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Fan Club of the Month: NYC Fans of New England Patriots

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All eyes rest on the projection screen that covers the red walls in the dimly lit pub.The crowd all wearing red, white or blue holds its breath as the 2014 Patriots squad lines up on the 10-yard line for second-and-nine. As the Patriots take the ball into the end zone for their first touchdown of Super Bowl XLIX, the members of NYC Fans of New England Patriots launch out of their seats and as the broadcasts replays the action, everyone sends high-fives around the room.

Though the fan club had only begun at the start of the season, the camaraderie was in full force as everyone bonded over their love of the team. As the Seahawks and Patriots exchanged leads over the course of the game, the room filled with a mix of emotions. The older members of the club, who remembered Bill Belichick leading the team to three Super Bowl victories in four years, reassured the younger members, who remembered the Giants ending the team's undefeated season, that everything would be alright.

So when Malcolm Butler picked off Russell Wilson on the final play of the game, the bar lost it.

"I can still hear the echoes in my ears of the noise we made then," said club founder Mark Moran.

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In a city filled with more than eight million people who may root for either of the local teams on Sunday, it's great to know that Tír na nÓg is a refuge for Patriots fans. Located right in Times Square, the Irish pub welcomes Patriots fans with "Brady Brunch."

And whether they've been fans of the team since birth or they found the team later in life, NYC Fans have molded themselves into an extended family.  

"[Y]ou're in New York. It's a crazy city, and I think people appreciated our doing it and the opportunity to join with a group of other Patriots fans," Mark said.

The club began in 2014 when Mark noticed the growing number of Patriots jerseys at the bar on Sundays to watch the game. As the Doug Flutie, Mike Vrabel and Tom Brady jerseys continued to appear, Mark asked the management of Tír na nÓg to put the game on the big screen.

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Mark then created the group's Facebook page where he shared articles and news that interested other Patriots fans. As more team admirers found the page and the bar, the attendance of Sunday games increased. The first year the club began roughly 40 people traveled to the pub. Now, the club and bar host close to 100 fans on game day.

"What was wonderful, we made a big deal about promoting Brady's back for game number five, and it was a playoff atmosphere," Mark said. "I think it might have been our biggest attendance yet. It was over 350, I think it might have been 400 people."

Every member in the group, spanning generation gaps, has helped to shape meetings into a family reunion of sorts. With members ranging in age from eight years old to 88-years-old, Tír na nÓg is the ultimate gathering place. The moment they roll up to the door of the pub and see the Patriots flag swaying in the wind at the front, they feel at home.

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Everyone typically arrives an hour and a half before Sunday afternoon games to catch up with each other. Once the game begins, everyone's attention turns to that same projection screen that showed Super Bowl XLIX.

"One of the great impacts this group has on me is that I can be myself without fears of being judged," said one of the club's newest members, Kevin Clinton. "It makes me very happy that everyone in this group accepts me for who I am."

Kevin, who became a fan of the Patriots in 2010, chose the team because he wanted to stand out from his friends who cheer on either the Jets or the Giants. He describes the experience of being a Patriots fan in New York as an adventure.

"To be scolded by Jets fans and having Giants fan remind you about the two Super Bowl losses, it's an experience that I wouldn't trade for the world," he said.

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