Plenty of Pittsburgh supporters sound off; not so much noise from Arizona backers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
If this were an election and Rowan County residents were the only voters, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be named on 99 percent of the ballots cast to decide a Super Bowl winner.
At a minimum.
Last week, the Post ran a short article on an inside page asking readers to e-mail the paper if they were fans of the Steelers or their Super Bowl opponent, the Arizona Cardinals.
We wanted to speak to a few of those fans for a story, get a word from folks who have a particular interest in the outcome of today’s Super Bowl.
We at the Post heard from almost 100 Steeler fans, ardent supporters of every shape, form and fashion.
We heard from fans who have their dens painted in Steeler colors and fans who have their Steeler banners flying outside their homes 365 days a year.
We heard from fans who live and die by the fate of their beloved Steelers.
On the other side of the gridiron, we heard from one ó count ’em, one ó Cardinal fan. (OK, truth be known, we heard from two, but the phone number for the second was disconnected, so we don’t know if that was a joke or not.)
Here’s a wrap-up of area football leanings, plus a few predictions for today’s game:
– There are Steeler fans and then there is Jon Ketner.
“Yes, I’m pretty hard-core,” he admitted.
Ketner drives a 1989 Chevrolet Blazer. The vehicle used to be painted light blue with a white top.
Ketner had it repainted in Steeler colors ó a yellow bottom with a black top. The interior was redone in black with the head rests embroidered with the Steeler logo.
The license plate on the vehicle reads: “BLITZBRG” in honor of Pittsburgh’s famed defense.
Why, Jon? Why?!?!
“No one knows for sure,” Ketner said of his devotion to the Steelers.
He said that a few years ago, he and his wife drove the Blazer to Pittsburgh for a Steelers game. Ketner said they were driving through the heart of the city pointing out all the sites.
“Then I noticed everyone pointing at us,” he said. “They couldn’t believe a car like that was from North Carolina.”
Ketner, 40, said his father’s college roommate was from Pittsburgh. When Ketner was a boy, that friend of the family would send him Steeler souvenirs.
Ketner said his grandfather was a Cowboys fan. Back in the ’70s, when both teams were in their heyday, he’d sit on one side of the room pulling for the Steelers while his grandfather sat on the other pulling for the Cowboys.
Ketner admitted to a certain fondness for Cardinal quarterback Kurt Warner.
“I wish him well,” Ketner said, “just not this Sunday.”
Ketner said his prediction for Sunday’s Super Bowl is for the Steelers to win 24-17.
– Bob Dunmire is vice president of technology for Global Contact Services in downtown Salisbury. He’s also a Steelers fan.
This past week, Dunmire wore a Steeler jersey to work every day. Well, except for Thursday, when he had a business meeting.
Dunmire said his parents are from Pennsylvania, which probably explains his fondness for the Steelers. He said he pulls for the Carolina Panthers, “except when they’re playing Pittsburgh.”
Dunmire said he thinks the Steelers are going to win today, though he also said, “It’s going to be closer than a lot of people think.”
His prediction: Steelers, 21-14.
– Charles and Barbara Wingerson moved from Pittsburgh to Rowan County in 1970, the year after Chuck Knoll took over as coach of the Steelers and the team’s fortune was forever changed.
The Wingersons have faithfully followed the fortunes of their beloved Steelers over the years, and admit to occasionally regretting missing the team’s transformation from NFL doormat to powerhouse.
“My sister still lives there and sends me things about the Steelers,” Wingerson said. “I was reading the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when you called.”
He said that years ago, in an era before every NFL game was televised, he’d huddle around his radio listening to Steeler games on Pittsburgh’s KDKA (that’s 1020 on your AM dial).
“It’d kind of fade in and out,” Wingerson said of reception.
He said he didn’t wager on the Steelers making it to the Super Bowl this year, but said he wouldn’t have bet against it happening.
“If you’re a Steelers fan, every year you hope for a Super Bowl,” Wingerson said.
He said today’s game won’t be a runaway. His prediction? Steelers, 28-24.
– Franklin McCombs, 44, has been a fan of the Steelers since the late-’70s.
He played football for Salisbury High School and said the Hornets shared the black-and-gold colors the Steelers wore.
Thus the bond he felt for the team from Pittsburgh.
“And I liked the way their defense played,” said McCombs, who is retired from the Army after a 20-year stint.
McCombs is a faithful member of Cornerstone Church on Webb Road and said he’ll be watching the Super Bowl there today on a big-screen TV. Church members, he said, will tailgate in the parking lot before the game, then troop inside to watch the big event.
McCombs said he’s fond of this year’s Steelers team, but admitted his favorite might have been the team of the late-’70s that featured such big names as “Mean Joe” Greene, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, Mel Blount, Jack Ham and Terry Bradshaw.
“That was back in the day,” McCombs said of that assemblage of talent.
He said he predicted the day after last year’s Super Bowl that the Steelers would be playing in the big event this year.
“I just knew it,” McCombs said.
Pittsburgh will win today, he said, by a 28-10 score.
– And now we turn the page to Dennis Brown, the lone Rowan County resident who confesses to being a fan of the lowly Cardinals, a team playing in its first Super Bowl.
The Cardinals are the Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL, never until this year garnering any respect.
And fewer backers.
“I think I’m the only Cardinals fan in North Carolina,” Brown said.
Sit back and listen as he explains why.
“Growing up, I watched Terry Metcalf,” Brown said, citing one of a handful of Cardinals who have enjoyed distinguished NFL careers.
Metcalf was a runningback for the Cardinals in the ’70s.
“Whenever we’d get out in the yard and play, I’d say, ‘I’m Terry Metcalf! I’m Terry Metcalf!’ ” Brown said.
He said the Cardinals have been blessed with more stars than people realize. Dan Dierdorf, the lineman-turned-announcer, starred for the Cardinals. Conrad Dobler was in his prime while playing for the team.
For those who remember the 1960s, Larry Wilson was a Cardinals safety who was the equal of anyone in the NFL.
Brown, 50, a foam operator at W.A. Brown, said that, unlike his counterparts who are Steeler fans, he doesn’t think today’s Super Bowl is going to be especially close.
“We’re going to win the game,” he said, “we’re blowing them out.”
By exactly how much? Cardinals, 31-17, Brown said.
North Carolina’s lone Cardinals fan has spoken.