Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: dcsportsbog and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Redskins and Sports  |  RSS
Posted at 5:11 PM ET, 12/22/2010

Who started the "We Want Pittsburgh" chant?

By Dan Steinberg

(Photos by Toni L. Sandys - TWP)


As the day grew late and victory had been assured, a clamor rose in the stands behind FedEx Field's northwest end zone yesterday afternoon. It started small, buried in the throats of the heartiest few, the truest of believers and then slowly wafted into the afternoon sky. " We want Dallas! We want Dallas! We want Dallas! " It bounced from seat to seat, row to row, until it had blossomed into a minor roar. " We want Dallas! We want Dallas! We want Dallas! "

That was how my former colleague Les Carpenter started his A1 story about the Redskins in September of 2008. It's a fine enough way to start a story, but I have to figure he used a little artistic license there, unless he had a stringer embedded in the throats of the heartiest few, the truest of believers.

It's interesting if you go back and read about the original "We Want Dallas" chant, the one that rocked RFK Stadium before the 1983 NFC title game. The chant was mentioned twice in the next day's paper, and several times in the following weeks, but no one tried to figure out where it came from. Here's from the gamer:

Moments before John Riggins finished an overpowering 37-carry, 185-yard performance, moments before the Redskins advanced to the National Football Conference championship game with a 21-7 victory over Minnesota, the chant began throughout RFK Stadium yesterday. "We want Dallas, we want Dallas," the 54,593 fans shouted. "We want Dallas."

And here's from the fan sidebar:

If there was one cheer that dominated yesterday it was "We Want Dallas." East Capitol Street and the Stadium subway stop echoed with the chant after the game.

But it all does make you wonder how a chant like that -- or like Tuesday night's "We Want Pittsburgh" refrain -- starts. Is there one person in one section who comes up with the idea? Does one group of friends start it and convince their neighbors to carry on? Does an entire arena suddenly realize that yes, this is the right chant at the right moment?

"I started chanting it from my seats five rows behind the Caps bench, right on the red line," one reader, Warren, wrote me. "I have no idea if that's what made it spread or not....After I'd tired of having fun with Devils fans around me, my thoughts turned to Pittsburgh."

"After the fourth or fifth goal, there was a distinct We Want Hedburg chant coming from behind the Devils net, referring to Johan Hedberg, the Devils backup goalie," wrote Justin, another fan. "The arena picked it up and it kinda mangled itself into the We Want Pittsburgh chant."

"I started the chant," wrote Brendan McCann, a 32-year old longtime fan who has watched the Washington-Dallas football rivalry diminish in importance. With a few minutes left in the game, he wrote to one of his friends at the game, suggesting a We Want Pittsburgh cheer. His friend complied.

"Unfortunately, it was accompanied by claps and a sing-songy chant," Brendan wrote me. "I wanted the exact replica of the We Want Dallas, incessantly and fervently shouted, but I guess I should've gone to the game and started it myself."

Was that all? It wasn't. One reader said someone tried starting the chant in section 403 526. Two more readers suggested it started in section 107. And I got at least four e-mails pinpointing the location in section 426, several of which actually named the originator: Gavin Schmidt, a 24-year old in his second season as a season-ticket holder.

"We were talking [during] the intermission," Schmidt told me, when I tracked him down. "A guy sitting two rows in front of me had a Evgeni Malkin t-shirt jersey, and that got me thinking about the next game. We were already well up on New Jersey, so it was hearkening back to the college days of calling out your next opponent while you're still trashing the last one."

Still, even Schmidt said the cheer seemed to rise up organically in different parts of the arena almost at the same time, and that he couldn't be given full credit.

"It started a couple different places at once," he said. "It wasn't like I stood up and said, let's go! It was just happening all over."

The wildest part about Schmidt's involvement? He was born several years after the advent of "We Want Dallas," and although he's a Skins fan, he was wholly unfamiliar with the story. He felt initially proud that the chant became loud enough to hear on the Versus broadcast, and then briefly worried about the bad karma other Caps fans have attributed to such a brash cheer. But you know what he decided? The chant worked on Tuesday night, no matter what happens next time the team takes the ice.

"It was good in the moment," Schmidt said, when I asked what happens if the Penguins win. "I wouldn't regret it."

A few people wondered whether this chanting thing might fire up the Caps, might make them share the massive enthusiasm Washingtonians have for this showdown with the Penguins, might make this a repeat of that legendary day at RFK, which once led Dallas receiver Tony Hill to taunt D.C. with a "Want some, get some,' retort. Well, let's leave that at maybe.

"I asked Brooks what they were saying," winger Mike Knuble told The Post's Katie Carrera. "I thought they were saying like we want pizza or we want chicken wings."


By Dan Steinberg  | December 22, 2010; 5:11 PM ET
Categories:  Caps, Redskins  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Shanahan on his relationship with Dan Snyder
Next: Caps 24/7, episode two

Comments

Sounds like that guy Garvin really got it going and put that Malkin jersey wearing loser in his place! Baby blue? sounds like his mom's jersey!!!!111!! LOL

Posted by: TyPiggington | December 22, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I love this blog.... but this is stupid. Did you not think you would all sorts of randm people taking credit? LOL

Posted by: cnewso01 | December 22, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I was in my car on the way home from work, and I started it. I was thinking, "remember when the football team was still in the city, and the game was played for the fans, and they were actually in the playoffs, and had a chance to play a rival, so the fans rocked the stadium with a memorable chant?" Well, last night was nothing like that, so I started yelling out of my car window,"We want a White Christmas," and other driverss picked up the chant, but as often happens, the message got grabled, so by the time it got passed to the fans at the Phone Booth, it came out as "We want Pittsburg."

Sorry about that

Posted by: Leeguru | December 22, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

We want Pittsburgh? Sheesh. Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 22, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

This is a fun read, Dan, but I'm afraid Les Carpenter isn't the only one guilty of a reporting faux-pas. While 1983 may have been the first time the Post reported on the "We Want Dallas" chant, the chant dates back at least a decade before then.

As a season ticket holder since 1969, I remember hearing the chant in the early 1970s, particularly in the 1972 playoffs -- first toward end of a playoff game in which the Skins defeated the Packers to earn the right to host Dallas for the NFC Championship game, and then before and during the 1972 NFC Championship game itself.

The chant fell out of favor during the late 1970's... as the Skins went through a bleak period and the Cowboys flourished, but made a comeback in the early 1980s when Gibbs came to town.

I suspect other blog readers who attended Skins games in the early 1970s will echo my comment.

Keep up the lively blogging -- WE WANT STEINBERG !!

Posted by: sjford23 | December 22, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I'd guess there were several thousand fans thinking about starting this chant...I was thinking it, but I didn't start it, and obviously I wasn't the only one thinking it...we're Washington sports fans, so it's not that novel of an idea based on your article...

Posted by: MC12345 | December 22, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I am sure "F-Pittsburgh" and "Screw Sidney" got shot down real quickly in a family-oriented arena. However, those were two very loud and clear chants in my household!

Posted by: JohnWWW | December 22, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

This is clearly the Woodstock of our age... if everyone who claims they started the chant had really been at that game, they would've filled the arena many times over.

Posted by: NateinthePDX | December 22, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Caps fans should shout it out most of the game against Pittsburgh, the way they did against Dallas in 83 - win or lose. It will pick the boys up something fierce.

Posted by: longbow1 | December 22, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Caps fans should shout it out most of the game against Pittsburgh, the way they did against Dallas in 83 - win or lose. It will pick the boys up something fierce.

Posted by: longbow1 | December 22, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

This one brought goose bumps. I was in the stands for the 82 championship game. The We Want Dallas chant was a deep growl. It shook the stadium to its core. No organ music or cheerleaders or any fu-fu stuff, just a deep roar: We Want Dallas! We Want Dallas!

Hope Caps fans can start a spontaneous We Want Pittsburgh roar and shake Verizon Center. I'll try to help, even though I'm in California!

Posted by: StevefromSacto | December 22, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

This one brought goose bumps. I was in the stands for the 82 championship game. The We Want Dallas chant was a deep growl. It shook the stadium to its core. No organ music or cheerleaders or any fu-fu stuff, just thusands of voices roaring as one: We Want Dallas! We Want Dallas!

Hope Caps fans can start a spontaneous We Want Pittsburgh roar and shake Verizon Center. I'll try to help, even though I'm in California!

Posted by: StevefromSacto | December 22, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

My kids often shout "We want pizza!" I'm sure this is how the chant started.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 22, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

In 108, we first heard it from our immediate left - either 106 or 107. That's where we heard the "Crosby sucks" chant of a few minutes earlier from as well.

Of course, having the HBO crew in the 108 camera pit 1st and 3rd periods might have had something to do with that...

Posted by: JWJr | December 22, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

My seats are in Section 105 and I first the chant coming from either Section 106 or 107.

Posted by: MReilly9 | December 23, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

MReilly9 My seats are in section 104 and I heard it coming from the same area

Posted by: washingtoncapitals | December 23, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse

The Verizon Center sheep, I mean crowd used to fall asleep or check their smart phones until they were told when to cheer by video board applause meters. In the redrocker era, the applause meters are replaced by Goat and The Horn Guy respectively. A bit more organic, but basically the same concept. It's encouraging to hear that fans that can still afford to go to games are actually taking interest in what's going on now and days ahead, instead of just participating in what they see as a trend, or the place to be at the moment. Go CAPS!!!

Posted by: gerse | December 23, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

"I am sure "F-Pittsburgh" and "Screw Sidney" got shot down real quickly in a family-oriented arena." Ah, but there were chants of "CROBSY SUCKS! CROSBY SUCKS!" Also, "Mar-ty! Mar-ty." Was a fun game to be at.

Posted by: futbolclif | December 23, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Steinberg, is this really the first time you have wondered how ANY cheer actually gets started throughout an arena?

Posted by: chevychase10 | December 23, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I sit in 107, and it definitely started there. The HBO camera is along the boards between 107 and 108. There was a youngish guy a few rows ahead of me (maybe row H?) and another guy. First they started with "Crosby sucks". Then "We Want Pittsburgh". The camera turned and was pointed directly at 108, with the tall guy with long gray hair in a ponytail who wears an Alzner jersey and who leads the "It's All Your Fault!" chant right in the front.

Posted by: mjw4m | December 23, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure it was started by the previously mentioned HBO camera guy because they want to use it in the 24/7 episode 3 to boost the dramatic tension leading to tonight's faceoff. LOL

Posted by: kerach | December 23, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

You have to be kidding - the chant did not start in 1983. It was back in George Allen's era when "We Want Dallas" started. Loudest was 1972 Div. Playoff game @ RFK 1st Skin's home playoff in 30 yrs). @ end of beating Green Bay 16-3 (John Brockington got 9 yds - 5 man D-line held him). In 4 th qtr, it started, cause we had em beat & Dallas was next. At championship game @ RFK, Mike Bass held the Skins @ the tunnel while the crowd chanted "We Want Dallas". The Skins refused to come out for coin toss, introductions or anthem. They got a 15 yd penalty for unsportsman-like-conduct and still the crowd roared. Dallas was all lined up and ready to go and looking around, like they were the Christians awaiting their fate in a Coliseum. Time passed - we all became deaf and hoarse, but kept it going - people were banging and jumping on their seats. Smuggled bottles on rails. I have been to many sporting events in many places - never heard anything even close to that. The upper deck was bouncing. I was afraid it was going to be like a European soccer match, where the whole stadium caves in. Then, suddenly the Skins all came out together in a big mass, like in college, like wild men, jumping and fist pumping and foaming at the mouth and falling down and rolling around. We crushed - Skins 26 Dallas 3. Dallas didn't even cross midfield in the 2nd half. At half time I went to the head and looked over the ramp to where the stadium supports ended in huge railroad-type wheels on rails. The rails were clean for two feet in each direction. The Skins were too old back then too, but they had something this team doesn't - heart and the fans (it wasn't money that made a fan back then - it was love of the game) loved them because they gave it everything they had, not for the money, but because they were the Washington Redskins.

Posted by: ltlrdtop | December 23, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company