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Fans have hooked claws and antlers into Rangers

Mike Katovich and his friends have been going to Rangers games since 1983, and they remember how it often felt as if they were in the opposing team's ballpark.

It wasn't unusual to see more fans in Yankees or Red Sox caps than in Rangers garb.

But a transformation has taken place at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and now even the most cynical Rangers fans have been swept up in a red storm of postseason euphoria.

Katovich, who teaches sociology at Texas Christian University, said the change was never more apparent than when he watched the Rangers defeat the Yankees to win their first American League pennant.

He e-mailed his friends. They had noticed, too. "We were struck by the Rangers colors — seeing a sea of blue and red in the stadium was overwhelming," Katovich said. "You didn't hear any Yankees fans, or cheering for Mariano Rivera.

"Out of nowhere, we have this success story and people wanting to be part of it in some way, shape or form."

Who would have guessed that the Rangers, a franchise that had won exactly one playoff game in 38 years, would be the ones to galvanize the region this fall?

With the Super Bowl coming to North Texas on Feb. 6 for the first time, attention was focused, as usual, on the Dallas Cowboys, who many pundits believed would become the first team to make a Super Bowl appearance in their own stadium.

And, of course, Texas is football country, the home of Friday Night Lights, Saturday's Heroes and America's Team.

Now, Cowboys predictions have been discarded like losing lottery tickets, and sports fans have hooked their claws and antlers into the Rangers.

The Super Bowl, for the moment, has faded into the background, except as a way to taunt Cowboys fans who had such high hopes.

As an observer of human behavior, Katovich isn't surprised that the Rangers bandwagon is overflowing. He sees evidence of it in his classroom, where more students are wearing Rangers merchandise than fraternity or sorority T-shirts, Cowboys shirts or even TCU shirts.

"Sports has become a secular kind of religion," he said. "People go to the stadium to worship. Identifying with a sports team is part of our national heritage."

But will the Rangers' success come at the expense of the Super Bowl? Is this an either/or proposition for fans, advertisers and marketers?

Bill Lively, president of the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee, doesn't think so.

"I think it will make the Super Bowl even more exciting when it comes," he said. "It's a remarkable achievement for the Rangers and extraordinary for the region. I think it gives all of us enormous pride.”

Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck is reveling in the riches.

"I think the World Series and Super Bowl are complementary," he said. "I don't think the Series detracts one iota from the Super Bowl."

Dennis Coates, a sports economist who generally debunks marketing studies that promise a revenue bonanza for big sporting events, said there is no evidence that one event will detract from the other.

"I think the World Series will have a positive impact on sales tax revenue, but my guess is, not much of an impact on the Super Bowl," he said. "They are both first-of-a-kind events for the area. And the Super Bowl is a bigger draw for people from outside the region."

National media, some out-of-town visitors and the San Francisco Giants delegation are filling hotel rooms in North Texas this weekend. It comes at an opportune time, Cluck said, because this is usually "the doldrums" for area hotels except when the Cowboys play.

Trey Yelverton, deputy city manager in Arlington, said no projections have been made on the economic impact of the Rangers’ postseason run. But whatever the bottom line, it will amount to found money.

Although many of the benefits may not be realized until 2011 season tickets are made available, the Rangers are enjoying a windfall as well. And, unlike with the Super Bowl, local fans have the chance to be more involved when a World Series comes to town.

A World Series ticket is easier to come by than a Super Bowl ticket. Rangers season ticket holders had the opportunity to buy playoff and World Series packages; the only way to get a Super Bowl ticket for face value was through a lottery.

And while ticket prices are steep for Series games — Stub Hub lists them starting at $474 for standing room at Rangers Ballpark — the least expensive Super Bowl ticket is now $1,970 for an upper end zone seat.

The Rangers are also profiting from merchandise sales. Adrian Tan, who teaches sociology at Southern Methodist University, said buying Rangers merchandise is spending for a purpose, for a common mission."It provides a sense of identity and community," he said. "It's like a drug."

The World Series is also allowing North Texas planners to implement transportation and security strategies that will be used for the Super Bowl.

"I think that we have become so well-prepared for the Super Bowl that we can handle the World Series more effectively," Cluck said. "The Super Bowl is about three years in the making, and there has been planning for all eventualities.

"There will be a bigger public safety presence at the World Series than during the [regular] season, and we'll have support from other cities like Fort Worth, Dallas and Mansfield.

"The only thing we won't plan for is that there will be no ice storm for the World Series

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