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EARTHQUAKE: THE LONG ROAD BACK : Super Bowl Provides an Escape : Recreation: For many at quake relief shelters, watching the championship game on TV offers a welcome respite from trying situations.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For about three hours Sunday, dozens of victims of the Northridge earthquake put aside their worries about shattered homes, lost jobs and anxious relatives as they kicked back and enjoyed a less frightening form of violence: Super Bowl XXVIII.

“I’ve been waiting in a FEMA line all week,” said a drawn-looking Jeff Mandel, 40, as he sat intently watching the game from his cot at a Red Cross shelter in Granada Hills.

“This is a lot easier,” said Mandel, whose North Hills apartment was condemned after the quake.

At 29 shelters throughout the city, people made homeless by the quake cheered the Buffalo Bills or the Dallas Cowboys, happy to see somebody other than themselves and their families get knocked around for a change.

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Quake victims watched the sports extravaganza on color TVs donated by Circuit City and the A. C. Green Foundation for Youth, set up by the former Lakers basketball star.

The TV delivery came just in time for J. B. Cash, 35, who has lived in the Canoga Park High School gymnasium since his Northridge apartment was wrecked.

“That picture tube is messed up,” he said, pointing to a dilapidated school TV set on the floor.

Even with the distractions of a small army of news photographers taking shots from every conceivable angle, Cash seemed content to recline on a blue army cot and root for the Bills, who lost their fourth consecutive Super Bowl game.

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Seated on the floor before him were brothers Frank and David Mory, ages 13 and 10, who, naturally, cheered for opposite sides. David was in Super Bowl heaven, carefully selecting potato chips from three different bags and occasionally digging into a bag of cheese puffs.

At Mason Park in Chatsworth, Fernando Delao of Chatsworth held his 3-year-old son, Eric, and related how the game was a welcome distraction from the Northridge quake and another temblor he survived, the 1986 Mexico City quake, which killed 4,700 people.

“When I watch the game I forget about the earthquake and how I felt I would lose my life at that moment,” he said.

But for others, the Northridge earthquake and the massive destruction it caused took the exuberance out of the championship football game. Unlike their counterparts watching from their own homes, they enjoyed no booze, no cheering, no high fives.

“The game keeps you busy from thinking about everything that’s happened, but then you look around you and it all comes back,” said Giovanni Pacheco, a 16-year-old North Hills resident.

Pacheco spent last week at a shelter in Granada Hills, but his family has since moved back into their home. But Pacheco returned to the shelter to watch the game with a newfound friend, Inez Becker, with whom he spent much of the game smooching.

“Buffalo is going down,” said Pacheco, between kisses with Becker, who was too absorbed to talk. “Dallas is going to win.”

However, Clarence Nelson and his friend, Keith Louis, enjoyed themselves almost as much as they would have if they hadn’t been knocked out of their Reseda apartments. Almost.

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“The Budweiser truck got a flat on the way over here,” joked Nelson, 42, who saw the game inside a Red Cross tent in Van Nuys.

“Yeah, we need a case of beer,” cracked Louis.

Times staff writer Jeannette Regalado contributed to this story.


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