Super Bowl Fans Contrast in Style
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Award-winning sports columnist Phil Musick, who wrote for The Press and the Post-Gazette during his 30-year journalism career, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure. Here is a reprint of one of his best-read columns, a comparison between Dallas and Pittsburgh fans on Jan. 20, 1979 -- the eve of Super Bowl XIII -- as printed in the Post-Gazette.
MIAMI -- As everyone not residing in a cave in the Mojave Desert must realize by now, Super Bowl XIII is a matter of matchups. The big one, of course, is Pittsburgh vs. Dallas. The cities and the fans, not the football teams.
Even the combatants acknowledge the differences: Grit vs. gaudy; Perrier water vs. Carstairs-and-a-draft; kolbassi vs. escargot. "Pittsburgh," laughs Joe Greene is "brick and cobblestones, Dallas is neon and monogrammed shirts."
So Super Bowl XIII has come down to basics ... a difference in style. Steeler fans here are betting 10 bucks and fretting over the point spread; Cowboys fans are wagering $1,000 and ignoring the spread. The Cowboys are wearing white hats; the Steelers are Darth Vader.
"You look at Roger Staubach," Rocky Bleier says, considering the scene here, "and he's squeaky clean. All Dallas is squeaky clean."
"We wear black uniforms."
The Big Matchup. "Dallas is like a crisp $50 bill," Bleier warms to the comparison. "Pittsburgh is a crumpled $20."
It sounds implausible that teams and their followers could be so unlike each other. It isn't. Super Bowl XIII affords a superb matchup. Iron City vs. Chivas Regal or chablis; Guccis vs. brogans; Cardin vs. Kaufmann's; where it's been vs. where it's going.
The Dallas fan flew here in a Lear jet, arriving well ahead of the domestic driving his Cadillac in for the weekend. He's staying over at Le Club in Ft. Lauderdale or at the Doral ... in a suite. The Steeler fan got in late last night in a van with decals on the window after working the split shift, and he's staying in a room for two with seven other people in a motel two light years from the Gold Coast.
Dallas fans are on expense accounts; Steeler fans are blowing the rent money and the savings bonds. There have been 50 movies made about Dallas, one about Pittsburgh. It was called "Unconquered."
Dallas is Cowboy linebacker Thomas Henderson's mouth vs. Jack Lambert's observation that "with all the media down here, a chimpanzee could get a lot of attention." Dallas is superfan Whistling Ray and a hat that sprays the unsuspecting with water; Pittsburgh is a guy in a gorilla suit who'll stove five of your ribs if you laugh at him.
Miamians say they can't distinguish Dallas fans; they can't miss their Steeler counterparts. They make noise while Cowboy fans are reading stock quotations. In the Orange Bowl Sunday, the sound from the Steeler side will probably make the stadium tilt.
"That's because Texas Stadium is in a dry city," Cowboy defensive end Harvey Martin sniffs. "Put a few six-packs out there and you'd hear some noise."
Not if it rains on Sunday. The Cowboy fans will hunker back under the Orange Bowl overhang, used to the roof at Texas Stadium. If it rains, the Steeler fans may take off their shirts and open another beer. They may not even notice, the way they didn't seem to two weeks ago at Three Rivers when the Steelers were up 31-3 at the half and only 26 people went home.
"In Pittsburgh we live tough, we work tough," explains Dwight White, a Dallas native. "After a while, it gets to be a part of you. It's no picnic in Pittsburgh."
"There are a lot of mill workers, honest people. The work ethic is important. In Pittsburgh, they work, go to church, have babies and go to football games. That's all."
Is the comparison between things in Dallas and things in Pittsburgh a valid one?
The Cowboy hotel overlooks a beautiful beach; the Steeler hotel overlooks a Miami Airport taxiway. The Rooneys are staying at the team hotel; Cowboy owner Clint Murchison is roughing it at Spanish Cay, an island he owns in the Caribbean which has its own landing strip and his-and-her yachts.
The people here from both cities have stylish hair; the Pittsburghers have theirs covered with baseball caps emblazoned "Super Steelers." At the Cowboy post-game party, it will be ultra-suede and denim; at the Steeler party you can bet the ranch there will be a few yellow hardhats with red lights revolving around on them.
"There's a difference in style," Dan Rooney agrees.
There is that. The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders are here; the Steelers abandoned cheerleaders 20 years ago because the players liked them better than football.
The Cowboys will wear white and say Pittsburgh is cheap because their decal is painted on both sides of their helmets; the Steelers will wear black and say the Cowboys are gauche because they have stars all over their helmets.
Dallas fans wear hats to keep the sun out of their eyes; Steeler fans wear them because they're black and gold and make a statement. Dallas party types drink Alka-Seltzer and stay in bed until noon; their Pittsburgh counterparts drink Bloody Marys at 8 a.m. and suffer with a smile.
Pittsburgh has to be back at work Monday; Dallas is trying to get home by Valentine's Day. If Dallas fans had a flight delayed en route here, they tried to buy the airline; if the same thing happened to a Pittsburgh fan, he probably tried to wreck the airport.
"Our fans will win their game too," Greene says.
"Dallas?" Dwight White ponders the Big Matchup. "Dallas is flashy, modern, streamlined, barbecues and big Texas egos. When I think of Dallas, I think of El Dorados and Sevilles."
"We have El Dorados and Sevilles in Pittsburgh, too. But the salt on the roads has eaten big holes in them."
First Published January 6, 2010 12:00 am