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“… O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

Applause, cheers and catcalls erupted from eager football fans as jet fighters streaked over U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The stage was set Sunday evening for Super Bowl LII, and New England Patriots fans at Foxboro Sports Tavern in East Naples were ready with appetizers, pitchers of beer and 58 televisions.

“It’s like a national holiday, and we have a chance to win it,” said Thom Popoli Jr., Foxboro owner. “We can win the best day of the year.”

Popoli’s voice echoed through the building as he offered his own commentary through the night.

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“That’s another Patriots’ first down,” he’d say.

Cheers from the 235 Patriot fans rang through the restaurant every minute or two, interspersed with a few groans and “what the hells.” Indoor seats were sold out on Jan. 22 — the day after New England beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and earned a trip to Super Bowl LII.

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“We came here last year,” said Andrew Maguire. “Look at all the Patriots fans. It’s a great place.”

John Corcoran and Karen Woodcock made a weekend trip from Vermont just to see Maguire and three other friends in Florida for the Super Bowl.

“As soon as they won the playoffs, we bought our tickets,” Corcoran said.

The electric atmosphere spilled into a tent adjacent to the Foxboro. Every play and comical commercial was also shown on two projectors under the 3,000-square-foot tent. Standard barbecue and beer were open to the scores of people who couldn’t quite get an indoor ticket.

Named after Foxborough, Massachusetts — home of the Patriots — the tavern’s reputation is all New England, built up over the restaurant’s 13-year history.

And it shows.

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Not one Philadelphia Eagles logo was seen in the ocean of blue, red and silver.

However, one Washington Redskins sweatshirt stood out like a sore thumb.

“We’re on vacation from Maryland, staying in Fort Myers but visiting Marco Island for the day,” said Shawn Moran. “We wanted a place to watch the Super Bowl and came here. Even if it’s not my team, it’s still the Super Bowl. And I want to see the Eagles lose.”

Jason Bourque, longtime friend of Popoli, stood at the owner’s side as he commentated most of the night. Bourque shared in Moran’s the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend mentality.

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“I’m actually a Cowboys fan,” Bourque said. “But I hate the Eagles. So I’m pulling for the Patriots tonight.”

Even Dominick Russo, a candidate for Collier County judge, group 2, was asking for petition signatures from eager fans.

“This is a little outside of my comfort zone,” he said. “But Popoli is a friend and said I could meet a lot of people here.”

But the table of Maguire’s friends had one thing on their mind.

“It’ll be a good game,” said Garry Pougin. “But the Patriots will win.”

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Read or Share this story: https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/local/2018/02/04/super-bowl-lii-night-food-friends-and-football/304887002/