Last home game, I followed director of public relations Will Norman as he made sure that the Redskins players didn’t catch fire at pregame introductions. On the field before warmups this evening, I met the man who controls actually controls the pyrotechnics that Will was steering players clear of.
This is Luther Horine. He’s been doing pyro with this company for more than thirty years, with his dad for twenty before that, and for the Redskins for the last five or six.
What caught my attention wasn’t the man, but the board he’s sitting behind. It looks like a cross between a kid’s woodburning set and a board with a bunch of pegs in it, and it completely does not fit in with the rest of the modern accessories on the football sidelines.
First thing to do, of course, is set the actual pyrotechnics in the endzone.
“The first thing I have to do,” Horine said, pointing to the top right corner of the board, “is turn the key in here and flip the switch to operate.”
“It’s so that if this thing slips like this,” he said, brandishing something that looked like a soldering iron and running it along the pegs in the board, “I don’t set off everything at once. This board can do up to three hundred separate fires.”
Then he pressed the soldering iron against one of the pegs. “This is the next step.”
“And THEN,” he said, with the air of someone who is vaguely amused by the level of precaution he has to take, “I have to press and hold down this deadman switch. That’s when the pyro goes.”
The whole contraption is powered by something that looks like a battery built by a lumberjack.
So, this board looks pretty old. “Oh, it is,” he said, smiling as if the machine were an old friend.
How old? “It’s seen some years. We’ve got newer equipment, but this one works well enough.”
Are you ever concerned about lighting a guy on fire? “Not really. The main concern is filling the whole stadium with smoke. It’s pretty much just a big bowl, you know?”
That’s all well and good, and Luther seems like he loves his job and takes it seriously. But looking at that crazy nailboard again, I’m glad Will Norman’s down there reminding the players that there’s pyro in the endzone.