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Myrtle Beach area fan clubs for Super Bowl

Two local fan clubs have struck gold this Super Bowl weekend, with black or green.

Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers devotees will celebrate the matchup of these two storied football franchises on Sunday evening for Super Bowl XLV. They also share several things the clubs have in common:

Many National Football League titles (12 for Green Bay overall since 1929, including the first two Super Bowls; and six Super Bowl wins for Pittsburgh).

Decades of dynasties (the 1930s and '60s for Green Bay, the '70s for Pittsburgh).

The gold in their teams' colors.

Always feelin' green

Richard Young of Little River presides over the Myrtle Beach Area Packer Fan Club, which he founded in 2007. Club members watch every game on televisions at The Hideaway in North Myrtle Beach.

The Youngs piled on their Packer spirit when living in Wisconsin for 22 years, before his job transfer to suburban Raleigh, N.C. Retiring later to the Grand Strand, they wanted to mingle with fellow fans every fall, so they kicked off the club.

He and his wife of 43 years, Karen, started the club with two other couples, which has since grown to a weekly e-mailing list to more than 120 people (for club details, e-mail keyray@yahoo.com).

Rich Young sees expansion of the club as "building a community within the community," which has come easily, because people know of other friends and neighbors who root for Green Bay. Sometimes, a link to the club emerges without a first word between individuals.

"They actually meet people in stores, because people see someone wearing a Packer jersey," Karen Young said.

The Youngs each count about eight to 10 pieces of Green Bay clothing in their wardrobes.

Karen Young likes a newer acquisition, a jersey with No. 52 for second-year linebacker Clay Matthews, along with a shirt bearing Brett Favre's name and uniform number, 4. She spoke about her full-size cardboard cutout of Favre, the multi-record-setting quarterback, "that I've kind of put away for a while."

Neither Rich nor Karen talked for long about Favre, who, upon an acrimonious retirement from Green Bay in 2008, played a season for the New York Jets, then the last two years for the Minnesota Vikings, a regional foe.

Karen Young summarized the popularity of Favre within the club as "mixed."

"Most Packer fans feel he gave us 16 great years of watching him play, so we're not going to forget those," Rich Young said.

His wife saluted Favre's successor, Aaron Rodgers, for leading the team to six straight victories, including three playoff rounds on the road.

"The Packers have kept us on the edge of our seats," she said.

Long before the club formed, the Youngs and some friends in the Badger State had started an annual getaway to see the Packers play in another team's home stadium, such as twice in San Diego, under snowfall in Seattle and in domes in New Orleans and Atlanta. They've brought home seven wins from the 12 games.

"Every city we go to, there is a Green Bay fan club," Rich Young said.

His wife chimed in about the team's deed under a community ownership shared by more than 112,000 people.

"It's America's team," she said. "It's not owned by an owner; it's owned by the fans."

That prompted Rich Young's observation that the team will never be sold or moved out of Green Bay.

With fans who have moved from across the country, such as New Jersey and Favre's home state, Mississippi, the crowds have turned huge at The Hideaway, and they expect nothing less this Sunday.

"Come on out, and scream, cheer and root for the Packers," Karen Young said.

Catching a Packers home game at Lambeau Field in winter three years ago, they basked in 30-degree sunshine with no wind in a win over the team's arch-rival, the Chicago Bears, whom Green Bay defeated Jan. 23 to represent the National Football Conference in the Super Bowl.

"We were in the 60th row on your 60th birthday," Karen Young told her husband.

"There's a certain feeling in that stadium you don't get anywhere else," he said.

Givin' 'em steel

Last spring, Shirley and Bill Calpas of Myrtle Beach started the Black & Gold Fan Club of Myrtle Beach (251-1468 or BAGFC-MB.com) for the Steelers and to cheer for their two other hometown teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup in 2009, and the Pirates, who took baseball's World Series in 1979.

Shirley Calpas said the club membership count had climbed to 98 as of last weekend. Two weeks ago, as Pittsburgh clipped the New York Jets to claim the American Football Conference Championship, the Steelers crowd at King Street Grille in Myrtle Beach, a frequent club hangout this fall, was standing room only.

"There were a couple of our members who came to watch the game, and they couldn't even get in," she said.

The club has booked Buffalo Wild Wings in Carolina Forest for its Super Bowl party.

Don't fault the Calpases for returning to the theme of lucky 7s for the game.

"We're going for No. 7 in Super Bowls," Shirley Calpas said, meaning the team's tall, hulky quarterback. "Ben Roethlisberger's number is 7."

Regarding Sports Illustrated's Peter King's prediction of a 33-27 Steelers victory over Green Bay come Sunday, Bill Calpas said, "At the time of the season starting, I said, 'I don't know about this.'"

He and his wife felt unsure of the Steelers reaching this point, amid team injuries this season, especially to key players of late.

"We weren't supposed to be this far," Shirley Calpas said, who clenched a black-and-gold-beaded Rosary throughout the Steelers game two weeks ago against New York. "I'm just praying that we pull it off. But if we don't, it was one hell of a season."

"Our members are from all over, such as Longs, North Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet and Georgetown," she said of the Steelers fans who watched games this past fall.

"Everybody has such a great time," Shirley Calpas said. "We had our picnic and a Christmas party."

Heading a club remains "a learning process," finding what works and does not, she said, but a survey two months ago will help guide its plans.

For example, asked about preference for nonsmoking venues, members answered "overwhelmingly yes," Shirley Calpas said, so King Street Grille and Buffalo Wild Wings have scored touchdowns as hubs for the club.

Other ideas under consideration include a road trip for a Steelers game, and amid the Grand Strand's signature sport, a golf outing. Encouraging club members to share with one another their Pennsylvania origins and their current residences, Shirley Calpas hopes networking spreads, sprouting new friendships among people who have a home team and state in common.

"It's most fun watching a game with a bunch of people," she said.

One challenge the Calpases have seen with a consistently good team such as the Steelers: Many of their games air on broadcast and cable television.

"We're working on getting the people out of their living room and off their couch," Shirley Calpas said.

Anyone who shows up Sunday for the party will see Bill Calpas' face painted for the Super Bowl, but don't expect his wife to go golden on her cheeks.

"Well, I don't know," she said. "I don't have the wig to go along with it."

Mutual respect

Officials with the local Packers and Steelers fan clubs each expressed hopes to win, without any iota of overconfidence.

"I respect Pittsburgh's strong defense, which led the NFL during the regular season by only giving up an average of 14.5 points per game," Rich Young said, "although the Packers defense is also great, giving up only 15 points."

He also praised Roethlisberger's strength and presence in his role on two title-winning teams.

"He has the Super Bowl experience and great talent," Young said, noting new turf ahead for Rodgers. "It should be a great game."

Bill Calpas returned the compliments with his reverence for one of the original 10 teams the NFL began with in 1920.

"I have nothing but good things to say about the Green Bay Packers," he said.

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