Patriots have ‘super’ edge with local pub owners


Mike Griffin from The Dugout

They and many others will watch reigning champion Seattle try to fend off Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s historic quest to match Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with a fourth Super Bowl win. Brady triumphed in three of four NFL seasons (2001, 03-04). He hopes to halt a decade-long drought, including two recent Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants. This is Brady’s record sixth Super Bowl start. The game will be aired on NBC, starting at 6:30 p.m. after hours of pre-game analysis.

The Dugout (692-9262) is at 430 N. Main St. Hannah’s (696-1665) at Third and Main, and South Rock (698-2490) is at 830 Greenville Highway just north of Chadwick. Native New Englander Paula Orr co-owns South Rock, which has eight small televisions and an 84-inch projection model.

The Dugout’s 10 TVs include a 90-inch pull-down screen. Hannah’s largest of 12 TVs is 60 inches, in its newer room.

The Super Bowl poses super business, and such fan perks as a festive scene, large-screen high-definition TVs, chicken wings and nachos, drink specials and prize drawings.

Hannah’s sells about 2,000 chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday, which is four times as many on a summer Friday, owner Matt Johnes estimated. Many are carry-out, for “folks’ parties at home. We’ll be here for hours, marinating and cooking those wings.” He foresees “plenty of (seating) room, even right up to game-time.”

The Dugout’s buffet on Sunday is $20 per patron, or $15 ahead with bonus of a dollar raffle ticket, owner Mike Griffin said. Specific seats can be reserved. The Dugout is known for its buffalo chicken dip. A drink special will be named for each of the two teams.

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Matt Johnes from Hannah Flanagan’s

The Dugout hosts the local Blue Ridge Humane Society’s second annual Super Bowl charitable auction and raffle. Last year, the event raised $680 in cash and $1,000 including value of donated dog and cat food.

“All proceeds from the auction and raffle will benefit our four-legged friends,” Griffin said. Items include a Beach Cruiser bicycle, a Pearl necklace, two Biltmore House tour tickets, a grill; and possibly golf passes and Charlotte Hornets NBA tickets.

Mike and Karen Griffin own rescued dogs and a cat. Their elder son Sean, 14, volunteers in Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville. Their younger son, Zachary, 11, is a star gymnast.

Fervent ‘Patriotism’

Johnes, 42, has owned Hannah’s for 15 years. His Boston sports roots are from his mother, Shirley, from Connecticut.

Mike Griffin, 43, grew up an hour’s drive from Beantown, and attended games since age six. “I’m a diehard sports fan, always playing or watching sports,” he said.

Boston’s pro team titles in the last decade and a half are in the World Series (2004, ’07, ’13), Super Bowl (2001, ’03 and ’04 seasons), hockey (2011) and basketball (2008) for its NBA-most 17th crown.

Ironically, Griffin inherited yet retained giant bear figurine Yogi “Beara” (Berra) in rival New York Yankees pinstripes, as mascot outside the sports tavern when taking it over three years ago.

His favorite Patriots players are tough tight end Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski, slippery receiver Julian Edelman, leader Brady, and 325-pound run stopper Vince Wilfork. Griffin’s no. 50 jersey is of retired Mike Vrabel. The linebacker caught a TD pass on a trick play, as the Pats edged the Eagles 24-21 in ’05 to repeat as champs.

In the prior Super Bowl, the Pats stymied Carolina’s comeback, winning 32-29 on Adam Vinatieri’s last-second field goal. Griffin was the lone Pats fan in an area pub. The pretzel holder was shaped like a Super Bowl trophy. “I grabbed that ‘trophy,’ and held it up in front of the big screen,” he said. The first Brady-Belichick super win was also close, 20-17 over the high-scoring Rams.

The Dugout honors retired superstars on walls, such as with Evander Holyfield’s boxing shorts and framed jerseys of Montana and baseball greats Duke Snider and Al Kaline. There are signed pictures of UNC and NBA legend Michael Jordan, driver Mark Martin, catcher Johnny Bench; and football’s Jim Brown, Brett Favre and Dan Marino. There are signed baseballs of ironman Cal Ripken and all-time hits leader Pete Rose.

Heavyweights Battle

Local pub owners, among many, are looking forward to the big game. “I’m very excited,” Griffin said. “I expect a great game.” He plans to be in the tavern all day and evening on Super Sunday. Johnes may watch at home to be uninhibited. “I’ll jump around, scream and yell.”

Johnes is also “excited about this great matchup.” He works with this brother Drew, who is recently married and expecting a daughter. Matt suggested as a baby name Gisele for Gisele Bündchen, Tom Brady’s Brazilian-born celebrity wife.

New England “looked terrible” for two early games, then got into gear, Johnes said. There is Super Bowl pedigree. “We had a run” a decade ago. “But it’s been a while.” Though oddsmakers set the game as a toss-up, Seattle emerged as slight favorite. Pats head coach Bill Belichick will rev up his players, as underdogs, Johnes said. “He’ll say ‘nobody thinks you can do this. The public is betting against you.”

The Pats won the AFC by destroying the young Colts 45-7, pulling away after the infamously under-inflated (for a better grip) footballs only they used were re-inflated at halftime to comply with rules. Brady threw for three touchdowns, and LeGarrette Blount rushed for 148 yards and three more scores.

The Seahawks notched a dramatic, ferocious 28-22 comeback win over Green Bay and star QB Aaron Rodgers. The birds scored two TDs in the final three minutes of regulation, on runs by quarterback Russell Wilson and then Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch soon after a successful onside kick. Lynch’s 24-yarder was his longest run, among 157 yards. Green Bay’s field goal sent the game to OT. But Russell won it, with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.

The Seahawk Legion of Doom defense is led by slick cornerback Richard Sherman and linebacker Bobby Wagner. These are the NFL’s two best secondaries. Former N.C. State QB scrambles and throws sharply for Seattle. “Russell Wilson has proved he has ice water in his veins,” Johnes said. “He’s now a big-game quarterback. Seattle rose to the occasion again, and is a scary opponent.”

Patrons say “these are the two best teams,” Johnes said. Griffin noted Seahawk-clad fans are already “coming out of the woodworks.”

The Super Bowl is hailed as the most popular single-day sporting event in the country. Regulars’ favorite sports are football and baseball and some NASCAR racing and golf, in The Dugout, Griffin noted.

In Hannah Flanagan’s, the Daytona 500 is “NASCAR’s Super Bowl” and as big as football’s, Johnes said. The big race is Feb. 22. Ongoing is tennis’ first grand slam, the two-week Australian Open through Feb. 1.

In March, St. Patrick’s Day, the ACC basketball tourney then NCAA March Madness often packs the longtime hot spot. College football’s title game highlighted this month. Its “rivalry week” games are big in November, along with the baseball World Series. Johnes added that the summer soccer World Cup has surpassed the Olympics in popularity.

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