HOLLYWOOD — A Bengals fan favorite and his wife are running a bar and restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, and hosting a Super Bowl watch party for fans and former players on Sunday at Trocadero on Sunset.
"I feel like I’m about to win the Super Bowl," said former Bengal defensive tackle Domata Peko. "A lot of the old players, the old guys just are so excited for the team and feel like we’re part of it."
The Bengals drafted Peko from Michigan State University in 2006. He played with the team for 11 seasons, making several playoff appearances.
Peko planned a Super Bowl watch party at Trocadero, with food, autograph signings, and appearance by some of those former players. There will be a tailgate outside the building, Peko said.
"We’ve had RSVPs and sold out within hours," he said. "[They're] all 513 and 859 numbers."
Peko's wife Anna runs the day-to-day operations and greets customers coming in off the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, many of them were Bengals fans.
"We learned about it and I said we have to go," said Ryan Malone, in town from northern Kentucky. "He’s been such a fan favorite for years, it’s only right to go and support him."
Betsy LaSorella, of Ft. Mitchell, knows the Pekos and decided to come to Los Angeles for the game, regardless of where she watches it.
"We came out here on a whim," she said. "We figured if we can get Super Bowl tickets, we’ll go there; but if not, we’ll be hanging out here at the bar with the Pekos and you can’t lose."
Roger Neal grew up in Norwood but has lived in Los Angeles for 40 years. He found the Trocadero and its Bengals legend owner almost by happy accident as excitement grows for the game.
"It’s happening in the town where I live, so it’s my two hometown teams coming together to play but I want Cincinnati to win this Super Bowl," he said.
Excited families of fans kept arriving at Trocadero on Thursday night, which Peko had decked out in Bengals jerseys and Bengals Super Bowl gear sent from downtown Cincinnati's Koch's Sporting Goods.
"I said we need to make everyone feel at home for The Who Day Nation," said Peko.
A community - and fan base - he said he missed.
"One of the things I really miss is all of our friends that we made, a lot of the fans as well. A lot of my neighbors, we were really close," Peko said. "Just the friendships that I built out there. And just running out of the tunnel into the jungle, man, and playing in front of those 60,000 fans."