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Despite Snowstorm, Bitter Temperatures, Steeler Fans Rev Up for Championship
By L. ANNE CARRINGTON, MOP Squad Sports Staff Writer
Jan 22, 2005 - 3:17:00 PM
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Want to meet a bunch of fans some may think are totally nuts? You have come to the right place!
A snowstorm swept through the Pittsburgh area Saturday morning, January 22, and temperatures with a high of only 17 degrees Fahrenheit (with wind chills 10 below zero Fahrenheit) expected for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field would deter any fan from attending would it be any other sporting event. In that case, the majority would be watching from the warm comforts of their homes.
TERRIBLE TOWELS WILL FLY SUNDAY: Credit-Steelers.com
But this is Pittsburgh, where tailgaters set up hours before the start of the game and have even camped out the night before in guarantee of getting a good spot for such a tailgate party, whether it would be 70 degrees and sunny….or snow-laden and 17 degrees. They come prepared with layers of clothing, Steeler regalia, fixings that would make tailgate parties memorable, thermoses of hot beverages, and the ubiquitous Terrible Towels.
In this old steel town with its tough, take-no-BS, working-class roots that has pretty much seen it all, there's one thing you can count on at a Steelers game: reasonably well-behaved fans, even if they do get loud and rowdy. It’s all in the spirit of being a fan.
Rest assured, the black-and-gold faithful at Heinz Field don't hoist tea cups to their lips, pinkies in the air, and say, "Hey, yunz, pass the crumpet!"
But we also don’t toss bottles at players and officials (Cleveland), stab someone in the stands (Oakland) or be arrested and sent before a judge right in the stadium itself (Philadelphia). As tough as we are, even we have our boundaries.
If past practice is any guide, when the Steelers host the New England Patriots tomorrow for the AFC Championship in what promises to be a hard-hitting, physical matchup on the field, it's unlikely that similar behavior will be reflected in the stands.
But the fun isn’t limited to the stands, nor even the average fan’s home, for that matter.
A pep rally was held in the cold weather (yes, outdoors!) in Pittsburgh on Friday, which the city had deemed “Black and Gold Day” for the second Friday in a row; the attendance at this rally was more than considerable. What can one say? We love our team!
Meanwhile, at Heinz Field, the playing field is covered with tarp and the snow plows are at the ready should they be needed at Sunday’s game.
And if that isn’t enough, sports bars, fans throughout the country and around the world are being asked to participate in one of the largest simultaneous toasts on record.
Saturday night in Pittsburgh, at 6:00PM, football great and Pittsburgh native Dan Marino will lead the Steelers Toast at Atria's Restaurant on the North Shore. Andy Russell, Steelers alumni from the 1970s Super Bowl Team, will be present, along with other local dignitaries.
At “Eastern Steelers Time” on Saturday night, fans are asked to do the following for the official toast:
1. Identify Official Steelers Toastmaster (or fan with biggest mouth)
2. At 6 p.m. EST on Saturday, January 22, all Steelers fans - identified by their Black & Gold attire - should stand up
3. Determine which way to face, with all eyes on the prize directed at Heinz Field.
4. Adjust body positioning according to appropriate direction - but fans should be careful so as not to spill a drop of the beverage they'll be holding!
5. Toastmaster asks Steelers fans to raise their glasses into the air
6. Fans listen to Steelers Toast and think about their beloved Pittsburgh team (see below) 7. Steelers fans everywhere sip or swig.
8. Cheer and wave Terrible Towels wildly, (but not so wildly as to inflict injury on fellow fans!) .
9. Watch the Pittsburgh Steelers kick some butt
10. Gloat all the way down that road to the Super Bowl!
The official Pittsburgh Steelers Toast is the following, courtesy of WPXI.com:
"To the best Steelers season on record
To the best players in the league
And the best fans in the country - with black and gold pride that galvanized the city
And shaped Steelers Nation
To the best football has to offer from the best city in the country
To the next AFC Champions
To the Pittsburgh Steelers!"
And who wants to bet, despite the 8-10 inches of snow expected to fall in the area , parties will still be going on through the night? The city may have gotten prettier over the years, but rest assured, the Steeler fans, both new and old-timers, have not gotten any wimpier. They don’t call us the rowdiest fans in the NFL for nothing, and that dates back to the days of Three Rivers Stadium.
Come Sunday, all fans, whether they be at the game or viewing from home or a sports bar, as in last week’s game against the Jets, are encouraged to simultaneously wave their Terrible Towels at the opening kickoff at this Sunday’s game at Heinz Field.
Despite the 6:30PM kickoff, the parking area of Heinz Field will open at 1:30PM. The Coca-Cola Great Hall and South Plaza (Gates A and B), Clubs and Suites will open at 3:30 p.m.—three hours prior to kickoff instead of usual two. At the Great Hall, fans will be able to participate in a Steelers Playoff Rally prior to the game, also beginning at 3:30.
Gate C will open at 4:30 p.m. for access to the seating bowl and remainder of the stadium. Due to the cold weather, fans are encouraged to arrive early to Heinz Field because there will be security measures implemented at the gates.
In addition, the Steelers teamed up with the Freedom Call Foundation, a non-profit military organization, to connect Pittsburgh families with their deployed loved ones in Iraq. Local artist Jim Sparacino will sing “America the Beautiful,” which will be dedicated to all soldiers and their families for safe deployment and return home.
Performing at the national anthem will be Star Search winner, 13-year-old Tiffany Evans, who has a debut album being released in March. Zambelli International will complement the national anthem and pre-game ceremonies with fireworks, and country music star Lee Greenwood will perform his hit, “God Bless the USA” during the halftime activities.
At the press time, Aramark will stop selling beer about 10 minutes into halftime and for the rest of the game, and other concessions will stop selling beer early into the third quarter.
Be warned, though, if you are a visitor here for the game, should Pittsburgh pull off the AFC Championship, just as it happened in January 1995, all hell will break loose in both the City of Pittsburgh and its suburbs Sunday night…and days after. A few businesses have already promised their employees everything from a half day to the entire Monday off should the Steelers win Sunday’s game.
So if you do attend the game, have fun, but exercise both safety and common sense. And if they win tomorrow, I’ll be one of the nuts on their front porch banging the pots and pans!
And if they lose? Well, thanks for a great season and we start over with the fan craziness next year!
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