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Clay Matthews. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Clay Matthews. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Super Bowl Frenzy: Packers, Steelers 'Nations' Very Similar

By Jay Sorgi

Next game: February 6th at Super Bowl XLV vs. Pittsburgh
Packers Gameday at 3:00 p.m. on Newsradio 620 WTMJ with coverage on Live at 10 on TODAY'S TMJ4 and Super Bowl Frenzy coverage online here.

MILWAUKEE - Super Bowl XLV brings the Green Bay Packers, the team with the most NFL championships (12), and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team with the most Super Bowl titles (6).

The two combatants may also be the teams with the most loyal fan bases, who also happen to have a lot of similarities.

Two of them, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Assistant Managing Editor for Sports Jerry Micco, are that these fan bases are huge and come from similar communities.

Fan Base Packers Nation
Steelers Nation
Home Market
and Population
Green Bay and
Milwaukee
(1,996,200)
Pittsburgh and W.
Pennsylavania
(1,988,200)
NFL Titles 12 (with two
Super Bowls)
6 (all Super Bowls)
Worldwide
Watering Holes
Packers bars Steelers bars
Famous Industries Paper, Beer, Cheese Steel
Favorite Tailgate
Food
Bratwurst Italian Sausage, Pierogi
Favorite
Near-Stadium
Sandwich
Kroll's butterburgers Primanti Brothers
Favorite Local Beer Miller, Leinie's,
New Glarus, Lakerfont,
Capital Breweries
Iron City
Choice of
Gold-colored
Souvenir
Cheesehead Terrible Towel
"They're blue collar cities with fans who are very loyal, and stick with their team," said Micco.  "There's a tremendous amount of pride in the football team."

"The whole region gets behind the team.  There's nothing like it."

Except, of course, in Wisconsin with our non-profit, fan-owned Packers.

You can also discover Packers bars and Steelers bars all around the world.

"In just about any city in the country, you can find a Steeler bar."

Part of that has to do with the fact that Packers nation developed when football on television developed, in the 1960's, as pro football became America's most followed sport.

The Packers won five NFL titles (including the first two Super Bowls) in a seven-year period under coach Vince Lombardi, who became an iconic coaching figure at that time.

A decade later, the Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years at a time when Pittsburgh lost much of its defining money and job-making enterprise: steel.

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"The steel industry left Pittsburgh.  When that happened, a lot of jobs left Pittsburgh.  A lot of people left Pittsburgh," said Micco.

"There was nothing left to take its place, but the football team did.  People identified with the football team because they were powerful.  They were good.  They played defense.  They were tough."

Some fans at Three Rivers Stadium even adopted individual players and built fan clubs around them, such as Franco's Italian Army for half-Italian, half-African American running back Franco Harris, and Gerela's Gorillas for kicker Roy Gerela.

Much like Wisconsin with its strong German, Polish, Irish and Italian communities that help run America's largest ethnic festivals in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh has deeply strong ethnic ties and communities.

"This is a very ethnic area.  You have Italians, Poles, Irish, other Mediterranean countries, central European countries, Germans.  You have ethnic groups who are from all over in Pittsburgh.  All those sort of people who went to work in the mines in places like that built this city, that built it into what it is."

Fans Love Their Ethnic Sausages, Fat, Meat and Beer

Those ethnic flavors find their way into the tailgates as well.

Packers fans love their bratwurst, just like Brewers fans who tailgate at Miller Park and Badgers fans at Camp Randall Stadium.

For Steelers fans outside Heinz Field, you'll find similar, with the Italian flavor helping play a part in creating what Micco considers an aura of meat.

"It's a lot of Italian food.  Italian sausage, steaks, burgers, somebody puts together nice (Polish) pierogies.  People always talk about pierogies in Pittsburgh.  It's kind of a famous thing.

Fans who choose not to tailgate outside their respective home stadium also tend to choose a particular fattening and tasty sandwich.

In Green Bay, it's Kroll's butterburgers which are found just blocks from Lambeau Field.

For Steeler fans in Pittsburgh, it's a very unusual sandwich made by Primanti Brothers with locations all over Pittsburgh.

"It usually involves meat, egg, provolone cheese or mozzarella cheese, french fries stuffed right into it with two large pieces of Italian bread and coleslaw slapped on top of that whole thing."

Each fan base also likes their local beer.

In Packers Nation, it tends to be Miller products like Miller Lite or Leinenkugel's, New Glarus, Capital Brewery, Lakefront Brewery or any number of other Badger state beers.

In Pittsburgh?

"Iron City Brewing has been in Pittsburgh for as long as I can remember, since the 20's.  Iron City is kind of the beer in Pittsburgh," explained Micco.

"In the old steelworker days, it would be 'Give me an Imp and an Iron,' a shot of Imperial Liquor and an Iron City to wash it down, the classic Boilermaker."

Golden Souvenirs To Be Found All Over Super Bowl

To match the accenting color of each team's uniforms, both Packers and Steelers Nations have chosen their gold souvenir of choice to sport at games, and both are made in Wisconsin.

Packers fans don their cheeseheads, made in St. Francis.

Steelers fans like to waive a famous yellow cloth, produced in Baraboo, and born during the 1970's dynasty years.

"If you ain't wavin' a Terrible Towel, you ain't a real Steeler fan," yelled the late Myron Cope during his Steelers broadcasts.

The man who used to yell "yoi" to notify a great Steelers play invented the Terrible Towel as a way to raise money for the school that served his autistic son, Daniel.

"Myron started the terrible towel on a lark.  Next thing you knew, it caught on," explained Micco.

"The towel means a lot to people here, not only because of the power they think it evokes, but also because it helps a very good school, the Allegheny School."

When it's all said and done, when Super Bowl 45 kicks off at Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas, expect to see lots of gold souvenirs, smell lots of ethnic food cooking on grills owned by fans from around the world, following teams from blue-collar areas of America - one with the most storied tradition of the Super Bowl era, the other with the most storied tradition in all of professional football.

In truth, Packers Nation and Steelers Nation are very much alike, even if they'll disagree on who will win the biggest game in football.

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