A funny thing happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers as they settled in for a good night’s sleep Saturday night in Boston.
The fire alarms in their Logan Airport Hilton hotel went off at about 3:40 a.m.
Odd things often happen a little farther south of the team’s hotel, with headsets that can curiously malfunction during games in Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium. Middle-of-the-night alarms are the oldest play in a very old playbook everywhere, so perhaps it’s no surprise that this happened.
The culprit has been identified by Massachusetts State Police as 25-year-old Dennis Harrison of East Boston, who was found walking on hotel property. He was not a guest at the hotel, police said, and had “no legitimate reason” for being on hotel property. Harrison has been charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and setting off a false fire alarm. As of midmorning, he was being held pending bail. According to Michael McCann, a professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, Sports Illustrated legal analyst and director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute, a conviction could result in up to two years in jail; if there is no prior record, there may be no jail time.
It’s a serious offense, but it’s one that happens all too often when playoffsroll around in every sport. Two years ago in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, it happened to the Patriots twice. Rex Ryan, then the newly-named coach of the Buffalo Bills, joked that he thought Coach Bill Belichick might have been to blame.
“Let’s face it: Belichick probably did it himself,” Ryan said of his frequent AFC East nemesis during his time with the Jets. “He’s the one that pulled the thing and created a different story. Those things happen. You try to prepare your team in the offseason — training camps and all that kind of stuff. Would you pull a fire alarm or something? You may.”
The Patriots, who went on to win that Super Bowl, slept through those alarms, just as the Steelers did early Sunday morning. The irony of the situation in 2015 was not lost on Ryan.
“Ironically that’s happened to us a couple times in New England,” Ryan said then. “I don’t think it’s that big a deal unless it’s the night before.”
As it was this time. Derrick Mason, the former NFL wide receiver, said Sunday morning that the Jets and Steelers weren’t the only teams that had this happen during road trips to New England.
“Boy does this sound familiar…” he tweeted. “Same thing happen[ed] to us the night before the 2004 divisional game. Titans vs. Patriots. Hahaha.”
Alan Faneca, the former NFL lineman who played for the Steelers, Jets and Cardinals, tweeted that he had “never played a game in NE where that did not happen. Every single time.”
— Ian Smith (@ismithKDKA) January 22, 2017
Although firetrucks did arrive on the scene at the Hilton, the hotel was not fully evacuated, Steelers communications director Burt Lauten told the Post-Gazette.
Alarms weren’t limited to the hotel, though. Gillette Stadium briefly emptied midmorning when alarms went off.
— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) January 22, 2017
Thus ends Alarmgate. We hope.