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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pats / Fish Recap

I awoke early on New Years Day. It had snowed the night before and I had to head outside and clear the driveway before I could pack up the car and drive down to my Dad's house to meet him for The Pats game later that day.

I was running a little behind thanks to the shoveling I had to do, but thankfully the roads were practically empty on this early Holiday Sunday Morning, so I was only about 15 minutes late.

I was pretty hungry by the time I got to my Dad's house, since I did not have time for breakfast before I left, and I would have loved to have stopped for a little snack at Dunkin's but we did not have time. We were meeting his friends in town and then we were heading to Foxboro in a caravan.

We got to the stadium a little after 10:00 AM and pulled into the surprisingly empty Gillette Stadium Parking lots. $35.00 is all it takes to get in. I was saying to my Dad that it looked like a lot of people were not going to show for the game, but he then told me that his buddies in the caravan who come to a lot of games had told him that the lots are almost never full. Interesting.

Once we got a good spot I immediately hopped out of the van, cracked a beer (I was dyin' for a roadie on the ride to the stadium) and started setting up for some tailgatin'. My Dad's old Dodge van, a.k.a. The Ultimate Tailgating Machine, is really, really cool. It's a conversion van and it's got a stove, a table, couches, even a small bathroom inside of it. We got the chili heating up on the stove and started setting up our table and grill. Once the grill was set up, we threw in the sausages and peppers and proceeded to enjoy the full-on Pats tailgating experience.

One of the guys that was with us had never been to a Pats game and he could not believe the setups some of the people had, with their grills and all the food that people brought with them. I kicked back in my Pats chair and warmed up with some hot chili and cold beer, listening to the Pats pre-game on my old transistor radio that I'd had since I was a kid.

We did the tailgate thing for a few hours and around noon started to get ready to head into the stadium so we did not miss the tribute to the 1985 AFC Champions. That '85 season was very special to both me and my Dad.

My Dad is a hard-core, old-school Pats fan. He does not follow any other teams. He could care less about baseball, (he's never even been to Fenway Park,) and has relatively no interest in hockey or basketball. He'll watch the Celts if they're in the playoffs, but thats about it. He only really cares about The Pats. He used to have seasons in the 70's and was in attendance at many 'memorable' games back then, including the Monday Nighter where somebody got stabbed in the parking lot.

Unfortunately, due to the over-the-top rowdiness (and stabbings) at Foxboro back then, my parents felt things were too unsafe at the stadium to bring me to any games during those days. Even though I never got to attend a game in my youth I still loved The Pats and by 1985, I was a seasoned and salty Pats fan.

My first 'Patriots Memories' were from 1976 and it's often been said that the '76 team could have gone all the way. Of course we all know what happened to that 1976 team, and, let me take this opportunity to say, once again, FUCK YOU BEN DRIETH.

That was my first real taste of being a Pats fan. To have success within reach and to come so tantalizingly close, but falling just short. We never gave up on The Pats though. Even in the down years, we never got off the band wagon. We'd be watching a game and my Dad would be yelling, "COME ON YOU BUMS!! GET EM, GET EM and I'd be there yelling right along with him.

After '76 I went through all the ups and downs with my Dad in following the team. I remember many games getting blacked out on the Boston channels because of attendance at Foxboro being too low and we'd tune the game in on channel 22 out of Springfield, MA. It was on a really fuzzy UHF channel and it was like watching a game through a snowstorm. You could hardly even see the game. We had this small brown box that sat on top of our furniture-sized TV set. The box was used to control the direction of the antenna on the roof. It had a circle in the middle that had the points of the compass on it and it had this white dial dial with a red arrow in the middle of the compass that you would turn to all the different compass points and try and fine tune the reception.

As you would turn the dial, it would point the antenna on the roof east, west, north, south. When the dial moved, the thing would make this loud 'ca-CHUNK' as the antennae would move around. Me and my Dad would dick around with that dang antennae, moving it back and forth, trying to fine tune the reception the whole game.

"Oh! Hold it stop it right there! Stop! STOP!! I think I see Grogan!"

I remember my Dad watching former Patriot Jim Plunkett winning those Superbowls while playing for the damn Oakland Raiders. He would just say things like, "He used to be a Patriot," and not much else. I could tell it really bugged the hell out of him to see the former Pats star winning it all with the god damn Raiders.

So, as you can imagine, after a decade of watching The Pats shooting themselves in the foot whenever the opportunity presented itself, when they went on their roll in 85 and eventually beat the Dolphins in what was at the time their personal house of horrors, the Orange Bowl, we were pretty excited about it. I still have the newspaper clippings of Coach Berry getting carried out of the stadium in triumph.

Back to the present, we arrived inside of Gillette just in time to hear Sully from Godsmack sing the National Anthem. That was pretty cool and I thought he did a great job. I'm a big fan of Godsmack so I was glad I did not miss Sully.

After Sully, the 85 team came out and we gave a big hand to each of the players and coaches as they were announced.

Once the Tribute ended, we headed up to our seats for the game. No sherpa or oxygen mask were necessary but we did bring the radio so we could hear Gil and Gino call the game along with a warm stadium blanket to help keep warm.

The fans around us were all cool. There were a few Miami fans here and there. They tried to make a few comments about the score during the game but comebacks like, "Heading down to watch your boys play golf next week?" along with a few well placed snowballs, pretty much quieted them right down.

There was one guy who was dressed in black and it turned out he was a stealth Fish fan. He was kind of bugging the people around us and the guy he was with, who was a Pats fan, seemed totally embarrassed.

"Dude, what's with your buddy? He's a fish fan?? Why'd ya bring that guy with you?"

"He's my cousin. I told him not to embarrass me."

"Oh man."

The Pats fan just shook his head, "Hey, what are ya gonna do"

The game itself turned out to be really fun and enjoyable, even though the starters got pulled early, nobody was bothered by it one bit. Everyone was cheering loudly to try and help out the D when they were on the field and rooting for the Offense when they were out there. The Pats did everything to win, except actually win, which I am convinced was intentional, and nobody minded one bit.

At half-time they had what I though was a very impressive ceremony that featured a platoon of soldiers who were re-enlisting. Everyone was very solemn and respectful as they took their Oaths and they got a huge cheer from the crowd when they finished. I was totally impressed by those guys.

After the game we headed back to the Ultimate Tailgate Machine for a few more snacks and beers while the traffic cleared out. There were some kids sitting on the huge piles of snow around the edges of the parking lots who were providing entertainment while trying to throw snowballs into a trash barrel.

A good time was had by all.


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