Gang Green infects the 'Burgh
Jets fans cheer for their team in the lobby of the Westin Convention Center hotel, Downtown.
Howard Fuchs, left, of Sarasota, Fla. (formerly of the Bronx), and his son. Jason Fuchs of Petoskey, Mich., eat lunch at Primanti Brothers restaurant in Market Square, Downtown. The Jets fans are in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship today. On the wall behind them are photos of the Steelers.
New York Jets fans Marvin and Barbara Schaffer of Long Island show their colors on Mount Washington. Heinz Field is at far left in the background.
Share with others:
There probably haven't been this many Darrelle Revis jerseys in town since he left the University or Pittsburgh, or Joe Namath throwback jerseys since he graduated from Beaver Falls High School.
Yes, the Jets are in town to play the Steelers today, and their Gang Green fans preceded them here Saturday, openly sporting their Kelly-green-and-white jerseys, hats and flags, as they walked around downtown. They were quick-as-a-whip with a comeback -- "So how's your baseball team?" was one of the best -- to Pittsburgh fans yelling "It's gonna be a long drive home tomorrow!" or "It's not going to be like last month!"
But a surprising thing happened on the way to the enmity that is sure to exist inside the stadium today.
It turns out, Jets fans say they like our fair city. "I didn't realize it was so hilly, like the Rockies; it's beautiful here," one newcomer to Pittsburgh said. And they have huge respect for Steelers Nation.
"I remember when the Steelers played at the Jets five years ago," said Stefano Caruso, who was eating lunch at Primanti's on Market Square Saturday. "I couldn't believe it, there were so many of you'se guys there with your [ridiculous] Terrible Towels," said the 29-year-old who grew up in the Bronx and works in his family's pizza restaurant in East Meadow, N.Y., on Long Island.
When Mr. Caruso took notice of the unique Pittsburgh dialect that uses words like "yunz," he said with a laugh: "And people on Long Island make fun of me cause I say 'you'se.'''
The ribbing Jets fans said they got in town this weekend was by and large good-natured -- one Steelers fan felt the need in single-digit temperatures to roll down his passenger side window to yell "Boo! Boo!" to one Jets fan walking along Liberty Avenue. There were reports from fans who said they had difficulty getting cabs or a beer at a bar if they were conspicuously sporting Jets gear.
Matt Feldman, 24, a Jets fan from Queens, started getting grief "the minute we got off the bus" in Pittsburgh.
He said he and his friend Joel Polanco, 24 -- who is, amazingly, a Steelers fan from the Bronx -- first got grief on a cab ride in the city.
"The cab driver said, 'I don't know if I should give a ride to a Jets fan,' but then I showed him my friend the Steelers fan" and they got the ride, Mr. Feldman said.
Then at Primanti's "we were sitting there for about 10 minutes before Joel said, 'Why don't you take your hat off?' And then we got served," he said.
But in a move they say ensured their good opinion of Pittsburgh, their Primanti's waitress insisted the wait was unintentional and gave them some free beers.
Jason Fuchs, 32, born in the Bronx and now in Michigan, drove 11 hours to meet his father, Howard, 58, and see their Jets here -- first making sure to take the advice of a friend and go to the top of Mount Washington to see the view.
"No one ever talks about Pittsburgh and how beautiful it is," Jason Fuchs said.
He thinks he knows why the grief he and his dad and other Jets fans have gotten has been good natured, beyond Pittsburghers' genteel demeanor.
"I think it's because there's a mutual respect. We have similar, hard-nosed teams, who run the ball and play hard. Plus, there's no real rivalry yet," he said.
One other seemingly universal opinion from Jets fans: they LOVE Primanti's. Every one of two dozen Jets fans interviewed Saturday had already eaten there or intended to, having been told by friends it was a must-visit.
"I have to say, usually when there's this much hype about something, you're disappointed," said Rob Lanz, 37, who grew up in Huntington, N.Y., but now lives in Dallas and had already had his first Primanti's sandwich Friday. "Like, you go to New Orleans and everyone says, 'You have to try a Poor Boy sandwich' and they [stink]. But Primanti's is great!"
He was having drinks in the bar at the Westin Hotel Downtown, where the Jets team was staying and which, as a result, had became the unofficial center of Jetdom.
Nearly 100 Jets fans, alerted by websites like jetsinsider.com, hung around the Westin lobby and bar most of Saturday afternoon, waiting for the Jets to arrive -- enough of a majority contingent that every time a new Jets fan walked in, someone at the bar broke into the Jets standard cheer: "J! E! T! Jets! Jets! Jets!"
By the time the Jets actually arrived at 6:25 p.m. on three buses escorted by Allegheny County sheriffs with their emergency lights and sirens clearing the way, more than 200 Jets fans had massed at the hotel.
They jammed in near the elevators when the players came in and broke into a new cheer, one that grew over this past week: "Can't wait! Can't wait! Can't wait!"
That's what Jets linebacker Bart Scott said after the team's win over New England last week when he was asked what he thought about this week's game in Pittsburgh.
Jets fans believe it's now their rallying cry that will take them to the Super Bowl.
But as Jets fans started the cheer again, some University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy students attending a formal social at the Westin walked by in their formal dresses and suits, waving their Terrible Towels and yelling at the Jets fans a rallying cry with far more history -- and results: "Here we go Steelers, here we go! Here we go Steelers, here we go!"
First Published January 23, 2011 12:00 am