Expat Pats fans venture into enemy territory for NFL opener
CHICAGO (AP) Patriots fans around the country are looking for sports bars where they won't get booed out of the joint when glamour-boy quarterback Tom Brady gets rolling.
What NFL fan outside of New England hasn't faced a similar dilemma?
Diana Shuman said there were three Patriots fans at Durkin's bar in Chicago, but not for long.
''I wanted to knock them out, but they left,'' Shuman said. ''And I'd better censor the rest. The whole Brady goes to court thing was a fake. They got a 100 percent favorable ruling.''
The ''City of Big Shoulders'' has 1,000 taverns sprinkled among nearly three million residents, so you'd think just one safe haven for expat New Englanders to watch the Patriots open the season Thursday night at home against the Steelers would be easy to find. Think again.
NFL rivals everywhere have learned to hate the defending Super Bowl champs, their decade-plus dominance and sometimes-smug fans for a variety of reasons - Brady's ''Deflategate'' victory over commissioner Roger Goodell in federal court last week being only the latest example.
''The Pats are cheaters and obviously have been for years - i.e. the 2005 Super Bowl-tainted win against the Eagles,'' Philadelphia fan Dan Mannato said at the Hollywood Cafe Sports Bar in Woodbury Heights, New Jersey.
At Mel's Burger Bar in New York, John Davis said he's just glad football is back.
''I don't like the Patriots,'' he said, before conceding, ''I drafted Brady so I can't hate him too much and I'm happy they got rid of his suspension.''
Fantasy football - the quickest surefire way to change fan minds and allegiances. Davis said he drafted Brady before the suspension was lifted, when he was going for a four-game discount. And fans who had tight end Rob Gronkowski in leagues got three touchdowns to cheer about.
Mark Simoneau, a Boston native who moved to Chicago 12 years ago, said anti-Pats fans are just jealous and envious.
''Everybody wants a winning team,'' he said. ''We were jealous of the Yankees for a long time, and like everybody else we were looking to poke a hole in that success. That's what the Patriots are now. Envy is what people do.''
The dislike goes well beyond Brady. There's coach Bill Belichick, dressed down on the sideline but so buttoned-up behind the lectern that he treats every question like it was a matter of national security. And there's owner Bob Kraft, a patrician billionaire who needs more money and success less than most people this side of Bill Gates.
''(Brady) or the team, can cheat, win, get caught, and still get away with it. Why have the rules?'' said Ralph D'Alessandro, an Eagles fan in New Jersey. ''The Pats are now connected to two of the high-profile cheating scandals. Does anyone think this is it?''
At a bar in the shadow of the Space Needle, sore feelings from the Seahawks Super Bowl loss to the Patriots were still palpable.
''I think they got into the Super Bowl using dirty tactics, I think they got their W in the Super Bowl using dirty tactics, and we might see them again in this next Super Bowl using dirty tactics,'' said Seahawks fan Alec Taylor. ''Their balls were deflated. Their egos were inflated. I think their ranking in the NFL was also inflated.''
Fans can (and do) go on. The shade came well before Kraft and former New England players showed off four Super Bowl trophies in the pre-game ceremony at Gillette Stadium.
Back in Chicago, Brendan's Pub owner Stephen Hill said he opened his bar in 2006 so he would have somewhere to watch the Patriots game. He renovated the basement of the tiny bar last year to make something resembling a speakeasy, with a few seats and luxury banquettes.
The bar is Bears-friendly, so no wrath expected for the Patriots' famously bad loss to Chicago in 1986.
''We don't have to worry about that unless we play them in the Super Bowl again,'' Hill said.
AP sports writers Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia and Doug Feinberg in New York contributed to this report.
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