It was the first home game since the Raiders decided to stay in Los Angeles.
On Sunday, a Pittsburgh fan wearing a Steelers T-shirt as he walked through a crowd of Raiders fans in a section of low-priced seats at the Coliseum was first pelted with ice by hooting fans, and then beaten and kicked in the head by one fan in front of several thousand others, right behind the Steelers' team bench.
The victim, Paul Albrecht, 35, a former Pittsburgh resident who lives in Tucson, regained consciousness Monday in the neurological intensive care unit at County-USC Medical Center, where he was in improved, but still critical condition, said hospital spokeswoman Adelaida de la Cerda.
Police on Monday identified Shane Geringer, 19, of Agoura as the man who allegedly kicked and punched Albrecht. He was arrested at the game and booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon with great bodily injury. The suspect was released late Sunday after someone posted his $30,000 bail, Los Angeles Police Detective Bill Pavelic said.
"He just indiscriminately started punching (Albrecht) and kicking him," Pavelic said.
By the time security officers got to him, the detective said, "the victim was unconscious."
A Steelers trainer and team doctor tended Albrecht until paramedics arrived, said Steelers spokesman Don Edwards.
"Occasionally there are scuffles in the stands," Edwards said, "but something like this, the way it was described . . . that's a scary sight to see."
According to the police report, Pavelic said, both men were "very HBD"--police shorthand for had been drinking.
A woman who answered the telephone at Geringer's home said he was not there, and did not know when he would return.
The reaction in Pittsburgh--where the 1970s cross-country rivalry with the then Oakland Raiders had all the intensity of two blue-collar cities with tough-guy teams--was fairly muted Monday. At most, Albrecht was considered to be the 12th, unofficial, player on a sadly losing team.
After Sunday's 20-3 loss to the Raiders, the Steelers record is 1-2, and that only because the defense scored a touchdown in an earlier game. What happened to Albrecht was yet another sign of a dispiriting failure--in the fans' estimation, "Just another loss that we suffered in Los Angeles," said John Poister, acting program director at WTAE radio. Pittsburgh fans figured, "We didn't even win the fight."
The incident got hourly mentions on the local news, yet Eartha Jackson, producer of the KDKA radio call-in show "Myron Cope on Sports," said that in the show's nearly two hours, "we've had one call" about Albrecht. "Everybody else is concerned about the pitiful performance that the team has been putting on the field."
Police said earlier that Albrecht was "vociferous" in his support of Pittsburgh.
But John Conroy of West Los Angeles said that when he saw Albrecht late in the fourth quarter, he "wasn't taunting or doing anything other than wearing this shirt, walking on the aisle closest to the field," and was "being pelted by people with ice and paper cups," and some kind of liquid.
"At that point he put a magazine up to his head--it looked like the program--to cover his head. I think I saw a bit of a smile on his face as if, 'OK, this is gonna happen.' "
Conroy said he turned back to the game, and then "I heard this intake of breath by the whole section near the 50-yard line" and "a bunch of people rushing" to where Albrecht lay.
Earlier, Conroy saw two couples in Steelers shirts leaving the game, and "people were throwing all kinds of stuff at them" before a security guard intervened. "I was flabbergasted by that," he said.
It "didn't shock me, given the behavior of these people, that that (Albrecht) guy was jumped on and beaten up," said Conroy. "The whole atmosphere was kind of hostile, and if this is for a winning team, what are you going to do if you're losing? I tell you one thing, I'm not going back to a Raider game, out of protest."
It was the talk of the stadium, said one season ticket-holder. When one little boy crowed to the man escorting him, "He really hit that guy," the adult told the boy, "Just because you root for another team is no reason to get hit."
Police Lt. Rich Molony said that most scuffles that require intervention at Raiders' games end with the combatants simply being thrown out of the stadium.
Sometimes, "if it's a pretty good (fight), the crowd starts booing" as the officers approach, "and throwing beer on us and basically taking officers on."
Working at the Coliseum is, along with movie-set security, one of two moonlighting law enforcement jobs Los Angeles police are allowed to do, Molony added.
Raiders crowds "tend to be very one-sided. I've been told they have to relocate fans at almost every game," after "someone from out of town buys tickets" and finds they are "right in the middle of the Raiders section."
That's what happened Sunday, said Raiders executive Al LoCasale. "That's an area where we asked them (the Coliseum) for additional security."
The Coliseum's private security, Contemporary Services, would not comment on the incident.
The Raiders have always said they ask for more security than is required at home games, but they can do little as Coliseum tenants, "other than insist that the Coliseum over-staff an event, to err on the side of over-staffing," LoCasale said.
The Raiders and the Coliseum share the expense of over-staffing Raiders games, he added, and they try to help ticket-holders who want to change seats because of problems brewing in their sections.
Coliseum spokeswoman Alisa Spillman said, "We really don't see it like it's going to erupt into this huge rash of problems. It was an isolated incident."