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Published: Monday, 2/6/2006

'Roethlis-burg' likes the result: Findlay crowd goes wild over triumph for hometown star


FINDLAY - For Chad McKinney, there were just two suitable places to watch the Super Bowl.

No. 1 would have been in the bleachers at Ford Field. No. 2 was the hometown of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

With no tickets to the big game, the 18-year-old and his buddies were happy to drive south to Findlay rather than north to Detroit. Making the trip to watch the game here was almost a duty.

"Of course, Ben's hometown is the second best place to be for the game," he said.

That's why he and several friends made the 40-minute drive from Maumee to the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar in Findlay nearly five hours before kickoff - ensuring them the ideal viewing position.

"Oh yeah, we had to come down early. We are right in front of the big screen TV, and there are TVs all around us," Mr. McKinney said.

It was Ben-mania at the popular Findlay spot; the bar staff even created a makeshift shrine of marketing goods in honor of the 23-year-old quarterback that included hats, pens, even a button that said, "Welcome to Roethlis-burg."

Inside the packed bar, Steelers fans easily dominated the crowd, and to many, the game was much more important than any of the previous 39 Super Bowls.

Dylan Valenti, 13, celebrates a play by the Pittsburgh Steelers, led by his favorite player, Findlay's Ben Roethlisberger. Dylan Valenti, 13, celebrates a play by the Pittsburgh Steelers, led by his favorite player, Findlay's Ben Roethlisberger.

This time one of their own hometown boys would either lead Pittsburgh to victory or leave Detroit last night without a championship ring.

"We have been Steelers fans for years, ever since I was a little kid," said Lisa Bustillos, a Fostoria native who has lived in Findlay for just more than a year. "Now it's even better that Ben is the quarterback."

During the first quarter, the crowd erupted in applause and cheers nearly every time Roethlisberger appeared on screen, and there was a thunderous roar when Pittsburgh scored its first touchdown.

It put the Steelers ahead of the Seattle Seahawks late in the second quarter.

Jen Wagner, who wore a "Got Ben?" T-shirt stood on her chair, waved a Steelers "terrible towel," and chanted, "Ben, Ben, Ben!"

Although the vast majority of patrons felt the same way, there were just a few out last night in Findlay who rooted for the other side.

Tony Robinson, a Fostoria High School senior, came to Findlay with four friends to watch the game and cheer for Seattle.

"Yeah, we know this is Ben's hometown," the defiant football fan said just before the coin toss. "But we are not jumping on the Ben bandwagon with everyone else."

The Pittsburgh victory last night was especially sweet for Aaron Burke, who knew Ben when they both attended Findlay High School.

"It has just been so awesome because he's a hometown boy," Mr. Burke, 22, said.

"He's helping to put Findlay on the map and helping all of our high school sports. We are all very proud of him," Mr. Burke said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6088.

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