Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Black, Gold All Year at Maryland Bar

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Black, Gold All Year at Maryland Bar

Article excerpt

BETHESDA, Md. -- Just a few of us left now. It's cold outside and getting dark. The beer's flat, the nachos are half eaten, and the Steelers have lost. Another depressingly familiar Sunday at Union Jack's British Pub in Bethesda, Md. This was the infamous Miami game of Dec. 8.

Fast forward two weeks -- an improbable win in the snow in Wisconsin. Playoff hope pretty thin, but there is hope nonetheless.

Union Jack's is a popular British-themed bar and restaurant in the heart of downtown Bethesda. On football Sundays it sheds its identity and shifts into full Pittsburgh mode -- a Steelers flag flies outside the entrance, most of the screens are tuned to the Steelers game, as is the audio feed.

The bar shows most other games; of course one screen has the Ravens. But it's usually quiet in that corner -- Being Baltimore fans they're typically slumped in the chair with their mouths open by the second quarter. This bar is pre Black and Gold, although this year, with the team sitting at 7 and 8, the mood has changed -- despite the late season wins.

"The world has flipped," says Bill Davis. "Here we are during the Steelers season and I'm thinking about the Pirates and whether we'll sign A.J. [Burnett]. That's just not the way it should be. I should be thinking about the Steelers playoff position this time of year."

Mr. Davis, a Pittsburgh Allderdice grad who grew up in Squirrel Hill, is an attorney (this is D.C., after all) with Mintz Levin. A faithful devotee of Steelers bars, he has missed just a handful of games in the 25 years he has lived in D.C.

"This year's just different.You knew the season was over weeks ago," he says. "If I miss a game now, it's just no big deal."

Still, there's nothing quite like watching a Steelers game at an out-of-town bar. There are more than 700 Steelers bars across the country. The decline of Big Steel in the 1970s and '80s forced many Pittsburghers out of town to look for work. D.C. was a ripe target and unlike steel, D.C.'s industry, the government, never goes into recession.

Smart tavern owners here recognized that the typical Steelers patron wasn't going to pick on a slice of brie or nurse a Chablis all afternoon. They drink, eat and drink some more.

"Steelers fans are the best, most loyal fans in the world," says Matthew Snee, regional director of Union Jack's and himself a Redskins loyalist. "They always come back -- they love their team, they order a lot of food, [drink a lot of] beer. They make an event of it. As an operator in this business, you love people like this. And the fans are a lot of fun. No team turns them out like the Steelers."

Pittsburgh expats have an immediate kinship with the crowd upon walking in the door. Through the years they have felt a surge of hometown pride with every James Harrison hit or Hines Ward score. …

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