Steelers Nation citizens descended on their capital
January 19, 2009 5:00 AM
Fans fill the 1500 block of East Carson Street on the South Side last night after the Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens to go to the Super Bowl.
By Dan Majors Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One of the keys to the Steelers' AFC championship game victory last night was making sure that it was a home game.
But that doesn't mean that everyone in the record-setting crowd at Heinz Field was from one of our friendly neighborhoods.
"This is Pittsburgh! This is Steelers Country! I live for this, are you kidding me?" bellowed Jason "Spanky" McGivern, 24, who made the trip from Palm Coast, Fla.
Standing in full Steelers regalia in a Heinz Field parking lot, Mr. McGivern was tailgating with friends from when he lived in Morningside. He moved to Florida two years ago and hadn't been back to a Steelers game since.
But he came back for last week's playoff game and told his buddies to make sure they had a ticket for him last night. Their seats were down behind the Ravens' bench.
"It's a 100 percent fact that we're winning this game today," Mr. McGivern shouted. "And I'll be letting Ray Lewis know it all day."
Jason Harant, 28, and his wife, Cheryl, 26, drove more than seven hours from West Milford, N.J., for the game.
"When I was a kid, my aunt liked the Steelers, and I grew up liking the Steelers," Mr. Harant said. "I did a book report on the Steelers in second grade."
Mrs. Harant, who called herself "a converted Steelers fan," got them tickets by going to the team's Web site, where she wrote a paragraph saying why she wanted to purchase them.
"I just said my husband really wanted to go to the game," she said. It didn't hurt that when the couple was married in September, she placed a Terrible Towel on the chair of every guest.
Of course, all Steelers fans are cut from the same cloth. They look the same, dressed in their black and gold jerseys, with their crazy hats and their faces painted. They chant the same chants and curse the same calls.
Jamie Kurzdorfer, 26, a first lieutenant in the Air Force, might have made the longest road trip to last night's game, having come all the way from Seoul, South Korea. It involved numerous drives and flights, but his girlfriend, Andrea Bytnar, 28, of Cincinnati, was determined to make it a reality.
Ms. Bytnar, who moved from Glenshaw nine years ago, said her father has had Steelers season tickets for 45 years. She met Mr. Kurzdorfer, an environmental engineer, when he was in Cincinnati for training, and the two found a common bond in being Steelers fans.
Once Mr. Kurzdorfer was sent to Korea, the two kept in touch, especially during Steelers games, when they would watch on television and talk on the phone.
Going to a game together, however, was a long time coming.
"This is my first Steelers game ever," said Mr. Kurzdorfer, whose family moved from Western Pennsylvania when he was 6. "The funny thing about Korea is that the games come on so early because of the 14-hour time difference. So if I want to see a 1 p.m. game, I have to be up at 3 o'clock in the morning."
Savoring the sights and sounds of Heinz Field, he couldn't help but join the locals in their revelry.
"It's been a great week, it's a great day, it's a great time to be a Steelers fan," he said. "This is just amazing. She told me I had no idea how lucky I am to be dating a girl who has Steelers season tickets."
And there are so many others. Matt O'Malley, 35, a plant manager who came from Derry, N.H. John Milligan, 38, of Annandale, Va., who came even though he didn't have tickets. Mt. Lebanon natives Todd Mondzelewski, 32, and his wife, Lisa, 31, who are stationed in San Diego, where they are lieutenants in the Navy.
Scott Orr, 32, and his wife, Ashley, 24, are from Mt. Lebanon and Washington, Pa., respectively, but they moved to Indianapolis for his sales job a year ago. They kept their Steelers season tickets, though.
"We were holding out faith for the AFC championship game, which we knew would be played right here," Mr. Orr said. "I've been to four AFC championship games, and the Steelers lost them all."
But his wife, he said, brings good luck when she attends.
"I should bring my wife," he said. "I learned my lesson."
Dennis Holt, 42, a vendor from Riverton, Utah, came in with his wife, Kim, to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
"I was born and raised in Utah, but I've been a Steelers fan all my life," said Mr. Holt, who was in Section 135 waving a sign reading, "Utah fans love the Steelers."
"I've seen them in California and in Denver, but I never saw them here," he said moments after watching the Steelers score their first touchdown. "This is the greatest, being here. I had to be here to enjoy this championship win, so we can get to the Super Bowl."
Dan Majors can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456.