INDIANAPOLIS.Â The rivalry between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts hasÂ faded this year, with the Colts below .500 and the Patriots without MVP quarterback Tom Brady, but that hasn't dimmed the enthusiasm of long-time Colts fans Jim Hampe and Ed Davis as they make plans for Sunday's match-up.Â "We've got our tickets and we're flying into Boston Saturday," Hampe says with a big grin.
At the Barking Quahog
But, this reporter asks, if the game is at Lucas Oil Stadium, why are youÂ leaving Indianapolis?
Lucas Oil Stadium:Â "Anybody seen Jim and Ed?"
"That would be the easy way out," says Davis, who was a roving "monster man" linebacker in high school.Â "Coach always told me when an O-lineman pushes you one way, you got to go the other."
Hampe and Davis are members of a new breed of "extreme" fans who disdain the home field advantage when they root for their favorite NFLÂ team and travel to the opposing team's town to take their licks in a local sports bar.Â "Look at it this way," says Bob McGough of Swansea, Mass., a regular at the Barking Quahog, a roughÂ establishment on the Boston waterfront where the out-of-towners plan to watch the game.Â "If you're climbing mountains and you want a challenge, do you go to the bunny hills for beginners, or to the Himalayas?"
Outhouse of the Blues:Â Rams fans only, please.
Last week McGough and his friend Sherman Winslow travelled to St. Louis as the Patriots played the Rams at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.Â They settled onto bar stools at The Outhouse of Blues, a run-downÂ barbecue jointÂ in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, wearing Patriots throw-back jerseys, and proceeded to trash the Rams, including running back Steven Jackson.
"Aw, does Stevie have a boo-boo?"Â Winslow began as an announcer reported that Jackson would not play because of a quadriceps injury.
"Yeah--maybe he should play for NFL Europe," McGough adds.Â "I hear it's two-hand-touch-below-the-waist over there."
Patrons leave seats to join in the pounding.
A few curious looks are cast in the direction of the two New Englanders, and then Duane Smoltz, a 6'4" ironworker, comes over to express his displeasure.Â "You guys must be lost," he begins.Â "Hmm--lost--like 'just lost a Super Bowl'."
McGough takes the ribbing in stride.Â "Yeah, you'd know something about that," he says with a chuckle.Â "Having lost to the Patriots IN THE BIGGEST UPSET IN PRO FOOTBALL HISTORY!"
Smoltz lunges at McGough, and a phalanx of fellow Rams fans joins in the fray, pounding the two Patriots' rooters before Mel Johnson, Jr., the proprietor, intercedes.
"You guys need to go to a hotel downtown where you can watch the game and live to tell your children about it," he says.
The two New Englanders pick themselves up, and McGough takes out his wallet to settle up for their two Bud Lights and barbecue rib platters.
"No--just go on and git out of here," Johnson says.Â "We don't want your kind around here."
"Fine--go on and be that way," Winslow says with a huffy tone as he and his pal walk out into the sunlight.Â
The battered duo dust themselves off, and size up their situation.Â "That was great," McGough says.
"Yeah," Winslow agrees.Â "I can hardly wait for the Miami game.Â I'm hungry for some free seafood."
Copyright 2008, Con Chapman