Central Connecticut boasts the Super Bowl border
NEW BRITAIN, CONN. (AP)
Vinny Smith knows all about divided football loyalties in central
Smith, 28, of Berlin, Conn., is a New York Giants fan. His wife, Maria,
29, roots for the New England Patriots.
spend a lot of time sleeping on the couch,'' he said Thursday as the
couple sat eating chicken wings at Roma's Sports Bar in New Britain,
which sits about two hours southwest of Gillette Stadium, and about two
hours northeast of the Meadowlands.
On the wall of the bar,
owner Khalid Tawfik has hung the flags of both teams. He plans to
divide the place in half on Feb. 5, keeping Patriots fans on one side
of the room and Giants fans on the other.
''We will have a police officer here,'' he said, ''in case somebody has
a little too much to drink and gets out of hand.''
he doesn't expect that. He figures there will be a lot of good-natured
ribbing, of course, just as there was in 2008, when the Giants upset
the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. But it shouldn't escalate past that.
is what we live for,'' said Cedric Monroe, 36, of New Britain, who
watches football at the bar most Sundays. ''We have the Giants and they
have the Patriots and this is what we all want. This is exactly what we
New Britain is a blue-collar city of just over 70,000
people, and home to toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.
Tim O'Brien says residents take their football seriously.
Britain has a lot of Giants fans and a lot of Patriots fans,'' said
O'Brien, who will be rooting for New York, his team since childhood.
''We are right in the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between the two.''
city has links to both organizations. The Giants, in fact, played one
of their earliest games here in October, 1925, winning 26-0 against a
local professional team. New York also spent 1973 and 1974 at the Yale
Bowl, a half hour down Interstate 91 in New Haven, while Yankee Stadium
was being renovated and Giants Stadium was being built.
Patriots never played in New Britain, but one of the city's favorite
sons played for New England. Tebucky Jones, a defensive back on the
team's first Super Bowl-championship team in 2002, now serves as head
coach at his alma mater, New Britain High.
He grew up a Raiders
fan, because former Oakland player Willie Hall lived in his
neighborhood. But Jones, who played for three teams during his NFL
career, wears his Patriots garb proudly around town these days.
don't understand people rooting for New York,'' he said. ''We live in
New England, right? We don't have a pro sports team in Connecticut. The
biggest sports team with have is UConn. But we live in New England.''
said he's never hated the Patriots. Before the 2008 Super Bowl, there
was never a natural rivalry similar to the Yankees and the Red Sox.
is the game that I wanted ... I like the pay back factor."
a Giants fan, I'm glad there are two weeks off. I think my
team has some very sore players."
said he and a lot of other lifelong Giants fans considered rooting for
Patriots in 1998, when owner Bob Kraft agreed to move his team to
Hartford. But when Kraft backed out of the deal, it made it all the
easier to see that team as the enemy.
''I think there is still a
lot of like for the Patriots as a team,'' said Mayor O'Brien.
''However, if the dear owner of the Patriots team showed up in New
Britain, I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up with a few traffic
The Smiths have simply agreed to disagree
when it comes to football. Although, Maria Smith is giving her husband
some incentive not to root quite as hard for New York next week.
''He can come back in the bedroom,'' she said, ''the day the Patriots
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