The date was October 17, 1993. I was 9 years old and headed to my first live Patriots game. I was excited to see the #1 overall pick, Drew Bledsoe, but he had been hurt while leading the Patriots to the first win of the season and his career in Arizona a week earlier. That meant I was going to see Scott Secules get the start against the Houston Oilers and the great Warren Moon. The Patriots would lose the game 28-14, but I still remember my excitement like it was yesterday.
In the years that have passed since that day, I’ve built a lifetime of memories in Foxboro. I was there for the Tuck Rule, I’ve been there for seven AFC Championship games, and, after Sunday, six banner drops. My favorite game of all time, however, was a 26-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings on November 13, 1994. Not just because it was an amazing comeback, but because my dad guaranteed victory as Matt Bahr lined up for a 38-yard field goal with the Patriots trailing 20-0 right before halftime. My 10-year-old brain nearly exploded when Drew Bledsoe hit Kevin Turner with his 70th pass attempt in the corner of my end zone to complete the comeback in OT.
But it’s more than just the games that fill my memories. It’s sharing the experiences with my family, and now being able to share them with my kids. I got my season ticket as my 16th birthday gift, in 2000. My dad has had tickets forever, and added a third seat to his account for me that year. I’ve literally grown up at the stadium. The final song at my wedding was “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen, because it’s the song they play after a Patriots win. Every time I hear that song, I’m a little kid again, so happy the Pats won, and packed in like a herd of cattle leaving Foxboro Stadium, the speakers blasting in our faces. I had my first beer in the parking lot at a Patriots game, drove back and forth from Worcester for games during college, and spent many of my wife’s birthdays watching the draft (her birthday is April 26th, I can’t control these things).
We’ve made friendships along the way too, which, if you’ve ever been to a game with me (my wife refuses to go with me because I’m too loud), is a bit of a surprise. Dan, who sat behind us in Foxboro, still comes to visit us at our seats, and we watch each other’s kids grow up on Facebook. Tara and Max, who sit in front of us now, both have kids around the same ages as mine, and we share pictures and stories before the game an in between plays. Ricky, who sits behind us, is younger than me, but has grown up at the stadium just like me. Pat and Rich, who sit next to us, will be at my sister’s wedding this fall. The friendships we’ve made there will last forever, and, though they revolve around the Patriots, go much deeper than that.
I truly believe that’s because the Patriots aren’t just a football team. They’re a family run business, and they make you feel like part of the family when you’re there. The Krafts aren’t just the owners, they are lifelong fans who have tried to do the right thing for the organization on and off the field. When I met my wife, she was a diehard Red Sox fan, and now, although we still like the Sox, she’s a much bigger Patriots fan than Sox fan. Last season, I took my daughter to her first preseason game, and she had an absolute blast, and then this year, I got to take both of my girls to a preseason game. My little guy is too young to go to a full game, but we make the trip to training camp at least a few times every year and he loves it.
As you can probably tell, the Patriots aren’t just a team to me. It’s part of my DNA. It was passed to me from my father, and I’ve passed it on to my kids as well.
When that sixth banner drops on Sunday night, I’ll be right where I belong, in my seat with my family, just like the last five. Celebrating not only what the team accomplished last season, but the greatness we’ve been lucky enough to witness for almost 20 years. Sitting in my seat and looking up at six banners is something that no one could’ve predicted back in 1993. I hope the success we’ve seen will continue forever, but that doesn’t really matter. What really matters is being able to share this great team with family and friends. And that is something that will last forever.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats