For as much fun as we were having around Boston, we had to part ways- I had a hike to Gillette Stadium and Zuzana wanted to visit TD Garden (she’s a big Bruins fan- I didn’t hold that against her!). Foxborough is fairly far from Boston and after doing some research, I found there was a single train to the game that left South Station at 6:35 pm. It was $15 round-trip and said it would get you to the stadium around 7:40 pm. That was cutting it close in my opinion, but it was the only public transit option. I arrived at the station early, purchased my ticket, and stood in a line with other fans to board the train. I ended up sitting next to a gentleman visiting from China who was excited to see his first NFL game in years. Even though I know how popular the NFL is, it still amazes me how broad and far its reach truly is. With all my travel around the country, I’m used to efficient public transit, especially when I’m visiting the east coast. This train had to be the original train the founding fathers road when they went down to Philly, that’s how slow it was. I swear I could’ve taken horse and buggy and gotten to Gillette quicker. It didn’t help we were packed in and the air in our car wasn’t working. An officer came through near the end of the ride to tell us we were running late and that we’d have to run to the gates to get in before kickoff. Are you kidding me?!
We arrived at the stadium at 8 pm and I quickly walked to the stadium through the parking lots that showed the aftermath of tailgating. My first impression of Gillette was that it was much bigger than it looks on TV. I thought it was going to be a smaller structure, but had a high upper deck and they built up the area next to the stadium with bars and a Hall of Fame. Rushing through all of this I didn’t get a real feel, but it looked like a nice area to hang out before the game. I met my stadium contact, Eric and he gave me my press pass. Thank goodness the Pats issued me a press pass because I would’ve never gotten into the stadium on time if I wasn’t able to bypass the lines. We took a roundabout way up to the press box and though I missed the team introductions, I made it for the anthem! I snapped a picture and sighed with relief. For as much as I love visiting Boston, I wasn’t trying to come back again this season.
Eric told me I’d be confined to the press box for the game due to the stadium’s strict security policies. Honestly, there are far worse places to be “held hostage.” I wonder what someone did to make the security this tight, but I wasn’t about to disobey the team’s wishes. The top level of the press box where most of the press was sitting was quiet, sterile, and because the windows were closed, shut out to the stadium atmosphere. Again I felt some worry start to bubble- how do I blog about a stadium experience when I’m closed off to it? Luckily someone brought me to the lower level where there was food and a more casual press setting. I found an empty seat next to an open window and was immediately caught up in the crowd. It was Thursday night and Gillette Stadium was feeling itself. I was half hanging out of the window soaking in all the energy.
I’m sure this won’t shock you- I’m not a Patriots fan. I actually did like them for a minute when they had Andy Katzenmoyer, but my brief love affair stopped with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Belichick now heralded a football genius, blah, blah, blah, was quite the opposite when the HC in Cleveland. I’ll forever remember him as the guy who got rid of Bernie Kosar, my forever favorite Browns player. I cried when Bernie was traded and was so mad I even jumped ship and became a Cowboys fan (and wrote Vinny Testaverde a letter stating I’d never cheer for him, poor dude). In retrospect, I probably should’ve stuck with Dallas, but I came back to Cleveland with the new team, but I digress. My dislike of Tom Brady is obvious- I’m a Buckeye, he’s a Wolverine. Also, yeah, I think this team cheats more than the league average and it will forever tarnish all their success in my eyes. Just my two cents and I’m stickin’ to it!
With all that being said, if I wasn’t fairly loyal and scared to lose face (more this), I’d hop on this bandwagon in a hot second. I don’t know what sort of voodoo came over me, but I went from hell bent on hating the Pats to wishing I had season tickets and went to all their games. Rob Gronkowski can catch almost anything and ok, I’ll admit Brady is decent, maybe even above average at quarterbacking. This fan base is so crazy too- I was watching them closely from my perch. Crazy is fun and my goodness, I wanted to be down there with them yelling and swearing at calls I didn’t like and going nuts after every score. I briefly talked to someone in security and he said there were a ton of fights at this game. What was funny about that is they weren’t between Patriot and Dolphin fans, but mainly between Patriot fans. I wish I knew what they were fighting about! Maybe who had the actual honor of deflating Brady’s balls or which player was the most wicked awesome on the team? I have no idea what they could be mad about, but they’re chowderheads and I wouldn’t have them any other way! It should be painfully obvious I (not so) secretly love Boston fans despite all the jabs I throw their way.
During halftime, they honored Willie McGinest and in his introduction speech, owner Robert Kraft made a little dig about beating the Indianapolis Colts so many times. With all the “Deflategate” drama, the crowd roared and it was awesome. Respect to Kraft for not caring how media might spin that and pandering to his fans (they pay the bills!). The party vibes continued into the second half and I thought the Patriots in-game production staff did a great job keeping the crowd going (good football helps too). Many times blowouts get boring, especially late in the game, but the energy level never dipped. The music selection was on point during big plays and commercial breaks! The stadium did clear out significantly during the end of the fourth quarter and I’m not sure why people would bother leaving this place early (traffic is always horrible following any sporting event).
After the game, I rode the elevator down to the main concourse and walked around taking some pictures and checking out the stadium as I exited. The train back to Boston leaves a half-hour after the game ends, so again I was rushed in my observations. I did notice there was a ton of standing room around the lower level, but I bet the view from the upper deck isn’t too shabby. I had asked a staff member about the third down fog noise earlier and he told me the team had gone for a nautical theme in this stadium. You could see that theme reflected in the end zone lighthouse and in the concession offerings. I would’ve liked to stay longer, but I was not about to miss this train and get stranded in Foxborough! With big eyes, I had lost track of time and took off power walking back to the train station.
I was greatly relieved to see the train was still there. Whoa, the smell of alcohol was heavy and as I moved through the aisle looking for a seat, I saw some very intoxicated people. This was going to be a long ride home. At least I sat next to some really nice, non-drunk guys from Toledo, OH. Small world! They were Michigan fans, but we were able to carry on some very civil, dare I say pleasant conversation. Wish I could say the same for the other people in our car. THERE WAS A FIGHT! It wasn’t violent, but listening to people scream at each other for more than five minutes in full Boston accents is annoying. The girls finally left the car but came back for another round a little later. I’ve never been so happy to get off a train!
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Special thank you to Eric for his time and assistance during my visit!