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Rossi: As a fan, everything was (almost) awesome | TribLIVE.com
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Rossi: As a fan, everything was (almost) awesome

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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
The Penguins' David Perron celebrates with Evgeni Malkin after Malkin's second-period goal against the Panthers on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.

Some guy picked the wrong night to behave like a smug jerk. But I’ll get to him later. This one is for the 18,591 other folks who joined me at Consol Energy Center on Sunday night.

Thanks.

I was one of you — a paying customer, joined by a few familiar friends and surrounded by strangers who became mostly friendly for three or so hours, and everything was (almost) awesome.

I had been in the building for most of the Penguins’ home games during the Sidney Crosby era. Those were different. Arrived early, left late and usually forgot most of what I had just watched. A sports reporter’s life condensed into one sentence.

The media level is no spot to watch every game for the rest of your life.

So, Section 212 became my position on Sunday. Seat No. 7 was my place. Second row from the top, behind the net, I was high enough to see everything. And I knew what to look for on the ice, unlike my friend Erinn, who was looking at live hockey for the first time. Her husband, Mike, did his best to explain what he knew. I sat to his left, and to mine was Christina.

Christina really knew what to look for in a hockey match. And Pittsburgh. Her wish, as explained while we were all stuck in pregame traffic inside the West Liberty Tunnel, is to see Jaromir Jagr retire wearing a Penguins sweater. Couldn’t bring myself to tell her that we call them jerseys here. Assured her that someday all would be well again and happy between Jagr and her Penguins.

Christina spent most of the game making gestures. Some conveyed dissatisfaction with Crosby’s shot selection, others a lack of confidence in Rob Scuderi’s puck-handling. She, like the fans around her, nervously anticipated Florida producing a tying goal late in the second period.

So when Evgeni Malkin scored the first of his two goals to stake the Penguins what felt like an insurmountable 2-0 lead, she joined the standing citizens to cheer.

So did I, and it was then when I realized this experiment was working.

The hope was to take in a game as a paying customer and find out if there was any fan left in a hardened former beat reporter. There is, just not of the team I covered for so long.

Darn if I don’t like watching that Russian do his thing, though.

Sunday night was fun, which was more than I expected. I marveled at the number of songs played during breaks. Sure, I’d heard them before, but they were background when I occupied seat No. 36 on the media level. From Row P, those songs stayed with me.

Also with me, I think, were the hockey gods during the hidden puck game on the video board. Nothing else can explain how I followed that through to a successful conclusion.

Some things couldn’t be justifiably explained.

During the first period, a sweet little girl named Elizabeth Cleaver accidentally kicked the back of the seat of a man in front of her. He turned around and sternly asked her to please stop. Then he turned back around and smiled while watching the action.

Christina held off making a different kind of hand gesture.

Elizabeth slumped into her seat, where she looked to her mom for permission to do anything the rest of the night. A partial season-ticket holder, Jessica Allard said Sunday was the second consecutive game during which her daughter had been instructed by that man how to watch a game from the stands.

Hey, I’m hardly an expert on the subject.

Still, even a first-timer like me could figure out that anybody lucky enough to have tickets to a Penguins game probably should leave his bad attitude at home.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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