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Old 12-30-2006, 09:52 AM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
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Talking Cincy Bengal Slayers

Thought you all might enjoy this. Stillers and I were interviewed for this article. Cool!

Steelers fans find refuge
Sunday's Bengals-Steelers game means the season to a tight band of football fans packed into a central Cincinnati bar. It's funny, though. Not one will be dressed in orange and black. No Ocho-Cincos or Who-Deys here.

Welcome to Martino's on Vine. Welcome to Pittsburgh Nation. Sing it out with Iron City pride: "Here we go Steelers, here we go."

While the Bengals and Steelers go helmet-to-helmet down at Paul Brown Stadium, up at Martino's in Corryville it will be a madhouse, says Marty Angiulli, a Pittsburgh-area native who runs Martino's with his sister and aunt.

That's because the defending Super Bowl champs can snuff out the Bengals' playoff hopes with a victory (1 p.m., Channels 12, 7). The Steelers were knocked out of playoff contention last weekend.

"A lot of people, in the back of their minds, they want to be spoilers. If you can't get into the playoffs, but you can knock off your rival like that, what a way to end your season," Angiulli says.

"Steelers fans probably will come out of the woodwork for that."

He admits that tension between the teams' fans has heightened since the Steelers knocked Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer out of last year's playoff game and then went on to win the Super Bowl. Martino's has received several phone threats since then, Angiulli says. He's had to call in the police to keep the peace.

In Cincinnati, that kind of fan intensity rises and falls with the team's record. But being a Steelers fan is like having a tattoo: It's a lifelong deal for just about every sports fan born in western Pennsylvania. As many have moved here, they've reconnected with their brethren at Martino's. And they have to help hold them together.

These fans' shared love for everything Pittsburgh thrives at Martino's. Player photos, signed jerseys and team posters for sale are up on the brick walls. Iron City is the beer of choice.

"People in Pittsburgh bleed black and gold," says Sue a native of Mercer, Pa., who lives in Milford and watches almost every Steelers game at Martino's.

One thing that separates Pittsburgh fans from Bengals fans, she says, is Pittsburgh fans "have their Steelers gear on all year round, win or lose."

There's no equivalent of Martino's for Bengals' fans in Pittsburgh, Sue says. Her friend, Pam of Maineville, who grew up in Johnstown, Pa., agrees.

"You're not going to find a Bengals bar in Pittsburgh. It's a different attitude," Pam says. "There are little places all over here (where Steeler fans congregate), but look at these people. This place is die-hard."

Steelers fans have their Terrible Towels, too. These first appeared late in the team's 1975-76 Super Bowl season, and many fans have their originals - never washed and never used for anything but waving during Steelers games.

For a Bengals fan, being in Martino's is like being a Methodist at a Catholic Mass for the first time.

The Steelers score and all the Terrible Towels appear instantly, their owners waving them with precise wrist action - in unison. Abruptly, they stop. Then they cheer, again in perfect unison and just once: "Here we go, Steelers, here we go!"

Until the next big play goes Pittsburgh's way, Martino's patrons sip their Iron City and chow on the Angiullis' hoagies, pizzas, strombolis and Pittsburgh steak salads - steak, fries, shredded cheese and saut?ed mushrooms.

Angiulli is braced for an overflowing crowd Sunday. He'll open up the second floor, increasing the number of televisions tuned to the game from 14 to 21.

Mingling among the Pittsburgh Nation will be his 6-year-old daughter, Isabella, whose favorite player is Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Most likely, she'll be wearing her little No. 43 jersey in his honor, as she was on the December Sunday the Steelers thumped the Panthers.

Near the end of the first half, one of her relatives was escorting her out the door of Martino's. Jokingly, he slipped a Bengals jersey out from under his shirt and offered it to Isabella. She refused it.

Thanks to MeanJoe for surprising me with my new sig.
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