A girl on couchsurfing told me about an Obama rally at Pittsburgh’s Mellon Center. I arrived to find people almost wrapped around the 16,000 seat ice hockey stadium. The line moved quickly as I made faces at the baby in front of me, read Bukowski’s Ham and Rye and tried to ignore the stupid high schoolers making inane comments behind me. I also watched the crowd and marveled at the high level of attractiveness. I wonder if McCain and Palin also draw so many beautiful people? Within twenty minutes, I passed through airport style security actually administered by TSA employees.
I followed the herd to the nosebleed section, impressed to find the stadium almost full. As I sat down, Dan Rooney, owner of the Steelers, walked onto the stage to introduce the canidate. I smiled when before he could speak, the crowd boomed through several “Let’s Go Steelers” chants. When Obama came onto the stage, the fifteen thousand strong crowd leaped to their feet with simply an electric feel in the air. I haven’t seen so many camera flashes at one time since I went to the Olympic gymnastics finals in Atlanta.
After receiving a Steelers jersey with his name on it and the number 08, Obama gave shout outs to supporting politicians like Ed Rendell and Bob Casey. Each name was met with cheers except for Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl who received loud boos. I don’t know why they dislike America’s youngest mayor (he’s 26) but there’s a list of possibilities on his Wikipedia page.
I have two words to describe Obama’s speaking style: fucking smooth. “We have one week. One week until we can repudiate eight years of greed and failed policies.” He competes with many yells of encouragement and several groups of girl yelling “I Love You” in chorus. Obama gave McCain a bone on the issue of torture “but when it comes to the economy…”, a man from near the stage yells, “he just don’t get it.” Obama whips towards the man with a big grin and slowly repeat for emphasis “he just don’t get it. He voted for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.” Loud boos rumble through the stadium. Obama deadpans, “Don’t boo. Just vote.”
“I’m going pay for a tax cut for everyone earning under $250,000 by making those people go back to the taxes they paid under Bill Clinton. That means the majority of Americans, 95% of small businesses, and 99.9% of plumbers.” This got a big laugh. He continued speaking but it started sounding like a typical campaign speech. My mind began to wander. I watched the 60 person strong press corp busily typing at their computers down on the floor. None of them seemed to pay much attention to the speech. Probably heard the same thing far too many times before.
However, by the end he really got the crowd whipped into a frenzy again. He brought them to their feet and you couldn’t hear the last full minute of his speech over the continual cheering. He does seem more like a rock star than a politician. He waved to the crowd as the song “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” marked the end of his speech. He took 15 minutes to press the flesh of everyone crowding the security fence while six secret service guy surrounded him to scan the crowd.
As much as I enjoyed seeing Obama speak, my favorite part of the evening came as I left the stadium. With a prohibition on food and drink inside, people left their consumables along the wall by the main entrance. I found a smorgasboard of crackers, fruit and tasty beverages. This scavenger wished he brought his bag but contentedly filled up his pockets nonetheless.