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

January 29, 1996

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Strangers linked by nothing but the Dallas Cowboys war paint on their faces embraced on street corners for photos, while Pittsburgh Steelers fans sheepishly waved banners and vowed there would be a next time.

``I’m going to become a terrorist in Texas,″ said Steve Schwartz, heading for the bars after his Steelers fell 27-17 Sunday night. ``But I still feel like we’re winners.″

Seats in Sun Devil stadium were still warm from the game when vendors kicked off the Dallas-fest. Merchants ripped open boxes of T-shirts proclaiming the Cowboys champions and a man in a tuxedo strolled down the street selling ``Dallas White″ roses. Ticket stubs went for $20.

During the game’s remaining seconds, Steelers fan Dennis Brazinski, who had watched the game in a parking lot across from the stadium, 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.

The streets of Tempe were quickly grid-locked with cars after the game. Horns honked and fans hollered while hanging out of windows and sunroofs.

``Steelers beat the spread,″ was the feeble battle cry from a white jeep filled with Pittsburgh fans. ``Check the stats, Dallas!″

For some, the end of the game was merely a blip in a days-long party, regardless of who won.

``The game isn’t really a factor,″ said Michelle McGuire, who made a stop at Bandersnatch Brew Pub with two friends. Irish folk music played in the background as the three surveyed the bar. ``There’s a lot of good-looking men in town.″

The day was full of Super Bowl oddities. Dogs wore hats, ministers preached of football and breakfast was a 20-ounce beer for some die-hards.

``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.″

Parking lots were transformed into dance floors, sidewalks became barbecues and bodies were turned into billboards as fans got serious about showing their allegiances.

While Dallas got a warm reception during player introductions, it paled next to the flurry of terrible towels being 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.

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 stadium workers shut 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 mini-dress 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 an elevated platform while fireworks blasted around her. The crowd roared its approval as a helicopter landed at mid-field 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.

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 with a laugh.

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.

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