Patriot Fans Abound In Local Club Owner Fraternity

By Pete Zamplas- Owners of three major Hendersonville taverns and breweries have Boston-area connections, and are eager for New England Patriots to win their sixth Super Bowl on Super Sunday.

Mike Griffin, who will be at the Super Bowl, is shown wearing the no. 50 of former Patriots great Mike Vrabel inside The Dugout. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The Dugout Sports Bar & Taphouse owner Mike Griffin is going to the huge game, which starts 6:30 p.m. and is on CBS. “I’ll be there. It’s only four hours away.” This is the first SB he will see in person. He last went to a Patriots game in 2007. It was a home playoff, in the peak of Tom Brady’s rivalry with Indy’s Peyton Manning.

Griffin, 47, is a “diehard sports fan.” He grew up a mere hour’s drive from Beantown, and attended games there starting at age six.

“We’re still here!” is Tom Brady’ chant, after upsetting AFC top seed K.C. Griffin’s favorite current Patriots are field leader Brady, slippery receiver Julian Edelman, and tough tight end Rob Gronkowski. Griffin for years has worn a no. 50 jersey honoring retired linebacker Mike Vrabel.

Griffin often dons a Carolina Panthers jersey. The Dugout honors retired superstars on walls, such as the NFL with signed jerseys of Marcus Allen and Mike Singletary and signed photos of Joe Namath, Jim Brown, Dan Marino, Brett Favre and Howie Long.

Might the Pats win going away this time? “I hope they pull away,” Griffin said. “Hopefully, right on first drive, they punch them in the mouth” then stay ahead.

But he said of the five N.E. SB wins that “every single one comes down to the last play of the game. It’s probably gonna be tight. We can pull it out, in the fourth quarter.”

The B&B era launched by winning three titles (each by a field goal) in four years early in this century, then recently by four and six points. New England has reached half (nine) of the 18 latest SBs and four of the latest five, and is 5-5 overall in Super Bowls.

They stormed from far behind to beat Atlanta 34-28 in overtime two years ago, which gives Pats backers hope no game is a lost cause. The 41-33 loss a year ago to underdog Philly can be a wake-up call, for less overconfidence and greater hunger to go all out.

Sanctuary Brewing Co. co-owner Joe Dinan layers caution over optimism. “I’m confident for them every year. But (in Super Bowls) it always come down to the last minute, with these guys.” He is confident his Patriots with their experience and calm under pressure will prevail.

Northeastern Massachusetts native Dinan said “it’s funny that happened,” to have three club owners in Downtown Hendersonville who are rabid Patriots fans. He co-owns the brewery with his wife Lisa McDonald. She is a loyal Bears and Panthers fan, from a Chicago suburb. He said “she swings for the Patriots, too, because of me.” Her “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears beat his Pats 46-10 in SBXX, 33 years ago.

Matt Johnes is in his Hannah Flanagan’s, with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on TV behind him. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Dinan, 37, reasons the Rams are vulnerable after struggling to edge the Saints. They needed a blatantly blown call. “The Saints definitely got robbed. They handled the Rams pretty well. If the Saints can do it, so can the Patriots.”

Rather than face the young Rams, “I preferred to see Drew Brees against Brady — a couple of old guys duking it out. Brees is an institution in New Orleans. I love that city, and know how much the team means to its people” especially since Hurricane Katrina. “And they love to tailgate.”

Saints fans could have driven to Atlanta for the SB; fans from L.A. have to fly across the country. Since many are transplants, Dinan said, “I wonder how many in L.A. actually care about this game.”

He realizes the aged Brady-Belichick dynasty might be nearing its end. Brady is 41, the coach 66. “There’s talk up in Boston how if they win, both are gone.” Brady now vows he will return, no matter what. The worst loss may be brilliant Coach Belichick, Dinan said. “He runs a tight ship. That’s hard to do.” He hopes offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels succeeds Belichick.

Boston sports fan Matt Johnes said the Pats are “going to be very focused, because their window is closing. It may be tough get back.” Last year, he said “I hope they (Belichick and Brady) stay together. It’s a rarity to have such continuity with the coach and quarterback.” Yet he reasons “Brady would still be winning, with almost any coach. He’s all about one thing — winning.”

Johnes foresees a game “high scoring, with a lot of touchdowns.” He was impressed with K.C.’s first-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and the Pats for outscoring him two weeks ago.

Johnes also preferred Brady-Brees in the big game. “Drew Brees’ window is also closing.” Brees is 40. “I feel bad” for Saints fans, over the notorious no call. “Some of our regulars and my friends are Saints fans.”
He gets razzed whenever the Pats lose a SB, as occurred a year ago. “There definitely are some Patriots haters,” he said with a chuckle. “But (ribbing) makes sports fun.”

Johnes, 46, wore “my Tom Brady shirt” Thursday, shifting deeper into Patriots mode. Johnes has owned Hannah Flanagan’s Irish Pub & Eatery for 19 years. He moved to this area at age four, so his father could work at DuPont near Brevard. Matt’s mother Shirley is from Connecticut.
A fourth sports bar was co-owned by a native New Englander for years, before Paula Orr sold South Rock last year to Tony and Yvonne Rivera who are from Miami.

The City of Champions in this millennium clearly is Boston, with three of the four Beantown pro teams sizzling. The Red Sox are reigning World Series champs, beating L.A. in five games. Since 2000, these are Boston champion seasons: Patriots five (’01, ’03, ’04, ’15, ‘17; runner-up ’07, ’11,’18), Red Sox four (2004, ’07, ’13, ‘18) who are 4-0, and one each by the Bruins (’11, 2nd in ‘13) in hockey and Celtics (’08, 2nd in ’10) in the NBA.
Boston has won 11 of its 37 major-sport titles (second only to NYC) since 2002, and could follow its baseball title with one in football. “There’s never been anything like this,” Dinan said. “I grew up there in the Eighties and Nineties, when the teams were mostly terrible. Only the Celtics won much. The Patriots were a basement dweller. I went to hundreds of Red Sox games.”

Boston’s champs include the 1914 Boston (now Atlanta) Braves. The first title was in 1903, as the Boston Americans won the inaugural World Series.

Boston is in the top four all-time for titles, in each of the four major sports. The Celtics pace the NBA, with 17 crowns. The “Sawks” have nine Series wins, tying the A’s for third most all-time. The Bruins’ six Cups are tied with Chicago for fourth most. And the Patriots’ five SB trophies trail only the Steelers, and are tied with the Cowboys and 49ers.

The two SB contenders’ cities are by far the premier pro basketball franchises. The Celtics (17-4 in finals) have one more title than L.A.’s Lakers (16-15), and a far better winning mark in finals. They also lead all major sports teams with eight titles in a row (’59-66). The rivalry peaked in the Eighties, when L.A. won five of eight finals and the Celtics won three of five. It was Boston’s Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson’s “Showtime.” Boston beat LA. in finals of ’84, then LA. beat Boston in ’85 and ’87.

Los Angeles is in the top five all-time in pro titles along with Detroit, both behind N.Y., Boston and Chicago. The Lakers won 11 titles in L.A., earlier five in Minneapolis in a six-year span (‘49-54). In this century, Kobe Bryant’s Lakers won three in a row (‘00-02) and later two straight (’09, ’10 over Boston). They lost to Boston in ’08, and in ’04 to Detroit. Their 31 finals visits lead all, and now they have LeBron James.

The big-spending Dodgers have reached (but lost) the last two World Series. In L.A., the Dodgers are 5-5 in the Series, with a peak of 3-1 in ‘59-66 and the latest win 31 years ago. The franchise lost both Series as the Robins. As the joy of Flatbush Brooklyn Dodgers won seven N.L. pennants in ‘41-56, but won only one (in ’55) Series as the Yanks usually owned them. The Yankees are the Red Sox’s arch-rival.

L.A.’s sole MLB world crown in this century was in 2002, with the L.A. Angels of Anaheim. In hockey, the L.A. Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and ’14. They lost in the ’93 Cup finals. The Rams are 3-5 in NFL title games, including 1-2 in SBs.

Sanctuary and The Dugout both will benefit area pet rescues. The Sanctuary has its Puppy Bowl, this time 1-4 p.m. in the Kanuga Conference & Retreat Center gym. People can park by the main entrance and tennis courts, then get a shuttle ride or walk a football field length. Capacity is over 500. Dinan hopes for a half-full crowd, while “a full house would be perfect.” The gym has much “more elbow room” that the brewery had.

All 30 dog competitors last year were adopted, he noted. This time, there will be only canines, including some adult dogs.

The Dugout hosts the local Blue Ridge Humane Society’s sixth annual Super Bowl charitable auction and raffle during the game. “We’re pulling raffle tickets, and auctioning stuff off: during every commercial, with the TV sound off, Griffin said.

“All proceeds from the auction and raffle will benefit our four-legged friends,” Griffin said. Items include signed jerseys of Michael Jordan (Wizards) and Tom Glavine (Braves), and gift certificates from local merchants. “Everybody on Main Street” is providing them, with up to $150 of items in a gift bag and items including jewelry, hair and pet products, Griffin said.

The Daytona 500 on (date) then NCAA hoops “March Madness” are also huge for sports bars, Johnes said. Hannah’s will prepare “several thousand wings” to munch on Sunday.

There are many large television screens in town. South Rock among others has SB parties with food and drink specials, and drawings for prizes — which South Rock will do after every quarter. The place has been hopping more than ever since adding the NFL TV package this season. South Rock (698-2490) is at 830 Greenville Highway, near the remodeled Ingles. It has six TVs inside with an 84-inch projection screen for the big game, and three more TVs in its new heated enclosed patio.

The Dugout (692-9262) at 430 N. Main St. has ten TVs, including a 90-inch pull-down screen. Hannah’s largest of 12 TVs is 60 inches, in its newer room. Hannah’s (696-1665) is at Third and Main.

Sanctuary Brewing (595-9956) at 147 First Ave. E. has six big screens. Mezzaluna Brick Oven & Tap House (697-6575), at 226 N. Main has two large sets and four overall. Black Rose Public House (698-2622) at 222 N. Main has three large TVs. Southern Appalachian Brewery (684-1235), at 822 Locust by Eighth Avenue and North Main, has a large TV over its busy bar and perhaps a large projection TV on Sunday.

Beyond downtown, Henderson County hot spots include Surf ‘n Brew Oyster Bar (376-3705) at 235 St. John’s Road in Fletcher. It has two large screens, among six TVs.

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