It’s Always a Great Day to Root for Pittsburgh

April 27, 2021

A stellar wave of summer air made its way to the rolling hills of Pittsburgh towards the end of April, sparking a chain reaction of trees and flowers blooming at a remarkable rate. It rarely ever reaches above eighty degree before Memorial Day weekend in the City of Bridges… but let’s be real, the last year certainty has not been nearly close to what the standard used to be as “normal,” and this warmer weather is just one of the many scores of ways the world has evolved beyond the dawn of the global pandemic.

With various states and countries moving in a slightly uphill direction, it has reopened many doors, leading us one step closer to regaining our sense of reality back. We all have been impacted by this pandemic one way or another… by now, we all have probably known someone (directly or indirectly) who has either had the virus or unfortunately passed away due to complications with it. Yet, for the past year now, the impact of pandemic on my life has been subtle — I have found that when transformative opportunities have come my way, positive, celebratory moments have occurred and relationships sparked, strengthened, and deepened.

Haven moved closer to the city after leaving the nest of my parents’ place blessed me with more freedom to explore my hometown… whether it was sneaking off to Shadyside to visit my one and only friend from the City of Brotherly Love or taking a joy ride on the T-train… the pandemic, the closing down of businesses, the remotely work from home life and the standstill that made Time and Life come to a grinding halt couldn’t keep me away from the City of Bridges… from the very town that I am always proud to call home… from the one and only place where I can freely be my authentic self.

In celebratory spirit of the season as well as the return of my only sibling and brother, Corey, back to Pittsburgh for a visit, we both were able to snag tickets to a Tuesday night Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game against the Boston Bruins. It was over two years ago since I have attended a single sporting event and having the pleasure of not only watching my favorite sport team play, but also having quality sibling time with my brother was a wondrous moment to cherish.

Upon being granted an earlier end to my work day, my brother met me at my apartment in the heart of Mt. Lebanon with an iced coffee in hand. We walked to my car in the blazing heat and I drove us through the Liberty Tunnel as we made the trek towards PPG Place Hockey Arena. Parking in one of the arena lots, we decided to walk to Condado all the way on Liberty Avenue to grab a bite for dinner, which is a good fifteen to twenty minute speed walk or over the course of a mile long to reach this tasty destination. My brother just simply started walking aimlessly…. not knowing how to navigate the bustling streets of Pittsburgh.

After a few second-guesses and multiple ‘heading in the wrong direction’ moments, my brother turned towards me and said, “You better take the lead on this, sis. You are by far the savviest when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of Pittsburgh.”

Although flattered by my brother’s compliment, there was no denying his statement. After spending two straight years working in the midst of the city dwellings of Pittsburgh and spending all my early mornings, lunch breaks and after work hours walking and exploring every square inch of the city, I certainty knew my city… my home. I led my brother through side streets and alleyways, finding the most scenic yet efficient way to reach our destination as our stomachs were rumbling, wanting to enjoy happy hour and some much needed taco fuel.

Around 5:15 p.m., we got one of the last available tables in Condado and spent a solid hour sipping on some refreshing margaritas, devouring chips and queso blanco and eliminating our hunger with two tacos each. We got our toes wet in an array of conversational topics from how was my current dating experience was going with a guy I have been seeing for over two months versus some exciting wedding updates my brother was dying to share with me along.

Time seemed to escape us for before we both knew it, the clock struck 6:30 p.m. and we had to retrace our steps back to PPG Place with great haste. We went through the Peoples Gas Entrance that faces the outskirts of Duquesne University. Upon entree and up several flights of escalators that greeted us with a rush of cold, crisp air, we reached our seats in Section 234, Row C, Seats 1 and 2 (not without a IC Light and a Yuengling beer in our grasps, of course, as customary yinzer tradition according to my brother).

The lights dimmed down low, making it challenging to see anything; I could barely make out my brother’s outline who was sitting directly next to me. The spotlights revolved in an elliptical orbit, flashing the bright colors of white and gold against the blackened backdrop and illuminating the sports logo on center ice. An enthusiast announcer captivated the roughly 3,500 audience attendance over the loudspeaker: “and here we go, your PITTSBURGH… PEN — GUINS!!!” followed by the immediate blaring of air-horns bouncing off the walls of the igloo arena. The phenomenal players of my favorite sports team (sorry, not sorry, that I am a bit biased) skated effortlessly on the ice. Moments later, after the National Anthem and starting lineups, we were off!

Three periods and 120 minutes later flew up seamlessly and although the Penguins didn’t win that game that particular night we were in physical attendence, it was a game that I will still cherish for the memory books.

Why?! They lost — what was so special of this matchup, this regular season game at the end of April?! Why celebrate a game that didn’t crown my favorite sports team victorious?!

Despite everyone wearing masks and keeping a safe distance away and having only a small fraction of the number of fans that PPG Place can accompany, it seemed as if the past year had not made a single dent on having any sort of hindering impacts on the thrill that one has at a sporting event.

In fact, it seemed like the global events that have transpired this past year have only made the cheers of the fans louder than usual; even after only scoring one goal towards the end of an already losing game, the fans roared with enthusiastic praise as we got one on the board and didn’t have a shutout.

The players more passionate about their love for the game, missing the opportunity to both play for their city the last several months and make it up to for their lost efforts after not making past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last August in Toronto.

And the overall environment in PPG Place… of being at a physical sporting event rather than staring intently at yet another virtual screen was so surreal as if a long awaited dream has finally come to fruition.

When in Pittsburgh, whether native, neighbor or newcomer, you immediately notice the community, the relentless, impenetrable spirit of a true Pittsburgian…. or yinzer. The pride of wearing the colors of black and gold is paramount to this city, built from the bottom up from the days of coal mining and the magnificent bridges that span the Three Rivers. This pride and spirit of the City of Bridges continually thrived throughout and beyond the defining year of 2020….there is no denying it and attending the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game was living proof of that. Although I never truly left Pittsburgh (and Pittsburgh really has never left my heart), returning back to PPG Place amongst fellow yinzers, walking the familiar streets and admiring famous landmarks in the downtown area felt like I was returning home, granted with open arms.

A massive exodus of black and gold made its way down to the street level of the arena after the third period came to a close. My brother and I lingered behind a bit longer to peruse the gear shop where all the jerseys of every current (and well-rounded) Penguins player spanned several walls like wallpaper. Greeted by jazz music coming from a solo saxophone player leaning against the Mario Lemieux status, Corey and I headed back towards the car, our adrenaline pumping and wiring our brains to party on (even on a Tuesday night and after a lost game).

I focused on driving us back to the South Hills of Pittsburgh as my brother took the reins of controlling the music pumping through the speakers of my little Honda HR-V. Jamming to some remixes, I couldn’t help myself from admiring the gleaming lights from the skyline reflecting remarkable in the water and the little bulbs of light that were immaculately placed on precise spots that formed the outline of the golden bridges.

I recalled how on March 12, 2020, I caught a late T-train ride home that evening upon receiving the news that all employees were expected to start working from home the next day until further notice due to the mayor of Pittsburgh’s decision to shut down the city after two positive cases of COVID-19 surfaced. Looking out the curved windows of the fairly vacant train — I caught a prolonged glimpse of my magnificent city with the lights struggling to shimmer through the looming uncertainty that glazed the horizon. As the train made the sharp bend towards an ominous tunnel towards the rolling hills south of Pittsburgh, little did I know that this might be my last train ride for quite some time… wondering when I might be able to roam the familiar streets, sights and bridges that I called home again.

Yet, in these moments, driving home as the skyline’s lights shined on the road leading us south of the city, I felt yet again the ever-grateful feeling I have for Pittsburgh. A city built on fortitude of strength, determination and beauty. A community that gave me so much meaning in my life, gifted me with incredible people in my life, and saved my family (three times to be exact). A place that will unconditionally call home… and I will root for always and forever.

Stay tuned for more articles. Want to read more about Pittsburgh’s significance in my life as I brought challenging chapters to light, my debut novel, Beyond Life’s Moments is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and where most books are sold in ebook and paperback formats! Check out it today and dive into your beyond!

Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PVYWPNP

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