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Steelers fans live for first Sundays in Feb.

February 07, 2011
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

It’s a little known fact that February has two holidays celebrating love and relationships.

The first is obvious. All the hearts hanging around out there are the hint.

The other comes on the first Sunday of the month.

That’s Super Bowl Sunday. The red heart is replaced by brown pig bladder with pointed ends and all the love is for professional football.

To be honest, Super Bowl Sunday is another artificial, man-made holiday celebration. It falls a couple months after Halloween and a few weeks before Mardi Gras, but all three cause usually civil people to dress up and act crazy.

Last night, there were more of these festivals than usual. That was because the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV. It produced what could have been considered a huge casting call for a remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

There were hundreds and hundreds of people who had their bodies in Hagerstown, while their eyes were on Dallas and hearts were in Western Pennsylvania.

These Super Bowl gatherings could be called “bask-erade” parties. Fans turned out in force at places like Hager Hall Conference Center, in full Steelers garb to bask in glory as their team attempted to win its seventh Super Bowl title.

The color theme for the day was mostly black, gold and white as about every Steelers jersey known to man was on display. There were those who went old school, donning retro shirts with Bradshaw, Harris, Lambert and Greene stitched across the back.

Younger crowds favored the Polamalu No. 43 by more than a flowing hair, but there was enough Roethlisberger, Ward, Keisel, Miller, Harrison and Wallace to go around.

Football is a funny game. In a sense, the fans are just like legal street gangs wearing their colors. In Hagerstown, on any given day, you can see members wearing purple, maroon or black in allegiance to their teams.

On this evening, though, black was more than chic.

The Steelers faithful turned out early at Hager Hall, hours before the game for what amounted to an indoor tailgate party. It was mostly manned by the Steelers Fan Club of Maryland, the largest of club of its kind in this state.

About 150 of the 500 fans who were projected to grace Hager Hall showed up as early as 2 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. game.

“We had to move it from the Cancun Cantina,” said Mike Malone, general manager of Hager Hall, Barefoot Bernie’s and Cancun Cantina. “We can fit 200-300 over there for the regular Steelers games, but we knew there would be more today.

“About two-thirds of the crowd tonight will be Steelers fans, but the rest will be just football fans looking to watch a good game, not necessarily Packers fans. We try to make it a family atmosphere. This is where all the young fans start.”

A few hearty Packers fans showed up, but their green-and-gold looked like a charcoal briquette in a snowstorm in comparison.

Come gametime, all eyes were on the 15x15-foot movie screen projecting the game.

Beforehand, the fans prepared for the game like their heroes did.

Many were “hydrating” and “consuming carbs” trying to keep in top shape to cheer for their team.

They listened the music — mostly Steelers fan covers and some Black Eyed Peas — to stay up and in cheerleading mode in the quest for the second ring on a second hand.

Steelers fans know all other football fans are jealous of their team’s accomplishments.

Earlier in the week, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin was asked if it bothered him that the Dallas Cowboys were still considered America’s Team. He sidestepped the controversy and just said that he was happy to be in Steelers Nation.

It’s easy to see why. The Pittsburgh Steelers are all about toughness, honor and tradition.

But for their fans, there is a little love involved, too.

Bob Parasiliti is a Herald-Mail sports writer. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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