Steelers fans are everywhere.
Ordering coffee in front of me. Cutting me off in traffic with their team flags fluttering in the wind. Buying Super Bowl merchandise at the mall.
No, really. I checked.
• • •
I called the Cardinals to get the number to the Tampa chapter of their fan club.
Doesn't exist, the woman on the phone told me.
Okay, how about the national one?
Doesn't exist either.
"We don't have anything official; have you tried the Internet?"
Off to the Cardinals' Official Web Site, where I created a handle — DeckofCards — and asked where I could find Tampa-based fans of the Cardinals.
• • •
Hit the malls, where any self-respecting Cardinals fan would be strutting around in full gear.
I was the first one in Sports Fan Attic one morning.
Dr. Peter Szackacs was second.
I thought I had my man when we both headed for the Super Bowl section. But just over $100 worth of Steeler glasses, shot glasses, tattoos, T-shirts and one flag later, I knew I was wrong.
"Good luck," Szackacs said.
The Wesley Chapel chiropractor said he only knew one Cardinals fan. One of his patients.
"I could call and see if they'll talk to you," he offered.
But I wasn't ready to throw in the Terrible Towel just yet.
He shared some local Steeler hotspots with me, and together we figured out where the Cardinals probably gather to watch their team.
Little place called "Phoenix."
• • •
I went back in the store and found out it had sold its only Edgerrin James jersey last week. It was the same one that went unsold last year.
And the year before that.
Outside of two generic Super Bowl T-shirts, it was Cardinals-free.
I walked by a table filled with discounted Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl XXXVII hats on my way out.
• • •
At another store, I found a J.J. Arrington No. 28 jersey.
That is a real player, right?
"I don't know where that came from," the guy working the floor told me.
But I think we know where it's going.
• • •
Matt Leinart's official No. 7 NFL jersey — the Sports Fan Attic at WestShore Plaza is throwing in the cobwebs for free — hung amid a sea of seven different Steeler black and gold jerseys: Roethlisberger, Parker, Ward, Woodley, Harrison, Holmes and Polamalu.
Matt Leinart? What, were they out of Charlie Batch jerseys?
I saw jerseys for NFL greats like David Garrard, Frank Gore, Chris Cooley, Braylon Edwards, Devin Hester and Wes Welker.
I did not see Kurt Warner or Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin.
"Maybe next week," I was told.
I tried on two different Detroit Lions hats on the way out, just for fun.
• • •
I'm not dissing Cardinals fans. I know you're out there. In Chicago. In St. Louis. In Tuscon.
And let's face it, Pittsburgh fans are already here, sharing space with their frostbite-fearing friends from Cleveland and Green Bay and Chicago and New York.
The Steeler faithful beat their football team down here, two months and a dozen snowfalls ago.
Snowbirds, we have lots of.
Still, I was determined enough to spend an hour at the Super Bowl Merchandise store on West Shore Boulevard.
Patty, who was working the counter, offered to help find a Cardinals fan. Each time someone walked in, she shouted "Go Cardinals!"
Patty went 0-for-7.
She swore she had seen Cardinal fans this week. Promised one would eventually show up.
She was waiting on hangers to put up her final box of Super Bowl T-shirts.
I was waiting on Cardinal fans.
Eventually, the hangers showed up and Patty went back to work.
John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected]