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Steeler Nation: The next generation

| Sunday, Feb. 5, 2006

DETROIT -- Nicholas Krivokuca, 9, has a tough time explaining to his Canadian peers why he loves the Steelers, a non-hockey team based in a city almost 3,000 miles from home.

"Most of my friends don't care anything about football," said Krivokuca, of Campbell River, British Columbia, a small town about 200 miles north of Seattle. "My friends, they've heard about the Steelers, but they don't really care."

Second-generation Steelers fans like Krivokuca -- whose coal-mining father left Slickville, Westmoreland County, a decade ago in search of opportunity -- might not know the route from the Golden Triangle to Station Square. But they still consider the Steelers their home team.

It's a phenomenon that has given Steeler Nation -- the moniker given to the cross-country spread of dedicated fans who have left Western Pennsylvania in search of jobs -- deep roots.

More than 900 taverns and watering holes across the nation are designated Steelers bars, and fan clubs can be found in all 50 states. The Black and Gold Brigade, an unofficial fan club that tracks fans outside of Pittsburgh, boasts more than 4,200 members.

Flying Willee's Sports Pub in Greensboro, N.C., packs Steelers fans in every football weekend, selling the most Iron City and Iron City Light beer in the region, said co-owner Katherine Davis.

The bar is a favorite of Charlotte and David Sutton, who grew up in Morningside and Millvale, respectively. After leaving the city in 1990 for David's military career, they vowed to keep the Steeler spirit in their family and have raised their two girls, Brittney, 13, and Kaylin, 9, to love the black and gold.

The bar is a favorite of Charlotte and David Sutton, who grew up in Morningside and Millvale, respectively. After leaving the city in 1990 for David's military career, they vowed to keep the Steeler spirit in their family and have raised their two girls, Brittney, 13, and Kaylin, 9, to love the black and gold.

"They watch the whole game, they understand what's going on," Charlotte Sutton said. "We have a big ritual before every game, and the girls put all their Steelers gear on from head to toe."

Brittney said she will pass the tradition on to her kids some day. While it won't be necessary that her husband be a Steelers fan, there will be certain requirements.

"If he's a (Cleveland) Browns fan, I don't think my dad will let me marry him," she said.

Matt Murphey, 38, of Dallas, is already working on establishing a third generation of Steeler Nation.

Raised outside of Akron after his father, an attorney, moved the family from the North Hills for his career in 1968, Murphey has started teaching his daughters, Rhiannon, 3, and Payton, 4 months, how to support the team. He said Rhiannon is showing some promise.

"She's starting to learn the players' names, but she has a tough time saying 'Roethlisberger' -- she just kind of pushes it all together," he said. "She loves the games, though."

Murphey acknowledged raising his daughters to worship the Steelers in Cowboy country might pose some problems. But he said he has a plan.

"If they grow up wanting to root for the Cowboys, they'd probably be disowned," he said. "They'd be right out of the will."

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