I went out front and lit off some firecrackers—they were left over from July 4th a few years back, and I felt like I had to do something to celebrate. We’d spent a quiet Super Bowl with my wife’s parents at our house, so there wasn’t the usual hooting and hollering that you would get from a group of younger, more inebriated fans. More of a quiet celebration, but still all good, though different from the houses filled with family and friends that I remember from the Steelers’ four previous Super Bowl victories.
After lighting off a pack of firecrackers, I went back into the house and said goodbye to everybody. I had to do some legwork for a story.
As I drove down Penn Avenue into the heart of Wilkinsburg, the road was packed with cars whose drivers honked horns, whooped and hollered, waving Terrible Towels out of their windows as they passed. In the 300 block of Penn, a group of about 15 adolescents and teenagers edged into both sides of the street, hopping up and down and waving towels and hollering with joy to cars as they moved slowly past. Some of the kids, most of whom were black, wore shorts, while others wore Steelers jerseys. Few seemed to be wearing heavy coats, despite the chill and snow flurries. Many of the drivers happily honked back at the kids, while others hooted and flashed victory signs.
Traffic was moving slower than usual, partly because there was a lot more traffic than typical for a Sunday night. But all of the drivers seemed calm and not at all rushed. Down by the McDonalds on Penn, where several years ago Ron Taylor killed people in a racist rampage against whites, a brother with a wild hairdo sauntered down the sidewalk. He was wearing Steelers gear and every so often he would stop and place his hands on his chest, as if he would take a bow, while gazing at drivers passing by. When he got their attention, he’d raise his arms up in a “touchdown” pose, then wait to receive cheers and honks from those passing by. I saw him do this a few times, and he always got the desired response.
Every single person I saw driving by wore a pie-eating, blissful smile. Police officers in cars traveling down Penn Avenue grinned, amused by the scene.
From Wilkinsburg I headed over to Ardmore Boulevard to check out Forest Hills. As on Penn Avenue, Ardmore Boulevard was filled with cars carrying exuberant fans yelling out of their car windows and furiously waving towels to others passing by. Across the street from DeFazio’s Hair Salon a group of white kids, decked out in Steelers regalia and mostly appropriately dressed for the cold weather, cheered to passing cars, waving fists of victory and Terrible Towels. Drivers shouted back with joy and beeped their horns in frenzied staccatos.
Over in South Side and Oakland, mobs of young people flowed into the streets, some of which were closed off in anticipation of the celebration. Some of the expected idiocy of college students overturning cars and burning couches did happen, but not so much as might have occurred. Pittsburghers were pretty well behaved overall, as were our Steelers Nation comrades from outside the City of Steel who came here to celebrate with us.
Pittsburgh literally jumped for joy, long before the parade downtown yesterday that drew 250,000 fans.
The outpouring of love that the team received at yesterday’s celebration moved Steelers great Joey Porter, who wore a huge grin.
“I got chills up my back, looking at the sea of Black and Gold,” Porter said.
His teammates were just as ebullient.
“We brought one home for the thumb!” Big Ben told the crowd.
Coach Bill Cowher, who is legendary for the grimace he wears on the sidelines during games, smiled like a birthday boy.
“I was here in the Seventies when they talked about how great it was,” Cowher said to the adoring fans. “Now I can say, how great it is!”
The City of Champions had again reaffirmed its moniker and much of the Steelers Nation was here to celebrate. I realized that our town was hosting many people from out of town when I did a story on roadside vendors of Steelers regalia. I ran into a few former Pittsburghers while working on that story and other stories in the past few weeks. I also met compatriots of the Steelers Nation, such as George Woods, a truck driver and former police officer from Bloomingdale, Ohio.
He stopped by a Wilkinsburg vendor stand on Monday morning after the game, to pick up a Super Bowl T-shirt for his wife, Debbie.
Woods, 53, said he was raised a Steelers fan because his dad was from West Virginia and had always been a Steelers fan.
“Our whole block in my neighborhood is full of Steelers fans,” he said. “I stayed up for the game, though I had to get up at 3 a.m. for work. My only sad moments were when Bettis said, ‘The Bus stops here.’”
I mentioned how South Side had gotten a little crazy, which I know from experience (I lived there for a time) is liable to happen sometimes along East Carson Street.
“I would’ve liked to have been there,” Woods said with a faraway look in his eyes.
After a long drought, the Pittsburgh Steelers had again won the Super Bowl. In doing so, they reminded the world of our city’s inimitable work ethic, and of the tenacity with which Pittsburghers pursue their goals. The Super Bowl victory belongs to the team, but in a way, it belongs to all of us who consider ourselves a part of the Steelers Nation and share its ethic. We are the champions—black or white, middle-class or poor—all of us.