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Steelers

Hurricane risk didn't stop Steelers fans

| Monday, Sept. 27, 2004

MIAMI -- As he swilled a beer Sunday in the Pro Player Stadium parking lot, Steelers fanatic Matt Cox was asked why he traveled from Greenville, S.C., to South Florida to watch a football game, knowing he could face a Category 3 hurricane.

"We're all pretty sick, I think," Cox said, referring to Steelers fans as he understands them. "I enjoy it."

In this case, "sick" could be taken to mean anything from "extremely loyal" to "hopelessly obsessed."

Cox was one of many Steelers fans who traveled here this past weekend -- from parts far and wide -- in order to watch their team take on the Miami Dolphins.

As with any Steelers road game, the parking lot was littered with black-and-gold-jersey-wearing tailgaters.

The fact that the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale areas ultimately escaped the brunt of Hurricane Jeanne hardly made those fans' treks any less noble.

Or sick, depending on how one views it.

Mike Ziencik, a Springdale Borough firefighter, came to Ft. Lauderdale on Friday and was supposed to fly home at 7 p.m. last night.

When the game was switched from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., however, he and his brother-in-law, Lee Harmon, changed their flight to early this morning.

"We'll go straight from the parking lot to the airport," said Ziencik, 41. "I wasn't going to miss this."

Any thought of staying home after he found out a hurricane would sweep through South Florida this past weekend?

"None," Ziencik said.

Besides, Ziencik figured his rescue skills might come in handy.

He was asked why Steelers fans are loyal to the point of following their team into a hurricane.

"It's in the blood," he said, referring to football, not alcohol. "You're born and reared on football in Western Pennsylvania."

Cox, meanwhile, was evacuated from his hotel Saturday morning as Hurricane Jeanne approached. He and his brother drove two hours to Naples, where they met some people at a sports bar and wound up sleeping at their apartment.

"It was actually more like a construction garage," Cox said.

Back at the Steelers team hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Loris Connolly of Belle Vernon was holed up with her 16-year-old son, Ian, and his friend, Jeff Fortuna.

The power went out Saturday night when fierce rain and high winds racked the area.

"We had this trip planned for the past six months," Connolly said. "We picked a sunny, warm place and ended up in the midst of a hurricane."

Not that anything was going to stop them, or 34-year-old John Watrobski of Hampton.

Watrobski switched his flight to Miami from Saturday to Friday in hopes of beating the hurricane. He did.

He's a typical Steelers fan.

"We're hearty as hell," he said.

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