Even inside the tavern he owns, New England Patriots fan Tim Reuter sometimes gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment: He can’t get no respect.
Some of his most loyal patrons harangue Reuter when he dons his favorite Patriots ball cap and vintage jersey, and a few heckle him with unprintable obscenities.
But most of the time, Stadium Tavern is a place where Patriot fans can find warm comfort in a cold city.
“I love all football fans,” Reuter said. “I just love Patriot fans a little more.”
In a city that loves its Indianapolis Colts and loves to hate their arch-rival Patriots, Stadium Tavern is a geographic anomaly.
It sits just 500 feet from the southwest entrance of the Colts’ home, Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Patriots will play the New York Giants in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Built in 1933 at the end of Prohibition, the small tavern is the kind of unassuming place where you can get a cheap bowl of chili, a fishbowl of cold beer and a friendly conversation with a stranger. In the fall on game days, it’s crowded with Colts fans averse to the pricier — and hipper — sports bars to the stadium’s north.
Reuter is a lover, not a fighter, when it comes to sports, so he welcomes all kinds. But when the Patriots are playing on TV, he controls the remote control to the flat-screen television above the bar and outfits his staff and regular patrons in Patriots jerseys.
He has a collection of 50 Patriots jerseys, some of them vintage and dating back to the team’s early days.
Reuter became a fan when he was just a kid. “I was looking for a team to root for, and I liked the Patriots’ uniform,” he said. “Years later, when the Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis, I tried to become a Colts fan. I tried really hard, but I just couldn’t stop being a Patriots’ fan.”
The Patriots’ old red-and-white uniform with its “Pat Patriot” logo of a Revolutionary War minuteman is long gone — replaced by a slicker design — but Reuter has stayed true blue.
“I was a fan during the lean years,” he said. “I was a fan in the ’90s when they had a string of losing seasons. I tell Colts fans: If you can stay as loyal to the Colts as I’ve been to the Patriots, your team will be just fine.”
For a Colts fan, that’s got to hurt. As the aging and injured Colts quarterback Peyton Manning stood on the sidelines last year, the Indianapolis franchise finished the season with a 2-14 record — the worst in its history.
Meanwhile, Manning’s nemesis — quarterback Tom Brady — led his team to Super Sunday.
For the last decade, the Colts and Patriots have been the dominant teams in their conference, making for what Reuter sees as a great rivalry.
He’d like to see Colts fans welcome Patriot fans to Indianapolis like good sports. “Sometimes,” he said, “it’s hard for football fans to remember it’s a just a game.”
Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at email@example.com.