Fans show true colors for big game
Steelers fans Chris Kirkpatrick of Orlando, Fla., formerly of Clarion, and Katy Dierks of Los Angeles, hang a Steelers flag outside the RV they drove with friends from Orlando to Texas to see the game. `
Kathy Nicklow, left, and her daughter, Cherie, before the game.
Wearing his Mexican AAA fighting mask, Alejandro Casas of Saltillo, Mexico, was ready for anything.
Dolly McQuaid of Bethel Park models her Western-style Steelers garb.
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dazzling in his shiny green body suit, high-heeled yellow boots and flowing locks, "G Force Man" strolled confidently among the crowds gathering around Cowboys Stadium as kickoff approached for Super Bowl XLV.
A photographer trying to take his picture fell backward over a tall orange cone, narrowly avoiding injury.
Steelers fan Carla Daniels, of Wheeling, W.Va., was tickled by this guy but not afraid. She jumped in to pose for a picture with Ron Jaecks, a gloriously attired Packers fan from Salem, Ore., who had gotten a little help to create his superhero outfit from his theater group.
"I'm not scared of them," she said firmly.
Green Bay and Steelers fans mingled peacefully before the big game Sunday, predicting victory for their guys but preaching respect for the enemy.
"There's no rivalry," declared William Rizzo, a Fox Chapel native who lives in Charlotte, N.C., and had driven over with Hilary Lenz, a friend from high school who is a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Point Breeze. "It's been cordial."
Whether or not that equanimity would hold up, a warm Sunday afternoon -- after days of bitter cold and ice -- created a carnival atmosphere. Fans of both teams vied to show off the best outfits or pose with those who had better ones.
Eric Hahn and Ross Hughes guesstimated that they had so far had their pictures taken 1,000 times with people who wanted to see themselves flanked by two guys dressed in white, sparkly Elvis outfits. And the game was still two hours away at that point.
Hahn, the dark-haired Elvis, is stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, with the U.S. Army. Hughes, the blond Elvis, originally is from Peters Township and lives in Jacksonville, Fla.
They met up in Austin for this adventure, stopped in at a store called Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds on South Congress Avenue to pick up the suits for about $130 each.
"The King's alive and he's a Steelers fan," said Hahn confidently to a bemused Green Bay guy looking over the two kings. More Green Bay fans lined up for pictures.
While picture-taking was one of the more popular pregame activities, the throngs also drew ticket sellers, would-be ticket buyers and a large contingent of evangelists who saw opportunity in the moment.
The corner of North Collins Street and Randol Mill Road was notable, in part, for the men who took turns standing in front of the Chase bank branch and reading from the Bible into a speaker system. Scattered around the nearby roads were others of the same mind handing out tracts marketed specifically to Green Bay or Steeler fans.
A truck with huge LED screens on each side drove by promoting the movie, "I am Number Four," which opens later this month. Several planes flew overhead, dragging ads for various companies.
Meanwhile, people were finding each other and making friends, of sorts.
Rizzo and Lenz stood next to the RV that Damien Rahim had rented in Orlando, Fla., and driven to Arlington by way of New Orleans. Rahim had several people along for the $3,000 ride, as well as several TVs set up inside the RV.
He said a couple of members of the group had tickets. "We're trying to get some more," but if they didn't, they had a good place to watch the game. So what if the parking spots -- the RV needed two -- in front of a small strip center cost $500 each.
Rahim, a native of Trinidad who became a Steelers fan a few years ago by way of some friends, didn't know Rizzo and Lenz but they were all having a good time together.
Three brothers originally from Bethel Park and living in Phoenix, Ariz., walked by with hard hats decked out with empty Iron City beer cans, a tradition their father started in the 1970s. They claimed that a picture with his hat was featured on a game ticket back then.
"Can I take a picture of your hat?" a passing woman interrupted, as they were explaining their Steelers credentials to the media.
If they couldn't find face-value tickets for the game -- they do have small children to feed, after all -- they planned to head to a party they thought was being held in a parking lot near the adjacent Six Flags amusement park. There were supposed to be big-screen TVs.
Hats seemed to dominate in the creative apparel category, appropriate in a region that has had the fedora of former Cowboys coach Tom Landry and the Stetson hat worn by the TV character J.R. Ewing in "Dallas" in exhibits of late.
Jim Dugan's crowd-stopper resembled a tall metal grater that seemed to be grating, well, cheese. Strings of rope that the South Fayette resident had painted yellow swung gently from holes in the grater hat.
Cindy Davies, formerly of McDonald and Moon and of Houston was confident of a Steelers victory because she was wearing a "Cat in the Hat"-style chapeau decorated with 32 tiny football helmets representing all of the NFL teams. Her son, Josh, made it and it had been worn to the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., that the Steelers won in 2009.
"We made this hat from Giant Eagle football helmets," she said gleefully.
She and several other Steelers fans, including a few strangers who ran up to have their pictures taken, were partying on the porch of a restaurant near the stadium and under a huge sign that read, "Real Charcoal Grilled."
One of those who came over to be in the pictures and then headed back to his spot along the road was Harold Werner, who was dressed in green camouflage with black-and-gold beads around his neck. He said he was an Iraq vet who had been homeless and was now collecting for the organization that helped him. He said he was a Steelers fan because his nephew was.
Meanwhile, "G Force Man" was preparing to endure whatever it took to support his team. He had asked his female friends for tips on walking in his unfamiliar heeled boots.
Their advice: "Just walk normal. Tonight it's going to kill you."
First Published February 7, 2011 12:00 am