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Dogs in Hats, Beer for Breakfast on Football’s Holiest Day

January 29, 1996

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Dogs wore hats, ministers preached of football and breakfast was a 20-ounce beer as the carnival of Super Bowl Sunday finally arrived.

``God bless football!″ yelled Pittsburgh fan Lou Gelbloom, a Steelers tattoo on his forehead and a black and gold cape around his neck. ``This is what America is all about.″

The Toronto man was one of thousands of people who jammed Tempe’s streets hours before kickoff, extending the football fiesta well beyond the gates of Sun Devil Stadium.

Parking lots were transformed into dance floors, sidewalks became barbecues and bodies were turned into billboards as fans got serious, hours before

The Cowboys, with their limousines and famous cheerleaders, went into the as the glamour team. They left as champions, having beaten the Steelers 27-17 for their third title in four years.

While Dallas got a warm reception during player introductions, it paled next to the flurry of terrible towels waved as the Steelers took the field before a crowd that appeared to favor the gritty gang.

Even dogs were decked out in sunglasses and sparkly hats _ all covered with logos of the Cowboys and Steelers.

``Go Boys!″ said Craig Daum, a grin on his face and beer in hand as he had a huge blue star painted on his bare chest.

One of the thousands standing in the sunshine before the stadium gates opened, Daum of Pittsburgh was immediately berated by other members of his group decked out in Steelers regalia.

As a Dallas victory became apparent in the last few seconds of the game, another Stealers fan, Dennis Brazinski, leaned his body against a van and shook his head.

``O’Donnell shouldn’t have thrown those two passes,″ said the Franklin, Ill., resident as a fellow Pittsburgh fan across the street cried into her husband’s shoulder.

Dallas fans immediately began chanting, ``Go home, Steelers. Go home.″ To which their Pittsburgh counterparts offered a vulgar reply.

Early in the game, a street next to the stadium became a giant living room as fans climbed a cactus-covered hillside and filled rooftops in front of a 20-foot tall video screen.

Fans turned testy when police turned off the video, trying to disperse the crowd and make way for late-arriving ticket holders.

At halftime, a huge mechanical arm dropped singer Diana Ross into a cloud of smoke on an elevated platform.

Ross, wearing a red minidress that was the first and least elaborate of four costumes, belted out a medley of her hits while battling a man-made breeze that kept blowing her hair across her face. Ross gamely changed costumes in front of the cameras, donning a flowing gold gown while singing ``Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.″

Hundreds of dancers surrounded Ross, who rose some 20 feet into the air on the platform an elevated platform while fireworks blasted around her. The crowd roared its approval as a helicopter landed at midfield to ferry Ross away. The singer perched in the aircraft’s open door, waving and blowing kisses as another round of fireworks reverberated across the stadium.

Outside the stadium before the game, vendors hawked hats and T-shirts and fans seeking seats carried signs reading ``Pretty please″ and paced the pavement mumbling ``Tickets, tickets, tickets.″

Prices plunged as kickoff approached and fans were peeling off only three $100 bills _ down drastically from the reported $1,500 tickets were fetching a week ago.

Game day attire included ``Cat in the Hat″ style floppy hats in team colors and war paint. Waving gold and black towels and roaring around Tempe streets, Steelers fans were determined to live up to their reputation as rowdier fans.

``Steelers fans are pretty brash and crude and nasty,″ said Cathy McMullen, her black cowboy hat adorned with a silver star and diamond earrings spelling out Cowboys dangling from her ears.

This from a woman who was driving a van with a plastic arm and leg jammed in the back door _ and a sign indicating the extremities belonged to Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell.

``We’re gonna let him out before game time,″ she said, laughing.

The mellow atmosphere before the game bothered some people who watched as Cowboys and Steelers fans grilled hot dogs and chatted.

``It’s nothing compared to what it was in Atlanta,″ said Kerry Murphy, whose long fingernails were painted with Cowboys hats. ``That was a lot more boisterous. I think it’s because the city is so spread out.″

Gelbloom, the Steelers fan, surveyed the mostly calm crowd in disbelief.

``In Pittsburgh, we’d be barbecuing and tailgating by 8:30 and even the cops would be drinking beer,″ he said.

Football wasn’t on the minds of everyone outside the stadium. One young man called the spectacle a ``terrible day of the Lord,″ none too pleased with the celebrating he saw.

A Pittsburgh fan wearing lederhosen and a Steelers helmet offered him some advice.

``Get a life,″ he said.

Steelers fan Steve Leskinen of Uniontown, Pa., hobbled a mile on crutches from his parking spot to the stadium. A torn knee ligament was not going to stop him.

``You don’t get too many chances to go and root for the hometown team,″ he said. ``This has been my dream.″

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