the bare minimum of easily digestible information… Please be aware, that in the unlikely event of an emergency stadium evacuation, the initial order is NOT delivered via your cell phone or mobile device. I’m not asking for them to delve into a variety of threatening scenarios. I’m not asking for them to explain the difference between bomb threat conditions and bomb threat emergencies. I’m not asking for them to talk about drones or active shooter response planning. I’m not asking them to disclose the technical specifications for inclement weather evacuations. I just want them to explicitly tell people, “Hey, if a stadium evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, we don’t use cell phones.” Existing protocol requires using the public address system in tandem with the video monitors. NOT CELL PHONES.
I’ve repeatedly explained my concerns to Heinz Field employees — ownership, security, management, media relations, players, etc. Their collective replies sound something like this: You don’t know what we know. We have everything under control. We don’t want your help. We don’t need your advice. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that we don’t reveal. And it’s all for your own good.
It’s really not that surprising. NFL league security is structured a lot like the mafia, but even more secretive. And they’re all hooked on some kind of delusional, clandestine brand of pompous-strength steroids. They do not seek input or guidance from outsiders. Here’s an open challenge. Try calling any team’s front office. Tell them you read an article on the internet about stadium safety and see what happens. Even better, call the NFL league headquarters (1-212-450-2000).
So just for the sake of argument, let’s presume that Heinz Field actually does have some “top secret contingency plan” in place to remedy a problem that has never been openly addressed in the history of government or private industry. A plan to squelch a spontaneous wirelessly-driven panic. Likely a magical statement delivered over the public address system that can pacify any crowd under any circumstance. Alright, now try to follow this logical progression. Let’s speculate that one day they’re forced to engage this plan. Okay, now in the aftermath of such an occurrence… isn’t it reasonable to assume that someone on the planet earth will ask… what the hell was that about? What just happened?
And then the truth will surface. Oh, I see. Someone was trying to manufacture a panic and foment a human stampede. At this point, and from this point moving forward, the NFL would be forced to acknowledge the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede.” Because once the cat’s out of the bag, it would be necessary to adapt. Creating some form of a widespread awareness campaign would be a legal imperative. To not do so, would demonstrate an utterly absurd degree of negligence and incompetence. My point — since it would no longer be a secret, their security apparatus would be forced to openly address the issue. So for the love of Art Rooney Sr., why not just put it all out there in the first place? To purposely NOT be proactive demonstrates that same ludicrous degree of negligence.
Call me crazy. Label me silly. But wouldn’t everyone be better off if the Steelers just told their fans the truth? As opposed to the stark alternative — deliberately concealing exceedingly generic safety info.
Is it really asking too much to get ahead of the curve? Well, of course it is. Because just the like the Concussion issue, the NFL values revenue ahead of public safety. Because in the end, it’s about plausible deniability, hypothetical litigation and the lose-lose proposition. In the end, it’s always about the almighty dollar.
My own personal experiences with the NFL have lead me to one inescapable conclusion. Their primary motivation is guided entirely by profit. And this level of monetary hubris extends far beyond the Pittsburgh Steelers. It applies to all 32 teams. Much like the young multi-millionaire players think they’re invincible, league management and ownership somehow believe they’re equally untouchable.
Ohh, they’re probably right. NFL stadiums are immune from acts of terrorism. Nobody wants to kill innocent people. Nothing bad ever happens on the planet earth. Well… except for what’s on the daily news I suppose.
Here’s a final thought. The Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre is being described as deadliest mass shooting incident in U.S. history. Crime scene detectives have gone on record. The most disturbing aspect was not the eerie silence of the bullet-ridden bodies. But rather, the miscellaneous ring tones coming from their cell phones. The electronic murmurings and favorite songs, the vibrations and swooshes emerging from the scores of the dead… as agonized friends and family members prayed to hear the sound of their voices.
Imagine the aftermath of a stadium stampede. Disparate sounds emanating from lifeless human carcasses. An electronic symphony bouncing off cement walls and echoing throughout the concourses.
Personally, I’d rather not. So whaddya say? How about we try and fix the problem? After all, the solution is FREE. It doesn’t cost a dime. All you have to do is just add a 3 second public safety message as fans enter the stadium. You’d think that would be music to the ears of Commissioner Goodell and the 32 multi-billionaire owners.
Unfortunately, implementing my suggestion carries with it a rather hefty non-monetary price tag. Because by doing so, it completely obliterates their plausible deniability argument if something were to ever go wrong. And that’s what this whole thing is really about.
In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Judge Reinhold (Brad) said it best.
It’s all about situational awareness. No shirt, no shoes… noooo dice.