Bob Lutz

Super relationship: Steelers-Packers household embraces Sunday's game

This is a big weekend in the short marriage of Wichitans Tim Geier and Lyndsay Smanz.

He's from Glenshaw, Pa., which is as Pittsburgh as you can get without actually being Pittsburgh.

She's from Juneau, Wis., smack dab between Madison and Green Bay in the heart of Packers territory.

You see where this is going.

He's a life-long Pittsburgh Steelers fan with a backbone made of steel and dreams that revolve around Terry Bradshaw.

She's all Packers, in the midst of a love-hate relationship with Brett Favre and eager to see quarterback Aaron Rodgers start down his own road to immortality.

Meanwhile, it's Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

And Geier vs. Smanz in the battle for household bragging rights.

They're making the trip to Dallas to meet up with — get this — Geier's brother, Mike, and his wife, Kristin. Mike, too, is a rabid Steelers fan while Kristin is from, yes, Wisconsin.

So while the Steelers and Packers are going after one another on the playing field, the Geier boys will be in the middle of a smackdown with their wives in some Dallas sports bar, since tickets to the game were out of their price range.

"Hopefully we go somewhere that's not either a Steelers or a Packers bar,'' said Smanz, a librarian at Wichita State who is expecting the couple's first child in early April. "We're going to look for a good neutral site.''

Nerves are starting to fray as the game approaches. Married just 2 1/2 years, this Super Bowl will provide a test.

And don't think Geier isn't aware of that.

"Lyndsay was in Wisconsin last weekend for a baby shower and when she came home, I had the house decorated in a bunch of Steelers stuff,'' Geier said. "The next day, when I got home from work, it was all down and replaced with Packers stuff.''

Now the couple has found a happy medium. There's enough Steelers and Packers stuff to let you know it's a house divided. At least for this game.

Funny thing is, when Green Bay is playing anyone else, Geier is for the Packers. Same for Smanz and the Steelers; she respects what Pittsburgh has been able to do over the years.

"It's not like playing the Cowboys, Bears, Vikings or other teams I hate,'' Smanz said.

Before they even left for Dallas, Geier and Smanz were dreading the drive home after the game. One of the teams is going to lose, which means one of them is going to feel miserable. And the one who isn't miserable, and who wants to be joyful, won't really be able to because, well, the other will be miserable.

"I just hope it's a close game and not a blowout because that would be depressing as heck,'' Smanz said. "A Packers blowout would make the drive home very hard.''

The couple's cat, Deena, wears a bandana on NFL game days that has a Steelers insignia in one area and a Packers' emblem in another.

"Whenever the teams are playing at the same time, we have a hard time figuring out who the cat is going to root for,'' Geier said.

Geier and Smanz met while they were working for Habitat for Humanity in North Carolina. Geier was transferred to Wichita and later started working for Learjet.

He says it's easy to find Steelers fans here, just not Steelers fans who grew up in Pittsburgh like he did. And those are, Geier said, the best kind of Steelers fans.

"The fans of the Steelers in Wichita, most of the time, have a different viewpoint,'' Geier said. "It's not as genetic with them. When I do find one here, there's just a different connection.''

Pittsburgh and Green Bay might have the most diverse and spread-out fan bases of any NFL franchise. It's difficult to find much not to like about either team.

"Yeah, the terrible thing is that the Packers are a very respectable franchise,'' Geier said. "They're very similar to the Steelers in the way they're modeled. If it was the Packers against anybody else Sunday, I'd be cheering for the Packers. If you haven't been to Green Bay and Lambeau Field, you have to go. It's the Mecca of the NFL, at least in my mind.''

Such kind words. Such good sports.

In Dallas, Geier and Smanz plan on taking in all the Super Bowl sights. They wish they could be at the game, but just being where the game is being played will be enough excitement, especially given the stakes.

Geier, 31, was born after Pittsburgh's dynasty of the 1970s, when the Steelers won four Super Bowls during a six-year stretch. But he has gotten to soak up the jubilation of Pittsburgh titles in Super Bowls XL and XLIII. Another win would be three in six years for the Steelers.

Smanz has had to wait since 1997, when Green Bay won Super Bowl XXXI, for a championship. She was 13 and not yet even really into the Packers.

So it seems fair that Green Bay would win Sunday, if only for family unity.

Oh, then there's the matter of the baby, gender unidentified, who will arrive in two months.

"Which team will our child cheer for?'' Geier asked. "I'll try my damndest to make it a Steelers fan. But I'm pretty sure Lyndsay will go the other way.''

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