Sour note? The criticism of Chesney concert fans was justified

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Don't shoot the messenger.

Today's messenger is Alco Parking president Merrill Stabile, who called it as he saw it last month when boorish Kenny Chesney fans engaged in their ritual of overdoing the partying and leaving a sea of garbage behind after his Heinz Field concert.

A July 1 letter from the Steelers' stadium arm, PSSI Stadium LLC, accused Mr. Stabile of slandering Chesney fans and possibly jeopardizing future shows here.

The team's overreaction doesn't match what occurred.

Because his firm operates the stadium parking lots, reporters sought out Mr. Stabile to get an explanation of how things could go so wrong and why the problem is so much more pronounced when the Chesney show comes to town. He explained that he charged $40 per car, added more police officers for security and even passed out trash bags, but the efforts were no match for the fans' capacity to leave behind mountains of trash and even buckets that had been used as toilets.

Mr. Stabile said he has tried to keep the parking lots cordoned off until close to the show's starting time, but that causes traffic to clog up on the North Shore and pushes fans onto neighboring streets, inconveniencing residents. And he said, quite correctly, that this show always creates more problems than other concerts and even Pittsburgh's most popular events -- Steelers games.

Mr. Stabile was careful to say not all Chesney fans were responsible and said he hoped a solution could be crafted to create a better atmosphere the next time the singer performs in Pittsburgh.

Now, Mr. Stabile says he thinks he's being set up as the fall guy if the performer doesn't return.

But assuming Kenny Chesney and his fans are not delicate flowers who can't stand to have their feelings hurt because of a little criticism -- criticism that was well founded -- then the singer will be back as long as he can make some money.

That's America, and in America free speech is still prized. And if his fans learn their lesson for next time, maybe Merrill Stabile has done Pittsburgh a favor.

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