ON THE BALL AND OFF THE WALL: Whose side are you on?

A quick guide for sports fans coming from out of Little Rhody. It will help you assimilate, and avoid having your ass kicked.

Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but among its million residents, you have a million different opinions and attitudes. This is character building in its highest form.  

But when it comes to big-time sports, loyalty to the locals, laudably, comes first. So here are a few tips for any newcomers. 

First, you need to get a tattoo of the Patriots’ “Elvis in a helmet” logo. For men, right in the center of your chest. For women just above a breast will suffice, if not draw a great deal of panting interest from desperate guys who have no couth, and they are legion. (And a final non sequitur note: You are allowed to root for Tom Brady wherever he plays.)

Before we begin our advice column, a few general rules.

First, you are all able to bring your allegiance to your former residence with you, just don’t flaunt it – unless it intrudes on your newly found dedication to Pats/Red Sox/Bruins/Celtics. (Exception made for anyone from the New York Metropolitan area, who should keep their mouths shut at all times.)

Prior to becoming a homer up here, as a pre-teen, I worshiped the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies. While the Phillies constantly sucked, I was at the Eagles’ 1960 NFL championship win at Franklin Field over the Green Bay Packers, 17-13, when on the last play of the game, All-Everything Chuck Bednarik, who worked with my father while he was at Penn, tackled the Packers’ Jim Taylor on the Philly 15-yard line in their last drive, laid on top of him as the last seconds bled down, and famously told Taylor, “You’re not getting up until that (final) fucking whistle blows.”

Second, unless you really are looking to get your ass handed to you, while watching NFL football in a public space (read: bar) do not wear replica jerseys of a Pats opponen; and that goes double for the New York Jets and Giants. Steelers’ shirts are acceptable to a degree: They have the respect of Pats fans because of their similar devotion to their team. (Another digression: While spending the Christmas holiday in Pittsburgh one year, I went to the local massive gym to work out. Having not packed any Pats gear, I borrowed black and yellow sweats from my nephew, and that may have saved me from getting the shit kicked out of me in the locker room, as every muscle man there was in black and gold.) 

OK, loyalties you must embrace:

New England Patriots – Yes, everyone hates us. But eff ‘em if they can’t take a joke. Six Super Bowl wins and a genius head coach with all the likable, outgoing personality of a zombie are all is something all New Englanders can rally around. So get a Pats logo cap and/or hoodie, head down to your local sports bar, and immediately gain a number of new friends. But in case you get questions about your fave raves, here’s a little help.

Names to drop:  Gronk, Tombrady (yes, one word), Randy Moss, Malcolm Butler (associated with Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll for the stupidest call in Super Bowl history), Julian (Edelman), Tedy Bruschi (wonderfully pronounced “Brewski”).

Boston Red Sox – If you are going to live in Rhode Island, you are immediately part of Red Sox Nation, and deny that loyalty at your own peril. Like the Battle of the Bulge, there are occasional forays into our territory, but usually short-lived ones. If you would like to be treated like a pariah, wear a Yankees ball cap into a sports bar. Somehow you become invisible to the bartender, accidentally get jostled and spill your long-awaited beer. Yes, the BoSox now suck, but we waited a long time to remove the Curse of the Bambino, so hold tight.

Names to drop:  Yaz, Tony C., Big Papi, Pedro, Dustin/Pedey, Tek, Xander. 

Boston Bruins – This is hockey country, and you need to get up to that speed, or move back to Connecticut.  While Da Broons own the hockey world hereabouts, they always flatter to deceive, as some English toff might say. But somehow, somewhere, the ghosts of past successes linger on. Just yell. “Numbah Fahw, Bobby Aw,” will still bring a bump to most Broons fans’ hearts. And if you are into the cinema arts, Robert Mitchum yelling out that line while being filmed live in the Boston Garden during a real game and balancing four cups of beer in The Friends of Eddie Coyle before taking a bullet in the back of his head later, is a classic.

Names to drop – Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito (best bumper sticker ever: “Jesus Saves.  And Espo puts in the Rebound.”), Derek “Turk” Sanderson, Chief Bucyk, Terrible Teddy Green, Pie McKenzie (personal favorite).

Boston Celtics – Seeing as how the NBA sucks harder than a pool-cleaning vacuum, now all three-pointers, blatant traveling and ridiculous jams, you still have to stick by the Celts. But nobody cares anymore, seemingly including the players, who continue living in the past.

Names to drop: Cooz, Russ, Red, Hondo, Larry, Kevin, The Chief, Paul Pierce, Jason and Jaylen.

So fake it until you make it, newbie boys and girls.