FOXBORO MA - It almost feels like going home again, doesn't it? (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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A lot of people say that going to NFL games live pales in comparison to watching the games at home on TV. The common belief is that the time, effort, and money that goes into getting yourself to the stadium simply isn't worth it any more when the NFL has made such an avid push to make the game as enjoyable and accessible as possible from the comfort of home. And to be honest, there are some good points to be made in this argument. After all, why spend so much money just to watch one game when you can watch all 16 on your massive TV, cozy as can be on your couch with a plethora of significantly less expensive drinks and snacks at your disposal, completely free of the burdens of uncomfortable seats, overpriced beers, and pants?
Well you know what I say? I say nuts to that. Watching a professional football game in person is an experience unlike any you will find anywhere else on the planet. You just can't duplicate the energy, excitement, and atmosphere that accompany seeing two NFL teams play live. Being in the stands, surrounded by thousands of your fellow
hammered passionate fans, doing your part to will your team to victory and force a false start or two from their opponents - that's something that can't be matched by all the yellow first down lines and live fantasy trackers in the world. And as the home opener approaches, I am one of the lucky 68,000 who will be in the stands this weekend to watch the New England Patriots take on the San Diego Chargers.
There is a lot to love about Gillette Stadium. It is one of the most well-built sports grounds in the country. The unique construction design means that there really isn't a bad seat in the house. An open-air stadium combined with state-of-the-art field turf represents a nice balance of old-school values and modern athletic advances. The multi-million dollar shopping and entertainment complex makes the Gillette experience about more than just football. Sure, it's not overly accessible and anyone driving to the game can expect an hour of standstill traffic on either end, but I think that just adds to the charm. It speaks to a time when the Patriots were the laughing stock of not only the NFL, but the greater sporting world, and thus had to build their stadium way out in Foxboro where the rest of the country could forget it existed. Plus, if fighting traffic isn't your thing, the MTA offers party trains that run from Boston and Providence, making plenty of stops along the way.
I only really have one gripe with the stadium (well, two, but I'm very aware that the 9 dollar beers aren't going to get any cheaper so there's no point in complaining), and it has nothing to do with its location or the way that it was built. My problem is with the reputation we fans have gotten over the years. Whereas other teams with significantly less talent to root for (hello, Seattle) are damn near famous for the noise and wildness they bring to their home games, New England fans are generally seen as quiet, complacent, and a little too corporate. Gillette may be a tough place to play from an opponent and potential-for-bad-weather standpoint, but it isn't the kind of place that causes coaches to make their teams practice with stereos on full blast to anticipate crowd noise. And sadly, that reputation is well deserved; Patriots fans aren't really known for getting after it on game day. I know that the acoustics at Gillette aren't designed to keep noise in, and that a case can be made for a lot of the crowd noise funneling out of the open north side of the stadium, but we all know that's a pretty weak argument. I've always been left scratching my head as to why a group of the best, most passionate fans in the NFL are always so damn quiet on game days.
Until now, that is. I get it now. It all makes sense, and I'm amazed that I didn't realize it before.
Part of being among the best fans in the NFL is devoted, unquestioned loyalty to your team. It is a willingness to do whatever it takes to help your team win and to wait patiently for instruction on how to best be of use as a fan. To be so in tune with the way the home stadium functions that you don't want to so much as belch unless you know it will be the right move for your team.
Well good news, folks. We've all just been given the go-ahead. Our Field General has just officially given us the All Clear.
We all know what Tommy B's message to the fans was by this point, so there's no need to repeat it again here. And we all know what he meant by it, regardless of any public relations team's attempt to spin it. He has made his appeal - it's up to us to answer him. And we all know what the answer is, don't we? All together now:
Yes sir, Mr. Brady, sir. You can count on me.
Brady has made a request of the New England faithful to bring the noise. And bring the noise we shall. I, along with everyone else in attendance this Sunday, will be following orders to a T. I hereby make a solemn vow to get as loud, as rowdy, as unruly, and as obnoxious as I possibly can. I promise to do everything I can to make Philip Rivers' life a living hell. I invite all in attendance this Sunday to join me.
Even if you aren't going to the game - even if you don't have tickets until Week 13 and won't see the magnificent splendor of Gillette until later in the year - know that this is Tom Brady's call to arms, and you should prepare yourselves accordingly. Heck, even if you won't be going to a single game this year, if you're planning on just sitting at home every Sunday watching the game on TV, get rowdy, too. After all, a body in motion stays in motion, and Sunday presents us a great opportunity to build some momentum that will hopefully put Foxboro back on the map as one of the hardest places to play in the entire NFL.
And what better way start bringing the ruckus than to lead by example and make good on the promise I mentioned in my Fan Notes from Week 1? I've always found that the best fans balance their incoherent, fanatical screaming with solid, unified cheers that cause the very ground to quake and bowels to loosen. New England is currently without such a unified cheer, which is why I plan on unleashing "The Gronk" upon the world this Sunday. Rob Gronkowski is likely to be a big part of New England's game plan this weekend, and thus there should be numerous opportunities to implement the cheer. After much deliberation, I've decided to go with the Train Conductor (to those not familiar with what it is, read about it here), and I implore any and all of you who will be in attendance this Sunday to join me in trying to get it to catch on. I may consider shifting to The Gronk Stomp a little later on in the year - but we're all going to be busy drinking a lot of water this weekend and I don't want things to go awry.
I'm glad that I'm a writer, because I don't plan on having a voice at all come Monday morning. Here's hoping none of you will, either. Let's get weird.
GROOOOOOOOONK!! GRO- GRO - GROOOOOOOOONK!!
PS - if any of you will be traveling to the game on the Providence train this weekend, feel free to stop by my seat and say hello. I won't be hard to find: just look for a really, really hydrated guy wearing a Tedy Bruschi jersey.