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Old 08-10-2007, 11:04 PM   #1
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Default Steelers fans ready to show some love

Ohhhh yeah....

Steelers fans ready to show some love
By Tony LaRussa
Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dino Lazzaris and his brother, Bruno, mixed up 1,500 pounds of tinted concrete and plaster to create a three-dimensional replica of the Vince Lombardi Trophy that stands 13 feet tall and has a gas fireplace and bench built into the base.

Dino Lazzaris knew he needed something special to show his spirit as a Steelers fan when he built a "sports bar" in the addition to his Clairton home.

But rather than just buying an interesting piece of memorabilia to serve as the room's centerpiece, he and his brother Bruno decided to use the masonry skills they learned from their father.

Lazzaris is one of the uncountable Steeler Nation, that group of fans throughout the country whose first loyalty is to the Steelers on game day, whether the game is at Heinz Field or on the road. Tonight at 7:30, the North Shore comes to life with the first home preseason game of the season, against the Green Bay Packers.

Working from a picture on the Super Bowl XIV program hanging in the bar, the Lazzaris brothers mixed up 1,500 pounds of tinted concrete and plaster to create a three-dimensional replica of the Vince Lombardi Trophy that stands 13 feet tall and has a gas fireplace and bench built into the base.

"I was trying to come up with something unique when the picture of the trophy caught my eye," said Lazzaris, 43, who owns a construction company. "I thought, 'We can definitely do this.' I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out."

Paul "Bud" Recktenwald, 65, of Whitehall, expresses his devotion more publicly than Lazzaris' home sports bar. One of Recktenwald's creations -- a refurbished 1985 Dodge Colt -- is on display in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

"I really feel like we're really going to have a fantastic season," he said. An auto-body mechanic, Recktenwald's Steelers vehicle is a Plymouth Voyager minivan decorated in black and gold metal-flake paint and adorned with team logos.

"I like to put on a crazy outfit and park down at the stadium on game days to pump folks up as they walk by," he said. "It's really a lot of fun."

Some merchants say they are doing brisk business in apparel and items emblazoned with the Steelers logo.

"We're selling lots of Steelers stuff, especially the jerseys," said Marie Lee, who operates Pittsburgh USA Sports along Penn Avenue in the Strip District. "A lot of the customers are visitors from out of town buying cold-weather clothes like sweatshirts, windbreakers and tassel hats."

The start of Steelers season is spiking sales for food suppliers.

"During football season we probably sell double the amount of sausage, kielbasa and just about anything else that can be grilled," said Darren Schumacher, manager of Parma Sausage Co. in the Strip District.

"We've been getting a steady stream of customers coming in to stock up for their parties," Schumacher said. "And the restaurants we supply are ordering more in anticipation of a busy weekend because of the game."

Western Pennsylvania is where most fans live, but the borders of the Steelers Nation stretch across the continent.

"It's amazing how many Steelers fans live out here," said Bettina Elstro, 27, of San Diego, Calif., a Cleveland native who caught Steelers fever while attending Carnegie Mellon University. Elstro maintains a Web site, www.yinzluvsteelers.com.

"On Sundays when the Steelers play, we have to line up at 10 a.m. outside the bar where we go to watch the game, so we can get good seats," she said. "But I'm not complaining. It's worth it."

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