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mesaSteeler
01-26-2011, 06:39 AM
With Steelers winning so much, will North Texas fans hate them?
Photo: Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News
http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/super-bowl/20110124-with-steelers-winning-so-much-will-north-texas-fans-hate-them.ece

By KATE HAIROPOULOS / The Dallas Morning News

Published 24 January 2011 11:54 PM


PITTSBURGH — Len DiNaples Sr. took a swig of Iron City beer and displayed the bottle to an out-of-towner.

“This is what you want,” he said, nodding at the local brew, his white hair engendering trust, as he reclined in a cozy booth at Primanti Bros.

The sandwich shop radiated a Pittsburgh vibe, minus the slow-to-order tourists, many wearing Steelers gear. No Stella Artois or Amstel Light here. Pastrami sandwiches, complete with Weight Watchers-busting fries and coleslaw smothered on top of the meat, are served on wax paper instead of plates.

The working-class soul of this city — gleaming and sagging all at once, currently covered with soot-blackened snow — is undeniably connected to its NFL franchise. The Steelers have long embodied Pittsburgh’s gritty spirit and helped create an unapologetic ego. Now, again, the city’s black-and-gold heart is soaring as the Steelers prepare for Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium.

It’s Pittsburgh’s third Super Bowl appearance in six seasons, stirring talk of another dynasty to match the four Super Bowls won between 1975 and 1980. After the Steelers knocked off the bravado-spewing New York Jets in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, it’s onto the Green Bay Packers, another franchise that many consider NFL royalty and one that Steelers fans respect.

“The pride of our city is on the line,” said DiNaples, 68, a longtime Pittsburgh resident and season-ticket holder, who wore a leather jacket with patches commemorating the Steelers’ NFL-best six Super Bowl victories. “We have a good chance at No. 7.”

“At the gates of seven” is how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put it on Monday’s front page. Local TV news trumpeted “Destination: Dallas” promos after the Steelers’ win. References to Arlington, Fort Worth or North Texas were minimal.

While North Texas’ Super Bowl turn nears, Steelers fans relish the continued prosperity of a team with which they feel an almost religious union.

Pittsburgh’s Sonny Amato, a 30-something, is too young to relive the steel mill closings that coincided with the Steelers’ initial success of the 1970s. But he said the shared identity between the city and Steelers is tangible, as is the respect for the longtime ownership of the Rooney family. Pictures of the late Art Rooney, chomping his iconic cigar, emblazoned with the word “Believe,” are plastered in store fronts.

“It’s about the whole organization, it’s consistency year to year, and that they try to do things the right way,” said Amato, editor of a Steelers’ fan blog, theterribleblog.com, named in honor of Pittsburgh’s famed Terrible Towels waved during games.

The Steelers’ distinctive logo couldn’t be missed during a drive through the city’s core, from men wearing it proudly as they waited for the bus to a glowing neon sign in a pizzeria window.

“You have to understand, we wear Steelers gear all year; it’s part of our wardrobe,” said Jim Coen, owner of a store that hawks all things Steelers, located near Primanti Bros. in the Strip District.

Coen’s father worked in a steel mill that closed in the 1970s. So he still becomes emotional when he describes the connection between the city and the Steelers.

“The city fell to [expletive],” he said. “When that happened, that’s when the Steelers won Super Bowls. And the city had something to hope for.”

Super Bowls are good for business. Fans clamored Monday for AFC championship T-shirts that were only just delivered around lunch time.

Women are huge consumers of Steelers ware; Coen can’t keep women’s sizes in stock. At least they’re easier to find than season tickets. Amato inherited his from his grandmother. Looking to get married? Coming from season-ticket-holding stock may be the asset to flaunt.

Coen’s shop is named Yinzers, derived from a term that could be used much like “y’all” is in Texas. But it also refers to people from Pittsburgh. Or who used to be, Coen said.

Something, though, about the Steelers’ success, mystique or branding, connects with NFL fans well outside the city and even across the U.S. border — much as with the Dallas Cowboys . Fans commonly travel from long distances for games. Alex Martinez Jr. attended Sunday’s frigid game with his father, who were visiting from sunny Cancun.

Wherever members of Steelers Nation live, they’ll tell you this season was not marked for magic from the start. Accused of sexual misconduct, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s code of conduct.

But the Steelers found a way. Again. According to cornerback Ike Taylor, the Steelers are winning so much that perhaps now only a Steelers Nation-vs.-everyone else mentality will do.

“People don’t like successful people,” Taylor said Monday. “Just the tradition we have here, the success, we feel like a lot of people get tired of seeing the same people [win]. ... I’m just happy to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.”

Amato said Steelers fans don’t want to be known as ****y, like, say, Yankees fans, but ...

“We have been watching a lot of playoff games lately,” he said.

Steelers fans want to believe that they’re watching another dynasty. That the names Roethlisberger, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu may ultimately carry the same respect as Terry Bradshaw , Franco Harris and Lynn Swann. They want another Super Bowl to celebrate.

“No one else even has six [Super Bowl wins] — we would really set the bar,” said DiNaples, well aware that this rankles Cowboys fans, who claim five Super Bowl wins. “I may be gone by the time someone else gets to seven.

“But by that time, we’ll have eight.”

kirklandrules
01-26-2011, 09:05 AM
Will North Texas hate the Steelers? I can only hope!