Nation/World

Panhandle Packers Cheese Was The Word At Post Falls Bar On Super Bowl Sunday

(From For the Record, January 28, 1997): The pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church is the Rev. Dan Brandel. A story appearing in Monday’s newspaper gave an incorrect first name.

Contrary to popular belief, there are few patriots in North Idaho.

Not of the football fan variety, anyway. At Steve’s Sports Dugout, the Super Bowl throng was Green Bay all the way.

One woman wore homemade cheese-wedge earrings. Another wore a shirt sporting the egg-shaped “G” - made with rhinestones. Melinda Kaiser spent two weeks on the project. There was even a Green Bay baby, wearing an emerald jersey with a gold bow.

“You had to make reservations two or three weeks ago to get in here,” said Pat McDonald, a spring-mounted wedge bobbing atop his head.

Even the big-screen TV - a blinking setup that looked like it was out of “Apollo 13” - was decorated with a giant glowing “G” made from Christmas lights.

The Dugout isn’t just a bar, it’s headquarters of the North Idaho Packer Backers. And true to the ‘90s, one fan goes so far as to call it a “support group.”

Smell like a load of Limburger? These fans mean it. When Green Bay played Seattle, their small army went West to cheer against the Seahawks.

“It was a sea of cheese!” Kaiser said.

Sunday, as the Dugout filled with folks with faces painted gold and green, the Patriot taunts flowed like Velveeta. There was no discussion of who would win - just by how much.

It wasn’t always so. Bar owner Steve Parker played for New Orleans in the early ‘80s. He was no Packer backer then. “Oh, no!” he said, shaking his head. Now, his place is an official Green Bay bar, registered and everything.

At Capone’s in Coeur d’Alene, things were a little more democratic. Though a minority, a Patriot fan could get by.

John Reagan - sipping a beer, minding his own business - meekly admitted being a New England fan when confronted by a painted, crazed, camera-carrying man. Tell us your prediction, the green guy demanded, zooming the video camera in close.

Reagan predicted Green Bay would win. But he really, really wanted New England to grab the championship.

“I was earlier engaged to the Pope,” joked the man with the camera, Bob Simmons. “I didn’t think that was gonna last, either.”

There were a few other Patriots there, especially Drew Bledsoe supporters.

“If the Patriots get a break, it’s their game,” Dino Conces told a friend. “If not, they’re history.”

“Patriots by 10,” came Mike Nikula’s sure reply. “You heard it right here.” Then he accused his pal of being a perpetual fence-rider.

“He’s non-partisan. He never votes, either.”

But when Green Bay scored its first touchdown, the cheeseheads erupted like an over-baked calzone. “Whoo-hoo!” came the cry. “It’s over before it’s begun!”

Simmons wore the biggest cheesehead. He was draped in glowing Christmas lights. When he wasn’t busy recording the event for posterity, he sat outside in the cold, watching the game on a tiny black-and-white TV. He planned to yell and award Cheez-Its to passers-by.

“We feel God will hear our prayers clearer outside,” he said. “I don’t think God will be hanging out in a bar.”

The folks at Emmanuel Baptist Church couldn’t agree more. They decided the way to fight the good fight was to pick up a remote and cancel the evening service.

They fought the Super Bowl Sunday no-shows for years. This time, the pastor hauled in four TVs, a couch and extra chairs. During halftime, the flock of 30 football fans watched a video of religious testimonials from athletes.

The Rev. Chuck Brandel sank into the cushions and watched it all, except the ads.

“We have a designated ‘Mutinator’ so we can mute all the beer commercials,” he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo



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