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Djfan
01-31-2009, 09:37 PM
Man! We made the local rag before it went out of business!


In search of Zonies
By JOHN HUNNEMAN - Staff Writer | Wednesday, January 28, 2009 12:12 AM PST ?

It's a time-honored tradition that may have run its course.

Each year for the past decade during Super Bowl week I've sought out fans or former players of the teams playing in the game who have made their way to Southwest County.

Most years it's easy.

Cheeseheads are a dime a dozen here and there are plenty of Rams and Raiders fans left over from their team's days in Los Angeles.

I know quite a few transplanted New England Patriots fanatics and Philly fans are easy enough to spot.

Heck, I even found some Carolina backers a few years back and when Tampa Bay was in the game I found a guy in Murrieta who had a shrine to the Bucs in his garage.

Finding Steeler fans is never a problem. In Southwest County you can swing a "terrible towel" over your head three times and pick off six of them.

Ah, but Arizona.

People from cold-weather cities ---- Boston, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Pittsburgh ---- tend to migrate to warmer climates like Southern California.

The only incentive to move to SoCal from Phoenix and Tucson is because it's cooler here. Witness the "zonie" invasion that takes place each summer in San Diego.

But most "zonies" go home when school starts.

And heck, these days you can watch the equity in your home vanish as fast in Murrieta or Temecula as you can in Glendale and Chandler, so why move here?

So Cardinal fans are tough to find in these parts.

Heck, most years they've been hard to find anywhere.

Now, I don't want to bag on Cardinals fans. They are truly excited about their team this year and SoCal fans, the true inventors of the bandwagon, know how that feels.

The Cardinals appear to have a cadre of loyal supporters who have stuck with the team through thin and thinner, but finding longtime fans of the team in Southwest County has proved a challenge.

The Steelers on the other hand ...

On Super Bowl Sunday the SoCal Steel City Mafia will descend on Pepe's Mexican Restaurant and Cantina in Canyon Lake as they do "every Sunday, Monday, Thursday, or whenever the Steelers play," restaurant manager Glenda Furbay told me.

Pepe's is one of three restaurant/bars in Southwest County ---- Oggi's in Temecula and Chappies in Hemet are the others ---- to be officially sanctioned a "Steelers" bar by the Steel City Mafia, a nationwide fan group found online at http://www.steelcitymafia.com.

"We had about 250 Steelers fans here for the last play-off game," Furbay said. "And you can bet they'll be out in force this Sunday."

Pepe's is bringing in extra televisions to accommodate Steeler fans and, as usual, will have Iron City Beer available.

All Pittsburgh supporters are welcome, Furbay said. You don't have to be a member of the fan club.

"The Steeler fans are just awesome," she said. "We do the best we can to accommodate them."

Contact columnist John Hunneman at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2603, or hunneman@californian.com.