U.S. Troops in Baghdad Watch Super Bowl

By KIM GAMEL
The Associated Press
Monday, February 5, 2007; 6:24 AM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. troops in Iraq tuned out of the war and tuned in to the Super Bowl _ staying up late to watch the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears and for just a few moments remind themselves of home.

Football fans of all ranks said they didn't mind staying up all night to watch the game as it was broadcast live _ at 2:30 a.m. Monday in Iraq.

"It reminds me of all the people back home who are watching it," said 1st Lt. Lea Ann Fracasso, 26, of Cincinnati. "Even though they're not here, it's like we're watching it together."

Fracasso, who is with Task Force 134 and was rooting for Chicago, joined about 80 other troops for a Super Bowl party in a mess hall at Camp Victory, complete with chicken wings and hot dogs and a large cake covered with white icing and decorated with a football field and helmets for both sides.

She also said she knew the game would dominate her next telephone conversation with her husband, who is in Chicago.

It was not likely to be a happy conversation as the Colts defeated the Bears 29-17 during a rain-soaked game in Miami.

The U.S. military went all out to make sure the troops could watch the game in style, putting up a big screen surrounded by three smaller TVs while paper footballs and cheerleaders hung from the ceiling and the walls.

Army Pfc. Scelester Purvis, 19, of Virginia Beach, Va., with the 16th military police brigade, said he expected nothing less.

"The Super Bowl is an unofficial holiday," said Purvis, who has been in Iraq since Sept. 1 and was already counting the days until he can go home. "We're putting our lives on the line. It's the least they can do."

Others said the 3 1/2-hour game offered a welcome respite from the monotony of life on the sprawling U.S. base on the edge of Baghdad.

"They know that everybody's a sports fan. It helps boost the morale," said Air Force technical Sgt. John Garcia, a 33-year-old from Miami who is with the 260th MI Battalion.

Garcia, who had just flown in from Tikrit, former leader Saddam Hussein's hometown north of Baghdad, was four months into his first tour in Iraq.

"It just brings people out," he said.

One thing was missing _ some of the commercials.

Instead of promos for Doritos and Coca-Cola, the troops watched ads produced by the American Forces Radio and Television Service promoting the military and discouraging smoking, along with previews for American TV shows such as "Ugly Betty" and "24." Several players also made special taped appearances to thank the troops.

Many of the troops were wearing civilian clothing, some in shorts, while others were in uniform, donning fluorescent yellow night strips. Half the room emptied out at halftime as troops had to start their shifts, but they were quickly replaced.

Col. Kent Abernathy, chief of staff for the Iraqi Assistance Group that oversees transition teams preparing Iraqi forces to take over their own security, cheered the Colts' victory, calling each of his three sons after the game to celebrate.

"They got it done and they did it with class," he said, wearing a blue Colts cap and T-shirt over camouflage pants while watching the post-game show in a conference room decorated with strategic maps at the IAG headquarters.


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