BELGRADE — The electric sign outside of Christy’s General Store doesn’t advertise any specials these days. You’ll see the New England Patriots logo, followed by “Brady Brady Brady,” followed by the simple and succinct nickname every Patriots fan knows well, “Gronk.”

“Sometimes, we put business stuff on there. But this time of year…” store owner Tony Yotides said.

This time of year is Super Bowl time. Thousands of central Maine Patriots fans are gearing up for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI between the Patriots and the New York Giants. Yotides might just be the biggest Patriot fan in a region chock full of New England supporters.

The room above the garage at Yotides’ Belgrade home is a Patriots museum. Yotides set the room up 10 years ago, and now it’s full of memorabilia, including jerseys, bobbleheads, footballs autographed by Tom Brady and Mike Vrabel, and Fathead wall graphics of the Patriots helmet and players.

“(Wednesday) I got a Gronk,” Yotides said, referring to the life-size Fathead of tight end Rob Gronkowski now on his wall. The Gronk is 78 inches high and 40 inches wide.

Yotides started out as a Giants fan.

“Everybody started as Giants fans because the Patriots weren’t on TV. As soon as the Pats got on TV, I became a fan,” Yotides said.

Tim Yotides, Tony’s brother, became a Patriots fan as a kid, too. One of his earliest memories of the team is going to a game at Schaeffer Stadium with his brother, to see the Patriots take on the O.J. Simpson led Buffalo Bills.

“I remember sitting in the nosebleed seats, freezing,” Tim said. “I guess we’re both crazy. My father (Spike Yotides) was a fanatic, too.”

On game days, Tony’s house is the place to be in Belgrade. Dozens of people will watch the game in his Patriots Room, on the 70-inch television. When the Patriots pick up a first down, everyone will yell “It’s another Patriots first down!” just like the crowd at Gillette Stadium.

“I used to go to games, but it’s too much hassle. You see it better on TV,” Tony said.

Added Tim: “We treat (games) like we’re at the stadium. We all have our seats.”

Every Labor Day for the past 15 years, Christy’s sponsors a charity golf tournament at Belgrade Lakes Country Club. It’s called the Patriots Open.

“All the prizes are Patriots-related,” Tim said.

Tony said he could have up to 50 guests for Sunday’s Super Bowl. He’ll fire up the grills outside for a pregame tailgate, and guests will bring plenty of food.

“We’re a bunch of grown men acting like big idiots,” Tony said. “You hug guys you wouldn’t want to touch.”

Tony had high expectations for the Patriots this season, but he always does.

“I thought the defense would be better. I thought (Albert) Haynesworth would beef it up,” Tony said, referencing the former All-Pro defensive lineman the Patriots traded for in the preseason, only to cut midway through the season.

The Patriots first Super Bowl win, over the St. Louis Rams in 2002, is still the most special, Tony said.

“I just remember disbelief. The Patriots weren’t supposed to win that one,” he said.

Tony said he expects the Patriots to beat the Giants in a close game.

“I think it will be a tight game, a tough game. Remember how they used to win close games? That was (Coach Bill) Belichick’s way. Stay in it and pull it out at the end,” Tony said.

Tim agrees, but thinks the score will be slightly more lopsided.

“I think they’re going to win by 10 points, 30-20. I think Belichick is going to have something up his sleeve,” Tim said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.