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Falcon faithful decked out to cheer on team
Home parties, bar scene draw fans out in force for playoff game
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Gainesville residents Teresa Poole, right, and Joy Simpson don their Falcons colors Saturday night at Wild Wings Cafe to cheer on the Atlanta Falcons playoff game against Green Bay.

Dal Burtchaell roots for two football teams.

On Saturday, the T-shirt draped over his chest said Georgia Bulldogs, but the team on his mind was the Atlanta Falcons.

"I've been a Falcons fan forever. This is playoff time. We're going to see what they got," Burtchaell said.
The Gillsville man joined friends Saturday at Wild Wings Cafe, where area sports fans appeared glued to the dozens of TVs appearing like hi-def wallpaper throughout the building.

"There's just something about a crowd, getting together, having some beer," Burtchaell said, raising his bottle. "You make a lot of friends before the game, you have a lot of common, because everybody's doing the same thing."

Crowds arrived well before the 8 p.m. kickoff featuring the Falcons against the Green Bay Packers in a battle to determine who advances to next week's NFC Championship Game.

After a slow Friday, tavern owner Rick Hall credited Saturday's huge turnout with people's desire to flee the house after the snow week and enjoy a good band and Falcons football.

"I think people are just getting out today," Hall said. "I knew we were going to be busy."

Displays of fan loyalty appeared in pockets throughout the restaurant and bar. People clad in Pittsburgh's black and gold and even Green Bay gear vied for attention despite the obvious hometown favorite in Gainesville.

"We love being in the minority," said Justin Wade, tipping his trademark "Cheesehead" cap, a well-known symbol of Green Bay Packers. Were it not for frisky security checks, the Wisconsin man might have packed his more "authentic" hat before flying Thursday to Gainesville for business.

"I wanted the big block of cheese but I didn't want to carry it in the airport," Wade said.

Long hours spent on a contract job at Northeast Georgia Medical Center kept Wade and co-worker Dan Petitte from driving to Atlanta for the game.

What did not slow them down, however, was the "snow event," a laughable matter to the winter pros born and bred in Milwaukee.

"We could not believe they closed school for a week," Dan Petitte said, shaking his head.

What David and Courtney Bromwich couldn't believe was their, eh, good fortune of moving from Dallas to Gainesville the very day their favorite football team hosted its first playoff game at the Georgia Dome. The couple attended three games this season, thanks to a family member's season ticket package.

On Saturday, they settled happily for front-row seats at the bar.

"It is the atmosphere," Courtney Bromwich said, of their choice to venture away from their new residence.

Teresa Wilder and Mia Bailey were headed out the door the minute servers delivered their large chicken wing order to-go.

The friends were planning to get to Wilder's moms house before the game, where Eloise Sheats prepared a tailgate and football viewing party for loved ones.

"My whole family has always been football fans," Wilder said.

Though dressed conservatively in navy blue and white, her No. 88 Tony Gonzalez jersey was ready and waiting in the car.

She wouldn't dare put that on until right before kickoff. It's Wilder's Falcon tradition.

"Regardless of the outcome we'll have fun," she said. "It's always nice to spend time with family and friends."

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