Despite small base, Pittsburgh Seminole Club has passion to spare
January 6, 2014 4:52 PM
Susan Jula and her two sons Chris, left, and Brett. The FSU fans will be whooping it up at Social at Bakery Square at 8 tonight.
By Dan Majors / The Pittsburgh Press
Let’s say you’re a college football fan and you would like to watch tonight’s Bowl Championship Series game with a bunch of rabid rooters who will be wearing their colors and waving their pennants and know how to have a good time.
And you don’t mind that darn Seminole war chant.
Well then, the place you want to be is Social at Bakery Square on Penn Avenue in Larimer.
It’s the gathering of the Pittsburgh Seminole Club, whose members will be rooting on the undefeated Florida State team against the Auburn Tigers for college football’s national championship.
“We don’t have a huge alumni base in Pittsburgh, but we’re passionate,” said club President Nathan Garcia, 36, of Highland Park. “If you look at our Facebook page, you see we have 80-something members, but nearly half are fans. There are only about 50 alumni.”
And when they get together to watch a game, about 20 or so members turn out.
“Of course, tonight’s a big game, so maybe there’ll be more,” said Mr. Garcia, who graduated from FSU with a marketing degree in 2000. “It’s not like Ohio State or Penn State.”
The club was started only four years ago by a gentleman named Mike Bowden — no relation to FSU’s legendary football coach Bobby Bowden — who spotted Mr. Garcia wearing an FSU ballcap while running in a 5K. Shortly after the group was organized, however, Mr. Bowden moved to Washington D.C., putting Mr. Garcia in charge.
“It’s good to connect people together when they have something in common, especially with football, and they’re all so far from home,” he said of the group. “It’s always a good time, but it’s a great way to meet people.”
There have been business contacts, friendships, even romantic relationships that can be traced to their outings.
It took a while for the club to find a base for watching games. Most sports bars are willing to put the games on the televisions, but they aren’t keen on turning up the volume for teams that don’t wear black and gold.
Social at Bakery Square has accommodated the fans most Saturdays this season.
But don’t look for Mr. Garcia to be on hand tonight. He’s in Pasadena, Calif., where he’ll be in the Rose Bowl stands rooting on his team.
Your host for this evening is Chris Redcay, 26, of Ohio Township, who graduated from FSU with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2011. He hooked up with the Pittsburgh Seminole Club almost as soon as he hit town.
“I was looking for like-minded Florida State grads or fans that gathered to watch basketball games, football games,” Mr. Redcay said. “I looked on Facebook, found them and I started getting involved.
“There’s a sense of unity, where you have something in common with people up here and get to know people. It’s like family everywhere you go. We get to know the members and hang out, watch the game, enjoy each other’s company and conversation, and reminisce about our time at Florida State.”
And you don’t have to bleed garnet and gold to enjoy yourself.
“It’s a great atmosphere for everyone,” Mr. Redcay said. “You’ll be there cheering with us, you’ll get to meet and talk to friendly people. They’re great members. I’d describe it as good times, good food, good sports.”
But what if you’re rooting for Auburn?
“We’ll welcome any fans who want to come watch with us, whether it’s an Auburn fan or not,” Mr. Redcay said. “We actually had a joint watching party with the Clemson club up here, and it was a great back-and-forth.”
Of course, the Auburn fans in Pittsburgh might be having their own get-together, but we couldn’t find it.
“I actually looked that up online last week, and it seems their alumni groups are more congregated more south of here,” Mr. Redcay said. “I didn’t find anything in the immediate area.”
A quick call to Kurt Sehn of the Auburn Alumni Club in Philadelphia seemed to confirm that.
“Yeah, Pittsburgh doesn’t have the concentration of alumni,” he said from California, where he, too, was getting ready to attend tonight’s game.
Mr. Sehn, 42, was born in Baldwin and graduated from Auburn in 1984 with a degree in chemical engineering.
He lives in Marlton, N.J., but he organizes gatherings to watch Auburn football at Cavanaugh’s, a tavern in Philadelphia.
“We have about 100 members,” he said. “We get a pretty good turnout to watch the games together. There’s a good group of Auburn fans who live in Lancaster.”
So your best local option might be the Pittsburgh Seminole Club. Naturally, it’s great to be in the company of fans cheering their team to victory. But what if your team loses?
“I think it’s better to be with fellow fans,” said Mr. Redcay. “I mean, everybody’s going to be feeling the same emotions, whether it’s joy or sorrow. And at the end of the day it’s about more than football. It’s about being together with good people and having a good time.”
The FSU fans will be whooping it up at Social at Bakery Square, 6425 Penn Ave., in Larimer, right around 8 p.m. (Maybe a bit earlier if you want to grab a good seat.) Kickoff is at 8:30.
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