Being at the game last night was amazing. The air was electric and the Steelers fans were so loud it almost felt like I was in Heinz field. The game was fun to watch, but so were the fans. I especially liked the ones who came wearing crazy hats. Even in comparing headgear, the Steelers fans were tougher and more committed. One Cardinals fan was wearing a white hard hat with a little stuffed cardinal glued to the top. The bird, as tenuously anchored as a transplant living in Arizona, kept wobbling back and forth as he moved his head, The Steelers fans choices for hats were far headier. I saw the always appropriate steel beams through the head, the beer cans on the head, the Polamalu hat and hair and the Roethlisberger “burger” hat.
Roethlisberger, Hold the Mayo: Scott and Cindy Lavery were born and raised in Pittsburgh … and they have been Cardinals season ticket holders for 17 years. That’s how they made it to the Super bowl, through the Cardinals ticket-holders lottery. They didn't win, but their friends did and sold them the tickets. Cindy was wearing a hat that looked like a giant floppy cloth burger. “It’s a Roethlis-burger,” she said, “I got it in the strip district.” She made a point of showing me her Heinz Ketchup and pickle pins. Scott said they have been rooting for both teams all year. “When the Cardinals were playing for the NFC championship on the same day Pittsburgh was playing for the AFC championship, I wore my Cardinals jersey and my Steelers hat to the Cardinals game,” he said. They may have arrived holding Cardinals tickets, but today they were rooting for the Steelers.
Neutral Dome: One of the most creative hats I saw was worn by Harry Overend of Orlando. Unlike the Steelers fans, Harry remained uncommitted. He is a Buccaneers fan and, therefore, decided to create a hat that took no sides, just illustrated the war. He bought figurines of Polamalu and Fitzgerald on the internet. Then, after hand-painting them, Harry super-glued the Steeler and Cardinal to his hard hat. Super Glue seems like an appropriate bonding agent to use for the Super Bowl. He also added both team logos, insuring he would not insult anyone. His son Michael, a Dolphins fan joined his father in the stands wearing his Dolphins jersey. Harry works for Universal Studios in Orlando. When I asked him which was better, Universal or Disney World, he said he was neutral.
Harry’s boss, Brian Colley, was a different story. He was definitely taking sides. The executive director of resort operations was decked out in black and gold, despite never having lived in Pittsburgh. When he was 12, in the ‘70s, he wanted to wear a football jersey to his PE class like some of the other kids at his Rhode Island school. But Brian wanted to wear a winner. He has been an avid Steelers fan ever since.
Jersey Girls: During the halftime show I moved out of my seat to get a better view. While Bruce Springsteen, who embodies “Jersey”, played on stage, I was noticing the jerseys in front of me. I ended up behind two young women who seemed to be having a really good time, without the aid of funny hats. They appeared to be quite friendly with each other, but they were wearing opposite jerseys. Tiffani Kline and Lynelle Wagner have been best friends since they met at San Diego State as freshman. Tiffani, born and raised in Pittsburgh, but now living in Orange County, California, was sporting a Roethlisberger jersey. Lynelle, from Los Angeles, was wearing a Fitzgerald Jersey. The section we were standing in was right in front of the Cardinals cheerleaders. It turns out Lynelle’s husband is a Cardinals fan. In fact, her stepdaughter is actually a Cardinals cheerleader. I asked if either of them thought the Steelers were at a disadvantage not having their own cheerleaders. "We're about the game, not about the glitz," Tiffani said. Lynelle responded, "you don't NEED any cheerleaders because you have all those towels!"
Bruce and Gold: There are a lot of reasons to attend a Super Bowl, but bumped into a unique and noble one. I ran into Amanda Greene and her husband Steve LeBlang from Los Angeles. They weren’t necessarily rooting for either team. Amanda, who calls herself the “LA Lupus Lady”, and has lived with Lupus for 25 years, was doing her best to educate people at the Super Bowl about the disease. According to the Lupus Foundation of America’s web site, Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. Steve, who laments the fact that Los Angeles no longer has an NFL team, was there for moral support. “I was rooting for Bruce Springsteen,” he said.
Coffey Grounds: I love the fact that the Super Bowl attracts people from all walks of life and all ranks of celebrity. Joseph Coffey and his wife, Susan McGonigle, were enjoying their sausage sandwiches and fries right outside the section where the auxiliary press seats were. This was not our fist meeting. I met them at the hotel bar earlier in the week. Susan is a corporate event planner and one of her clients, Oakland Raiders running back Pete Banaszak, keeps her on his list for Super Bowl tickets. Joseph has had his own brush with celelbrity. Susan introduced him as the detective who arrested “Son of Sam.” I thanked him for that. At the hotel bar, Joseph regaled Gene Collier and I with his stories of being Joe Frazier’s bodyguard during the Frazier/Ali years. Many of his stories can be found in a book he published called "The Coffey Files." As far as what team he was rooting for, he said it usually depends on what numbers he draws out of the pool. Any time the two numbers appear on the scoreboard at any time during the game, he wins some cash. He remembers being at Super Bowl XXXI between Green Bay and New England. He cheered for the Patriots when they scored because it matched his number. Then he cheered for the Packers when they scored because it matched his numbers again. “The Cheeseheads sitting around us thought we were schizophrenic,” said Coffey.