John Yeannakopoulos of Ipswich responded to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and attended Super Bowl XLIII with his sister Denise (DeFrancesco) of Rowley in Tampa on February 1st.
“I was a Patriots fan until the 1970s when the black-and-gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers caught my eye,” he said. “It’s been Pittsburgh ever since.”
The decision of the former Ipswich middle school teacher to go to the Super Bowl was last minute to say the least. “My sister was talking about going to the game in mid-January but I didn’t think it was a good idea,” he recalled. “However, a week later I was riding to a basketball game with a friend of mine and he urged me to take advantage of the opportunity. I decided right then to see if my sister still wanted to go and if she could still make the arrangements. She quickly put things together, as far as flights and tickets were concerned, and we headed to Tampa on Saturday.”
And what an exciting sporting event they witnessed. They saw firsthand an end-of-the-game, 88-yard drive climaxed by Santonio Holmes’ miracle catch that gave their Steelers a thrilling win over the Arizona Cardinals, 27-24.
John reported that the crowd was overwhelmingly for Pittsburgh and the Steelers trademark Terrible Towels were everywhere outside and inside the stadium. “The Cardinals were probably outnumbered 12-to-1. Chants of ‘Here we go, Steelers,’ carried around the stadium before and during the game and every time a Steeler was shown on the jumbotron the fans would go nuts.”
The only time that noise let up, and became “stunned silence,” was when Arizona took the lead with under three minutes to play. “We still were cautiously optimistic that a comeback would happen because (Steelers quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger had won games at the end during the season,” he added.
“When the game was over and we had won, my sister let everyone around us know that today (February 1st) was my birthday,” he said. “One of the people nearby said that the Steelers had won because it was my birthday.”
John told me that Bruce Springsteen’s halftime show was spectacular even though The Boss didn’t do a favorite of his – “Born In The USA,”
John said he learned that the so-called crowd that gathered around the stage was brought in from outside the stadium and had been recruited and prepped during the week. “Once the show was over they were rushed out of the stadium.”
As good as The Boss was, John liked the pregame show of the active Bethune-Cookman marching band from Daytona Beach even better. “They were absolutely phenomenal and the crowd loved them.”
John and Denise sat with other folks from away from the Pittsburgh area who supported the team. “We had a family from California on one side and one from Buffalo on the other. There are Steelers’ fans everywhere in the country.”
This makes six Super Bowl titles for the Steelers out of the forty-three that have been played. “They renamed Pittsburgh, “Sixthburgh,” for the week after the win,” he told me.
Next year the Super Bowl will be in Miami on February 7th. Will he attend? “It’s not on my birthday, but if I’ve got a horse in the race, who knows?”
(Prepared for inclusion in The Town Common on February 11th.)