More than 50 years ago the maroon and gold colors of a pro football uniform caught the eye of a little boy and he became a San Francisco 49er fan.
Since then, the 49ers have become an obsession not only for Fred Marianacci, co-owner of Marianacci's Restaurant in West Wyoming, but also his family.
Sitting at the restaurant's bar this week, Fred and his daughter Gina, 28, talked about their 49er enthusiasm, which includes collecting and displaying a signed, framed jersey of former receiver Jerry Rice that serves as a backdrop on walls full of sports-themed memorabilia.
Just how passionate are the Marianaccis about the 49ers? When the 49ers defeated Atlanta in the NFC championship game two weeks ago, Gina's brother Fred, who lives out of the area, called her. He got a little emotional, said Gina, a bartender and waitress – part of a third generation of Marianaccis to work at the restaurant. And he's 31 years old.
Her brother is a former Wyoming Area quarterback and scholarship football player at Lehigh University.
Wyoming Area athletics is as much a tradition with the Marianaccis as rooting for the 49ers. The elder Fred is a Wyoming Area football coach, and he and his brother, and restaurant partner, Nick, were both Wyoming Area quarterbacks in the early 1970s. Nick's son Joe was a Wyoming Area football player, and Gina was a Lady Warrior track athlete.
Fred's early 49er favorites were quarterback John Brodie, the 1970 NFL Most Valuable Player, R.C. Owens, who Fred said, invented the end zone fade route and Ted Kwalick, an All-American tight end from Penn State.
Gina is partial to J. J. Stokes, a receiver who was overshadowed by Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens in the 1990s.
Being an East Coast 49ers fan can be a little frustrating. Gina only got to see one 49er game in person when her father took her to see the team play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a family trip to Florida in 1993 when she was 9. And the Niners aren't on network TV enough for Marianacci-level fans.
Gina's father fixed that by getting a Direct TV NFL package at the family home in West Pittston. Now when the 49ers are not on network TV, Gina can go to her father's house for the game.
Gina predicts the 49ers will win Sunday's Super Bowl because she thinks they can't lose the league's biggest game. They are 5-0. Every time they go, they win.
Marianacci's is closed on Sundays, which is just as well. Gina said. I need to be focused.