An unlikely pre-game activity warmed us up in all kinds of ways Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
Led by our gallant host, we left the loud, brash world of football behind for a little while and took in the Phipps Winter Flower Show at the Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens.
The contrast could not have been more profound.
Inside, soft Christmas music scored a gorgeous display through which murmuring people meandered. Outside, and especially down in the Strip District, Steeler and Packer fans bellied up to bars and traded loud chants.
“Here we go Steelers, here we go!”
“Go Pack Go!”
“The holly green. The ivy green. The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen. It’s Christmas in Kilarney and all of the folks are home.”
I hauled out my camera and hung with Bing for a while. With hundreds of orchids and amaryllis sending out their sweet perfume, the whole experience felt like a deep, cleansing breath. More than 2,000 poinsettias, thoroughly decorated fir trees, trains and ponds decorated 14 themed display rooms.
Our late afternoon tour offered a hint at what the gardens must look like lit up at night, but by then Heinz Field was calling our name.
The NFL season overlaps the holiday season every year in both lovely and jarring ways. Last year, we spent a very hectic Christmas Eve hustling from Lambeau Field to church and then home for presents. In general, I prefer to celebrate each season thoroughly and independently.
But, our unexpected game day detour into the Phipps holiday display turned out perfectly. We left it fully appreciating the beauty of one season, and ready to celebrate the excitement of the other.
Hats off to the Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens for a genuinely memorable display and thank you once again to our friend Dennis for his outstanding city tour.