INDIANAPOLIS — Twelve-year-old Vaziri Napier was listening to his mother, Tara O'Sullivan, who was wearing a blue Indianapolis Colts No. 18 jersey (Peyton Manning), giving a long-winded answer about why she was rooting for the New York Giants.
He stopped her in her tracks.
"Mom," Vaziri said. "You hate Tom Brady!"
O'Sullivan tried, painfully, to explain herself with her son and 11-year-old nephew listening intently.
"I don't hate him. I just don't like him ... as a quarterback," O'Sullivan said. "I'm a Colts fan. I love the Colts. I don't like the Patriots."
Mrs. O'Sullivan is not alone. Far from it.
The vast majority of Colts fans walking the streets of Indianapolis yesterday were with her. The fact that Eli Manning, Peyton Manning's kid brother, appears to be an excuse not to root for their AFC brethren in the Super Bowl.
It's understandable. Before this season, in which the Colts lost Manning and won only two games, the Patriots and Colts were every bit as enthralling as a Red Sox and Yankees playoff game.
They met nine times in 10 years, three times in the AFC Championship. The Patriots won five. The Colts won four.
The one "problem" might have something to do with the Patriots three Super Bowl titles to the Colts one.
Or the fact that Manning, as great as he is, will probably go down as the second best quarterback of his generation behind ... you guessed it ... The Handsome One from New England.
"We are rooting for the Giants," said Hope Mansfield, who moved to Indianapolis 20 years ago with her husband, Jenkins, from their native Brooklyn. "One reason is Eli. We have a connection with him. We are also from New York ... But I'm not a Patriots fan. I don't know if I could ever be a Patriots fan."
Coach Bill Belichick is the other lightning rod. His one-on-one verbal jousting with former Colts general manager Bill Polian over the last decade were anger-filled from both sides.
"I was so ticked off at him when he came off the plane (on Sunday) and wouldn't accept the scarfs that were handed out," said Steve Burnstein, wearing a white No. 18 Colts jersey. "The other Patriots accepted the scarfs. I just don't like his attitude. He's not a good sport."
With fans from New England and New York expected to begin making their to Indianapolis later this week, nearly all of the thousands of people participating in Super Bowl village are Colts fans.
One Patriots fan from Indianapolis admitted it is very lonely when it comes to looking for someone to share his excitement.
"I never really liked football growing up, and one of the first games I remember watching was the Patriots Super Bowl win against the Rams (in 2002)," said 26-year-old Cameron Snyder, who wore a dark blue No. 12 Patriots jersey and a Patriots winter knitted hat.
"The Colts got better after that year and it became a rivalry," he said. "It seemed like everyone jumped on the bandwagon around here. That's when I became a huge Patriots fan. I love them. I love Brady and Belichick. To be honest, I don't know one person around here that likes the Patriots like I do. Not one."