Pete Mulieri is an ex-New Yorker and now a stockbroker at Investment Technology Group in Boston, who walks his dog on a New York Jets leash and wears a Jets jersey to provoke New England Patriots fans.
“I do rub it in,” said Mulieri, 52, who also invites Patriots fans into his Hingham, Massachusetts, home to gaze upon a hand-painted Joe Namath mural and other mementoes.
He’ll be tailgating in his green-and-white Jets cap when the teams that share the best record in the National Football League clash at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Dec. 6.
Mulieri is part of a contrarian football cluster: Jets diehards who live in New England -- or, as Flushing, New York, expatriate and software services manager Paul Leone, 47, describes it, “in the belly of the beast.”
Forty-one years after Namath led the Jets to their lone Super Bowl title, these fans say this season may end the drought. The “Monday Night Football” telecast on Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN is the next step; the teams are tied atop the American Football Conference East at 9-2 with five regular-season games to go.
“I’m all fired up behind enemy lines,” said Mike Steadman, 40, a Lynnfield, Massachusetts, planner with Ameriprise Financial. He grew up in Port Washington on Long Island.
For this game, Steadman will wear a No. 24 Jets jersey, for cornerback Darrelle Revis, as he sits alone in front of the television in his basement shrine to New York sports. His wife watches on a set upstairs.
“A game this big, I have to be alone,” he said.
The winner of this contest moves closer to claiming the AFC title and home-field advantage in the playoffs. That’s not the reason his pro-Patriots neighbors and friends are treating the matchup like the game of the year, Steadman said.
“Never before have they thought we could beat them, and they were right to think that,” he said. “It’s very similar to when the Yankees fans realized they could lose to the Red Sox, and I think that’s exactly like this moment now.”
The Patriots have been to four Super Bowls in the last decade, winning three. The Jets haven’t finished the regular season with a better record than the Patriots since 2000.
“I hate Pats’ fans because they don’t remember the times they were losing,” said Rick Kozan, a 37-year-old textbook salesman who grew up in Setauket, Long Island, and now lives in Boston’s South End. “There’s an amazing arrogance.”
There’s also a history of off-field conflict between the franchises, often involving coaches.
In the 2007 “Spygate” scandal, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team $250,000 for the videotaping of Jets’ defensive coaches signals during a game early in the season. Jets fans began calling the Patriots’ boss “Belicheat.” The Jets’ coach at the time, Eric Mangini, left the Patriots’ staff to join the Jets, and the two barely shook hands after their next game.
Belichick, 58, was the Jets coach in 2000 -- for one day. He was promoted from assistant head coach to succeed Bill Parcells, then abruptly quit with a note on a piece of loose-leaf paper: “I resign as HC of NYJ.” He then was hired to coach the Patriots.
Parcells had joined the Jets in 1997 after leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl berth. He quit in a dispute with New England owner Robert Kraft over player personnel decisions. “They want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries, OK?” Parcells told reporters.
Relations might improve if Boston fans realized their 86 years without a Red Sox championship gives them something in common with Jets fans and the decades of mediocrity they’ve endured, said Brandon Leitner, a commercial real-estate broker who came to Boston 10 years ago.
“Not only were the Jets letting us down just like the Red Sox let down Boston,” said Leitner, 28. “But we’ve had to watch the Patriots have absolute dominance over us for a decade.”
Matt Howard, a 43-year-old bond broker at Garban-Intercapital in Jersey City, New Jersey, has enjoyed that dominance in the New York area. A native of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Howard has been a Pats’ fan in his enemy’s territory for 16 years.
“Us Bostonians down here like to rant and rave also,” he said in a telephone interview. “That’s the key when you play against the Jets or any New York team. You sit there quiet and they’ll walk all over you.”
Back in Boston, Erik Ferjentsik, a 30-year-old marketing director for the Princeton Review who moved to the city in May, has found some like-minded souls in the city’s Allston section. About 30 Jets fan gather at the Joshua Tree Bar & Grille -- a “meetup” for transplants -- for games. After each touchdown they serenade the city with the team’s chant: “J-e-t-s! Jets! Jets! Jets!
‘‘We’re very loud and obnoxious like New Yorkers should be,’’ he said.