By: Bob George/BosSports.net
December 04, 2004

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BOOK REVIEW: Glennon, Sean, This Pats Year. Taylor Trade Publishing, New York et al, 2004.

The literature for the Red Sox is everywhere and legendary at that. Give a near ditto for the Celtics and a distant ditto for the Bruins.

Perhaps you have wondered aloud over the years why you rarely see a New England bookshelf stocked with books on the Patriots. You'll find all sorts of history books on the other teams. Biographies on the big stars in the other sports? No problem. Need to bone up on trivia? Go hit your local Barnes & Noble or Borders.

But the Patriots? Not even a complete history of the team by the late Will McDonough. The one man who knew the Patriots from day one never got around to writing such a book (actually he did, but he took on the history of the entire NFL, not just the Patriots). What if you want to research the Boston Patriots? The Steve Grogan Era? The first Patriot Super Bowl team?

These two recent Super Bowls have spawned a little run on Patriot books, though it will take an awful long time to catch the other sports in terms of sheer literary volume. Right now, the books you've heard of the most often are of the coffee table variety.

Sean Glennon's book This Pats Year is a unique study of Patriot fans and an in-depth look at the psychology of watching the Patriots with friends and family throughout an entire season. Glennon, 38, chronicles the 2002 season as he takes in each game with a seemingly endless gaggle of friends and acquaintances. The book is divided into chapters where each chapter deals with each of the sixteen games separately.

A few things should be stated at the outset. Do not read this book if you are looking for cerebral analysis of the 2002 season. Glennon makes largely salient observations of the football games in general. The main philosophy of this book is his relationship with the fans he watches each game with, their mindsets, their rooting habits, and the overall flavor and atmosphere of Game Day.

Another intriguing element of this book is that the author, who grew up in Milford and lives in Northampton (although the back jacket says he lives in Florence, which is near Northampton), is a Raider fan. Watching Super Bowl XXXVI drew him closer to the Patriots, and inspired him to write the book for the following season. Still, his loyalty for the Raiders gives the book a bit of an edge, especially given that the Patriots failed to make the playoffs that year in defense of their world championship. He does not profess an "unabashed love" for the Patriots, which makes his look at the Patriots a lot more objective and largely unemotional.

Often times readers may skim over the prologue of the book. Do not skip over it in this one. You must read it, because it explains everything that is to follow. It establishes who he is, what motivated him to write the book, and what story he intends to tell. This is a book about Patriot fans first, not the Patriots. This fact must be clearly understood, then you will understand and enjoy this book a lot better.

Glennon does an overall excellent job in telling his individual Game Day stories. His prose is generally descriptive and well written, and the flavor of the book came through exactly as he wanted. Perhaps the greatest achievement of this book is that you find yourself wanting to read about people you don't know, which often times is a hard thing to do and enjoy doing at the same time. Stories about other people's friends can quickly bore you to death, but Glennon will not lose your attention. Go into this with a relaxed attitude that you'd really like to find out more about how fellow Patriot fans watch games, and you'll enjoy his tales very much.

If you have ever read Jim Bouton's classic baseball book Ball Four, you might see some similarities in style and format. Bouton spent a great deal of time talking about his interpersonal relationships and their funny times in the Seattle Pilots clubhouse. Glennon takes a much similar tack in this book. He offers up lots of candid and uncensored commentary, with the intent on entertaining you but minus the raw humor Bouton tried to fill you up with in his book.

Why did Glennon pick the 2002 season instead of, say, the 2003 season? As previously stated, his motivation to do this book came from Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots finished 9-7 in 2002, missed the playoffs on the last week of the season, and were exposed as a defense which had suddenly become slow, old, and no longer able to stop the run. You might think that writing about 2003 would make for better stories. One must remember that unless you are clairvoyant, you can't predict at season's beginning how a team's season will play out, you can only roll the dice and see what happens.

Despite this, 2002 makes for a nice background for this book nonetheless. The seven losses, especially the stinkers against Green Bay, Denver and Tennessee, made for interesting studies on how Glennon's friends reacted to the games. Despite being a Raider fan, Glennon did take a generally favorable view towards the Patriots, and at times did speak out with emotion towards the Patriots at some critical play.

But the stories feature the fans, and not the game itself.

He talks about picking up this girl in Sutton (a friend of his; Glennon is married to a woman who tolerates football but does not profess a love for it) and heading to Smithfield, RI to meet about 12 fans who will head to Gillette Stadium in an RV (nicknamed "The Bus") to take in the Kansas City game. He meets this girl named Kerrie in the Sports Depot in Allston, and chronicles how they watch the loss to the Titans. He talks about time with his family members, at Thanksgiving (Detroit) and with wife at an Amherst bar (Oakland).

He interjects various issues into his accounts with fan intermingling. He talks about sports wagering (road loss to Miami). He talks about jinxes (win versus Kansas City). He talks about collectibles (road win at Chicago). He also talks about homophobia and hanging out with gay Patriot fans at a gay bar in South Boston (win versus Minnesota).

He also waxes poetic about watching the game with drunk and obnoxious fans. There were the local Jet fans in the New York sports bar. There were vulgar fans at the season finale against Miami. There was this drunk girl who spilled beer in his lap without apologizing for it during the Tennessee game.

He seemed happiest watching Patriot games with old friends, of which he is fortunate to have many. He watched the San Diego, Green Bay, Denver and Chicago games with these friends of his, many of them either from college or his boyhood days in Milford. The connections made over the years made for some pleasant story telling, which in part helps the reader understand the flavor of interpersonal relationships they otherwise would have zero interest in.

The book has few flaws. Glennon offers up some incorrect information during San Diego week, referring to Jack Tatum as "Art" and saying that former Patriot wideout Darryl Stingley was paralyzed in 1977 instead of 1978. His loyalty to the Raiders make it difficult to adequately ascertain his real feelings for the Patriots, even though at times he does come right out and admit rooting for them. He might be tantamount to an east coast transplant in California who winds up "liking" the Dodgers and Angels but still considers the Red Sox his main team.

Otherwise, the book is a good read and is a pleasant experience. Given the convivial nature of Patriot fans in general, written experiences of this kind are good for the growing library of Patriot literature. The time will come when books on the Patriots will be more plentiful, and books like this will be hailed solely for their merit rather than their groundbreaking value.

This Pats Year is about fans, and for fans. It shows that tailgating goes way beyond the Gillette Stadium parking lots. Read it and find out for yourself.

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