Welcome to "Sixburgh" Pennsylvania

The steel city erupted as the final whistle blew 1,000miles away at Superbowl 43 in Tampa, Florida. I was in the happiest city in the world on Sunday 1st February 2009. The Pittsburgh Steelers made history; they became the most successful NFL franchise in history as they won an unprecedented 6th Vince Lombardi Trophy (Superbowl trophy to you and me) I was in the middle of one of the biggest celebrations in US history. To watch the game I crammed into an apartment along with my team mates in Oakland, a district barely 1 mile from the towering skyline of downtown Pittsburgh. We ran out jubilantly into the street, greeted by people flooding from every direction yelling “six-burgh baby”, “Steeeeeelers!” and “Champions of the world!” in typical Yank fashion!

We continued to run down the hill towards 5th Avenue, an ambulance came roaring past as with the lights on, what an unfortunate time to be sick or have an accident I thought. How wrong I could be. The driver leant out the window, swirled a yellow and black “terrible” towel above his head (these are towels swung above the head by Steelers fans, somewhat of a phenomenon in the NFL) and screamed loudly, to which we let at an appreciative and puzzled roar.

On 5th we struggled through the crowds to get towards the Cathedral of Learning, the 42 storey landmark of the University of Pittsburgh. At a rough guess there seemed to be over 20,000 people gathered here, the next day I found out it was 25,000, this was less than 30mins after the final whistle don’t forget, crazy I know. Fireworks were whizzing past my head, the endless chants of “here we go Steelers, here we go” echoed out ominously into the clear night sky.

Oh yes, did I not mention that all this was taking place in temperatures below freezing? It was -5 Celsius to be exact, but that “chill” was soon extinguished by the flamethrowers being lit around me and then the real fun and games was soon to begin. Riot horses bigger than any I had ever seen, in true American style, sauntered past me menacingly and police helicopters hovered in the air, illuminating the large crowd with their spotlights which shone down out of the sky.

It resembled what the German Messerschmits must have faced as they entered London during the blitz, the spotlight shone on me momentarily, it seemed as though this night was about to get even crazier. My hunch was correct. I watched from the steps of the library as the alcohol began to take its toll on the fans. Soon bus stops, road signs and traffic lights were being ripped up, set on fire and smashed up as riot police stepped in. I did not expect this; could you imagine Saints fans ripping up the Guildhall and Above Bar if we won the FA Cup? I think not. Never mind though, these incidents were put out almost as soon as they had begun.

The rest of the night seemed to go so quickly, with hugs and high fives from people in every direction, the only bond we had was the black and gold of Pittsburgh. They didn’t care that I was from West End in Southampton, England. That one night in Oakland, the Steelers victory created as much joy as I had ever seen, everyone was together and wanted to share in the success.

The feel good factor lasted for days afterwards, with the victory parade seeing more than 400,000 people descend on the streets of downtown Pittsburgh, to see the players and arguably the most famous trophy in world sport.

That feel good buzz will last until the 2009/10 NFL season kicks off in 7 months time. The steel city will reverberate with the cries of “Welcome to ‘six-burgh’, Pennsylvania. Home of the greatest NFL team of all time.” To be in Pittsburgh on that famous night is something that will always stay with me, that night part of me turned a shade of black and gold.

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