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July 26, 2006

45,000 fans rock to Bon Jovi

45,000 fans rock to Bon Jovi as Steelers celebrate Super Bowl trophy

Some came for the Steelers. Some came for the music. Most came for the unique convergence of the two last night at Heinz Field, and most came away happy.

An estimated crowd of 45,000 people turned out for the Steelers Celebration/Bon Jovi Have a Nice Day Tour -- a show that amounted to much more than another black-and-gold pep rally in a city that seizes every chance it gets to wave its Terrible Towels at the world.

Yesterday's event was an intoxicating mix of tailgating, cheering, singing and dancing, with a shiny new silver Super Bowl trophy serving as the swizzle stick.

The music was provided into the night by Jon Bon Jovi, Nickelback, and The Yards, interspersed with player introductions, taunts at Seattle and Cleveland, and the odd environmental message from former Vice President Al Gore between concert sets on the jumbo video screen.

The day started with player autographs in the Coca-Cola Great Hall. Hundreds of Steelers fans waited their turn to enter the hall, where players autographed photos, memorabilia and other items clutched with reverence.

Joe Mangol, 43, and his wife, Alice, of Natrona Heights, brought some footballs to be signed. The pigskins already bore the signatures of Hines Ward, Ike Taylor and others. They waited a half-hour to get a few more.

Because there was no exit and re-entry at the event, they had to carry the footballs with them into the evening and through the music concerts.

"I'll use this as my pillow," Mr. Mangol said.

Later, team officials, including owner Dan Rooney, his son Art Rooney II, and some of the players, made the formal presentation of the franchise's fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy, placing it behind glass in a newly dedicated trophy case built into a column in the Great Hall.

"The only question I have," Kevin Colbert, director of football operations for the Steelers, said to the crowd, "is where are we going to put No. 6?"

The throng of fans packed around them pointed in unison to the neighboring column.

The fans ate it all up, along with hot dogs, nachos, and the usual football stadium fare.

But there were differences.

Because of marketing issues, Steelers memorabilia was not for sale yesterday. Fans had to bring their own numbered jerseys and Terrible Towels.

The Bon Jovi merchandise booths, however, did offer a Bon Jovi football jersey -- No. 3 -- but it was black and blue, not black and gold.

Danielle Greene, 32, of Hermitage, Mercer County, paid $200 for her autographed Bon Jovi jersey and happily blended in with the Steelers fans.

"I really don't care for the Steelers," she said. "I'm here for the concert. And I hope the Steelers stuff doesn't take away from it."

But she was distinctly in the minority, as most attendees found it to be a perfect mix.

"It's so good to be here," said Sue McGahan, 58, of Crafton, who attended the event with her daughters, Melissa Malachow, 31, of Ross, and Amy Fuchs, 35, of Cleveland.

"We wouldn't want to be anywhere else. We are Steelers fans and Bon Jovi fans. This is the best of two worlds in one place."

Even the night's top performer got caught up in the atmosphere. When Bon Jovi came out for an encore, he was wearing a Ben Roethlisberger jersey.

Posted by riesambo at July 26, 2006 06:03 AM