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Church throws Super Bowl party

February 01, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Toni Birkhimer wants to ensure the foreign exchange student living with her is "brought up right."

And in her house, that means being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

"I was brainwashed by my host family," Jenny Choi said with a laugh on Sunday.

Choi, 19, wore a Steelers jersey and earrings when she sat on a black-and-gold blanket in front of a 60-inch television. She joined her host family at the first Super Bowl party thrown at First Assembly of God Church on Leitersburg Street.

"This was intended to be an outreach to the community. ... We just want to build relationships; that's all Jesus ever wanted," the Rev. Dan Barnes said.

The church provided Buffalo wings and rented two televisions. Young children stayed in the nursery, and crafts, games and a football-shaped piñata were available to the older ones.

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"I just brought in stuff to keep the kids entertained. Some of them are into football, but some aren't," said Maureen Nauman of Waynesboro, Pa.

She helped children adhere glitter letters onto Valentine's Day cards.

"I wanted them to know it's not just something for the grown-ups, but it's fun for them, too," Nauman said.

Three dozen adult attendees unofficially divided themselves by team in front of the televisions.

Jeff Barnes, usually a Washington Redskins fan, placed himself in the Arizona Cardinals camp because he wanted to root for the team that hadn't been to a Super Bowl before. The Greencastle resident felt slightly out of place among Steelers fans in recent weeks.

"I'm a minority in this state," he said.

Ryan Painter, 11, of Waynesboro, felt it was important to scream and wave his Terrible Towel for the Steelers.

"My parents are from Pittsburgh, so it's an inherited trait, I guess," he said.

His 8-year-old sister, Megan, wore a handed-down jersey with the name and number of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

"It's cool to see when they do certain plays," she said.

Birkhimer developed her love of the Steelers while living in -- of all places -- Arizona.

"My whole family was rooting for the Dallas Cowboys in the '76 Super Bowl. I felt sorry for the Steelers," said Birkhimer, whose underdog team ended up winning that championship.

The Marion, Pa., resident was glad to watch Super Bowl XLIII among friends from church in an atmosphere of what she called "nice, clean fun."

Birkhimer and Choi had their faces painted with the Steelers' colors and logo.

"We don't have any football actually in Korea," said Choi, who also lived in China.

As far as the fanaticism, the closest comparison Choi could make was to soccer in her home country. She recalled a 2002 World Cup game.

"All the people were outside, and we had a big screen on the building," she said.

Choi said she enjoyed rooting for the Steelers with her host family and her church family.

"I think it's so much fun. You feel like you're part of the team," she said.

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