By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 1/2019 and the Boston City Paper 2/2019
1. I am SO glad the weather wasn’t what we had last Sunday; no way this event would have been held in those icy storm conditions – it was cold (28) but no wind, just seasonable for January – nothing we’re not used to. We bundle up, we’re ready! Some folks have been here since 4:00 AM!
2. Susan and I go in and head toward the “Foxboro Resident” tent, we get a special VIP lanyard and we’re ON THE FIELD. OMG we’re ON THE FIELD and it’s not covered with plastic covers for a concert. I’m touching the turf! I ask someone to get a picture of Susan and me touching the field. It’s undeniable, it’s real, this is where the players stand, where they run, where the history is made! I can feel it. THIS is the sacred ground. A GREAT start.
3. And we’re not the only ones going crazy in this unique opportunity to stand here. Kids are making “snow angels” and teenagers are getting selfies sitting and laying on the turf. And most heartwarming of all, parents throwing a ball to their kids. How amazing is that? “Last Sunday? Oh, my Dad and I were tossing the football around Gillette on the field while the Patriots were in the house.”
4. So, athlete that I am, I asked a guy if I could throw the football to him – I wanted to be able to say I did that. Note to all – I am a man of a certain age who does not throw a football very well; it is VERY unlikely I will make a roster anytime soon… But I CAN say I threw a football on the Patriot’s home field.
5. Blue Man Group was an odd choice to get the festivities rolling; I’ve seen them once before, and I loved when they sprayed paint with the drums as they do in their show to make a Patriot themed sign.. I Never really “got” them but maybe that’s the idea?
6. Time goes by, music plays and we’re talking to everyone and seeing familiar faces and bumping into folks we haven’t seen in years. I notice one side of the stadium is almost filled in. Then the other starts filling also… And then the field itself is PACKED! It’s incredible – it’s 28 degrees and there are (by media count) 35,000 people here – about half the stadium capacity…
7. or… as Boston-area comedian Nick Stevens quips, “The Chargers consider this a sellout.”
8. Katie Apgar (so good to see you!) shows me a live aerial image from CBS news on her phone and I cannot believe it — the field is standing room only. PACKED.
9. The “Royal Proclamation from the King” read on the parchment was hilarious. “Win the Super Bowl, and we shall celebrate thy victory, we shall party like it’s SIXTEEN NINETY-NINE!”
10. The cheerleaders are so full of energy and they work hard. GREAT dancers! They really got the crowd going. I’m sure it’s difficult to keep a smile and energy when it’s this cold but they always do it. God bless them!
11. Emcees Bryan Morry and Nick Stevens first lament that Boston hasn’t had a world championship in THREE MONTHS (dry spell!) and try to explain to the kids present that it wasn’t always like this – back in the days of Schaffer / Sullivan / Foxboro stadium when you couldn’t give away Patriots tickets. I also remember decades of the Red Sox and of “Just wait till next year.” That makes this period in sports history all the more precious.
12. Music, music, and then Bob Kraft is introduced to huge applause – talking the stadium history, thanking the faithful, thanking US. Son Jonathan was equally gracious. The Krafts do SO much not inly Foxboro but throughout New England, through Partners in Patriotism and countless other actions (often done quietly) of giving back to the community. I reflect how grateful I am for them being here.
13. Next up – Coach Bill Belichick is SMILING! SMILING! Is this possible? Someone get a picture of this! And as always, he thanks everyone for coming out and fan support and calls this the biggest send off ever. It is!
14. I couldn’t stop smiling when Captain Patrick Chung said to the crowd, “We’re gonna kick their ass, baby!” and then got a selfie with the entire crowd – and I LOVED that it took him a second try to get the camera going – we’ve all done that with our camera, “Wait, one more!”
15. And then there’s the “Oh My God Oh My God it’s Tom Brady” moment when TB12 takes the stage! Dressed to the nines as always, such a class act, thanking everyone, thanking US, and then leading the crowd in a raucous ‘WE’RE STILL HERE” before literally dropping the mic.
16. Music! FIREWORKS! Red white and blue confetti EXPLODES into the air! “All Aboard” from Ozzy and then AC/DC’s “For those about to rock, we salute you!” Crowds goes bananas.
17. The program is over, people are all over the field and I am joyfully singing along as the loudspeakers blare Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” while tossing confetti in the air – I’m a jubilant kid acting silly and I don’t care at all – I am having FUN! I am happy, caught in this perfect moment.
18. We’re heading out — We got pictures with one of the Minutemen who was so gracious and told us he’s been “reenacting an eight-year war for the last 40 years.” We laughed and told him spoiler alert, the Colonies win that one!
19. I talked to a great guy from Southie named John with a VERY impressive camera. Any time I can talk to a pro I pick their brain – I want to keep learning. I’m jealous not only of his camera but that he’s going to the Super Bowl! John said the ticket cost him $8,700. Hey, if you’ve got the funds, you do it! Also, kudos to the Patriots for giving away Super Bowl tickets to lucky winner Frank.
20. And there’s Cake! Montilos made an incredible 1400 pound, 80-foot-long cake with chocolate icing and funfetti and decorated with photos of the entire team, a nice treat.
21. We head upstairs and Patriot Place was mobbed; I was happy see that every shop and restaurant was standing room only. We stopped at Capriotti’s for my favorite, “The Bobby,” a Thanksgiving Day sub with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. We then stopped at Godiva for truffles because, well, you HAVE to stop at Godiva when you see one. I think it’s a law.
22. In Patriot Place, there’s a small petting zoo; a little pen of baby goats! They were adorable and reminded me there is only one “GOAT!”
23. We stopped in the Pro Shop; have not been there for a while; so many people buying Pats gear and souvenirs – good to see. Need to come back and do the Hall of Fame soon.
24. We’re all walking to our cars; we’ve just experienced fellowship, community and happiness. We can’t wait until next Sunday.
25. There was SO much positive energy in our stadium Sunday. 35,000 people who put aside all that’s wrong in the world, all that’s wrong in the news, all their cares and worries, – for a few brief hours, we united for FUN and to join in love and support for a remarkable sports team. It felt FANTASTIC to be part of that.
There are so many moments that come and go in our lives and we aren’t living in the moment. Today was an exception, I was fully present, fully aware how SPECIAL this was as it unfolded. I am SO happy that Susan and I were able to actually stand on that sacred ground in our hometown and cheer on our local heroes on their way to Super Bowl LIII.
To the New England Patriots and Kraft Organization, win or lose, we love you. We live vicariously through you and you always make us proud. You make our winters so much warmer, so much more filled with excitement.
And to quote Mr. Kraft: “We are all Patriots.”