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Calm before the storm

Patriots Quarterback Tom BradyBrian Snyder/Reuters

Early this afternoon, Jeff Hammel, a 34-year-old bartender at Biddy Early’s in the Financial District, sat in his nearly empty bar -- filled with three patrons and a Naughty By Nature tune -- and made a prediction that would benefit his wallet but ran counter to his fandom.

“35-21 Seahawks victory,” he said.“I’m hoping that’s the case, because that means I hit my squares and walk out of here with five grand.”

Hammel, a native of Clinton Falls, New York who has lived in the Boston area for the last 16 years and counts himself as a Pats fan, thought Seattle’s defense could put pressure on Tom Brady and said Russell Wilson’s mobility could give the Pats’ defense headaches. He said all the talk of defensive backs Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor not playing in the game was simply Seattle coach Pete Carroll “throwing smoke,” in an attempt to confuse New England and the media.

Despite the paltry number of customers at midday, Hammel was bracing himself for an evening of rowdiness. The bar will host a magician named Eduardo and a frozen t-shirt contest later in the day.

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“The thing is, girls don’t really want to do a wet t-shirt contest, but they’ll do a frozen t-shirt contest,” he said. “What they don’t realize is that after five minutes, it turns into a wet t-shirt contest.”

At a nearby table, Anthony Hugar and Ryan Soucha sat sipping Guiness and talking football. Both picked the Pats to win in a close game. Soucha, a 25-year-old originally from Franklin who does administrative work in a Boston law office, agreed that Seattle’s secondary was formidable, but did not think the Seahawks had anyone to stop Gronk.

“Expect a lot of Tim Wright as well, a lot of two tight end sets,” he said.

Hugar, a 25-year-old attorney who lives in Boston but grew up in Pittsburgh and roots for the Steelers, predicted a 34-27 Patriots victory. New England, he said, simply had more to lose. He brought up Richard Sherman possibly missing the game because his girlfriend could go into labor with his child today.

“The biggest savior for the Pats may be Richard Sherman’s unborn child,” he said.

At Sidebar near Downtown Crossing, 33-year-old bar manager Juan Cepeda was waiting for the pregame rush that he thought would come between 3 and 4.

A handful of people were in his bar; mother and child who popped in for lunch before a movie; a guy eating a turkey club with onion rings; another sipping a Bud bottle.

Asked if he was annoyed because he had to work during the game, Cepeda said “No because it means business, lots of business and plus all my friends are going to be here.”

But does he worry about hordes of angry drunken sports fans causing problems?

“No. Everyone is usually in a good mood. What’s the worst that can happen, someone bumps into a table and knocks over a drink? We can handle that, ” he said.

He took some cajoling to predict a final score, saying he doesn’t like to make hardline predictions.

“Pats by three,” he said, eventually.

 
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