They had just moved in together in 2009 and were watching the AFC rivals on separate televisions in a rather small apartment. That was the infamous “fourth-and-two” game, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided against conventional football wisdom and went for a first down on his own 28 in the final minutes.
A controversial pass play was ruled inches short. The Colts took over and Peyton Manning threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne for a dramatic 35-34 Sunday Night Football victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Tal, who grew up a diehard Colts fan in Indianapolis, picked up the phone to call his brother.
“I was screaming about Belichick and saying certain names,” he said.
“He was profane,” said Emily, who grew up a diehard Patriots fan in Grafton, Mass. “He was being obnoxious.”
“I was probably a little ‘over-served’ at that point,” he said of enjoying some beers during the game. “I was a little mouthy.”
Emily let her man know this would not stand.
“All of a sudden that bedroom door opened,” he said, “and a pillow came flying out at me.”
She informed him he would be sleeping on the couch that night. And he did.
“That was our first fight,” Emily said.
It took a few days to repair the damage on the home front. He apologized.
When they wed two years later, family friends of Emily gave the Colts-Patriots couple a wedding-gift plaque with the motto they have learned to live by: “Agree to disagree.”
That’s how “T” and “Em” will roll on Sunday, when they watch their teams together for the first time in a suite at Gillette Stadium. All that’s at stake is a Super Bowl XLIX berth as the Colts visit the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
“It’s going to be tough,” Emily said. “I feel bad for him because he’s going to be outnumbered.”
Tal, 34, has learned to accept the reality of being in enemy territory since taking a job with adidas in 2006. His daily drive to work passes by Gillette Stadium, a house of horrors for the Colts, who have lost three playoff games at “The Razor” since 2004, including last postseason.
Emily, 28, came to work at adidas in 2008. They met while he was playing basketball and she was on a stairclimber.
Their relationship wouldn’t be put to the test for a while. It was the offseason. But they soon realized NFL allegiances will not change, no matter what.
“No one’s perfect,” Tal said, prompting an amused Emily to smile at the observation. “There’s going to be a flaw in everyone.
“Luckily, she’s a football fan. It wasn’t going to be a reason not to date her. The Colts are a big part of my life, so I wondered, ‘How is this going to work? What’s it going to be like on Sundays? How are we going to watch the games?”
So they watch the games in different rooms.
“We need to separate,” Emily said.
“Nothing good can come out of us watching the Pats and Colts,” he said.
“It’s just avoiding a fight,” she said.
They tease each other good-naturedly about who will win Sunday and if the Patriots’ Tom Brady or Manning, the former Colt, has been the best quarterback.
“It’s not a debate,” Emily said.
Tal shakes his head.
An ongoing debate rages about appropriate game-day attire for their dog, Colbie, a puggle who joined the family before that first NFL season together in 2009.
“She was born in Massachusetts, so she’s definitely a Pats fan,” Emily said.
“No, she’s not,” Tal said.
“She’s a Pats fan,” Emily said.
“The first three letters of her name are C-O-L. That’s halfway there,” Tal said. “I couldn’t name her Peyton.”
“I named her, though,” Emily said.
Emily smiles when she mentions how Tal has the notion that some day, when they have children, their offspring will be Colts fans.
“They’re not going to be,” Emily said.
“We’ll see,” Tal said. “We’ll let them choose, but at that point, (Colts quarterback) Andrew Luck is probably going to have about five championships.”
The Patriots are touchdown favorites to defeat the Colts this time.
“I don’t know if it’s a win-win or a lose-lose,” Tal said of the outcome.
“We’re going to make it through,” Emily said. “Either way.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.