By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by Comdoctor.net
February 15, 2005

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Now that the season is over, it's time to blow off a little steam with this column. And while you can get retrospectives on the actual Super Bowl-winning season in many places, I want to take a different tack.

I want to tell you about a group of people who mean a great deal to me and how the Patriots have been our common bond over the years.

We'll call this infamous group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. This was the name that was given some time ago to the crowd that I tailgate and go to Patriot home games with eight times a year. We range in age from 29 to 63 and cut across social, racial, and political lines. Over the years, our true bond has become clam bakes, jambalaya, and teriyaki steak and above else, each other. Man, I'm a lucky guy (and not because I haven't gotten food poisoning, mind you).

Back around ten years ago, Mark offered up a pair of season tickets to my family to go along with his three seats. I had met Mark a few years before while working at a food pantry in Lowell while going to college. Frankly, it's a miracle that he has put up with me for so long given how extroverted I am and how cunningly introspective he is. But put up with me, he has. He is also our ringleader, the season ticket account holder of record and, most importantly, the guy with the mini-SUV that we pile into on home game Sundays.

Over the years, a number of different combinations have spoken for the five tickets. Early on, my grandfather came along. We still laugh about the time he took a shitter off the fold-out picnic table when it became unbalanced. Give my Pepé credit though; he got right back up and dusted himself off and continued to feed his face as if nothing happened.

That incident had to have been in the Bill Parcells era. God, just where did the time go? In some ways, it seems like yesterday but in another way it was a lifetime ago. That spill happened before I knew my wife, before I moved to Maine and even before I ever dare dreamed of Super Bowl victories, for Pete Carroll's sake!

Anyway, back to the lineup (the usage of that word can be considered appropriate):

I met Bill when we were teenagers working at the since-closed Almacs supermarket in Foxboro. Again, another introvert who has labored through the years for whatever reason I'll never know. Despte being complete opposites in so many ways, Bill and I are like an old pair of shoes that just somehow fit together perfectly. Many times over the years, we have spoken without talking. I suppose it comes through being together over the years through weddings, births, deaths and championships. How do you quantify how grateful you are when you see someone like him walk through the door at your grandmother's wake? If you can put your arms around that emotion, then you'll know what this guy means to me.

By default I suppose, his brother, Steve has become a dear friend to me perhaps because he's always been around all of these events with the two of us. Steve is a treat because, unlike his brother, he's an extrovert and has a carefree, breezy attitude. The perennial wallflower became a rose.

Then there's my dad. Wow, where do I start? The thing I'll say about him (and my mom in many other ways, for that matter) is that he has always been there for me. Whether it's been as a kid and coaching soccer, comforting me as best he could while I was an awkward teenager, or as a wonderful grandfather to my son, he's been a stable rock. But he's also "been there" by my side at probably 80% of the Patriots' home games since 1994. I remember looking at him after the Pats beat the Jaguars in 1996 to advance to Super Bowl XXXI and thinking "This is the defining moment of our relationship." At the time, I never would have imagined six years later that we would actually witness a Lombardi trophy being raised in front of our own eyes as we did that night in New Orleans in February of 2002. Now, that's a defining moment.

And my brother has recently joined the party; earning his stripes with night games and the Titans deep-freeze polar expedition. For a kid who could have cared less up until a few years ago, this recent Patriots run has brought us really close together and for that I am very grateful. It's great to have added him to the equation.

So those are the folks that I brought to the party. Mark has brought a few different characters of his own over the years as well.

First off, there's Joe. Don't tell Joe but the only reason that we let him come with us is that he brings cannolis and other desserts from his native North End when he comes to the game. Perhaps the defining Joe moment happened two years ago when he took his sweet time getting back to the car from the recently-opened Gillette Stadium. The four of us were standing there wondering if he got lost, sick, you name it. Then, with the sun setting behind Route 1, a short, stocky figure waddles across the road with a bag full of souvenirs for his son. When he finally makes it to the car, we ask "Did you get lost? What happened? We were worried about you!" Referring to his occupation, Joe goes "Are you kidding me, I'm a trained federal investigator. I know how to make it back to the car. I just had to go to the Pro Shop"

There's Jesse from God's Country - his words, not mine - New Bedford. The thing that aggravates me about him is that he has the sharpest put-downs of anyone I have ever come across but yet I still dig him. Commenting one day about my own tardiness in heading back to the car, he said "Man, I bet you stuck around for the post-game prayer." You see what I have to put up with? It's not easy but somehow I manage.

Last but not least, there's OfficerGlenn of the Lynn Police Department. OfficerGlenn always has a golf weekend planned (That none of us are ever invited to go on, mind you.) despite having three kids. How does he do it and when can we meet this saint of a wife? "The two worlds shall never converge," we've been told in no uncertain terms. OfficerGlenn is our token story-teller who equally marvels us with tales of crime-free Lynn and getaway weekends to see the Cubs and Bears in Chicago with his so-called other buddies.

Of course, other friends and relatives have come into this circle from time to time and they bring their perspective to the conversation. This conversation while sitting around and waiting for the steaks to cook is what makes Sundays in Foxboro the place I want to be more than any other place in the world on those eight dates every year. Sometimes it's an animated discussion, sometimes it's quiet. Sometimes it's all-Patriots-all-the-time. Other times, we have to remind ourselves that there's a game at 1 p.m. and we wonder why the hell we just paid $40 to sit in the cold on a gravel parking lot.

But most of the time, we laugh and get into our groove. I'm convinced that this groove is what you search for in friendship and, darn it, we've got it. This groove is the comfort zone that comes with years of experiences and understanding. It cannot be bought or easily transferred. It is the reason that living in an old, tired place like New England is special. People don't breeze in and out of this region like they are going through a Dunkin' Donuts drive""thru. This isn't Tampa, for God's sake.

No. You live here and battle the weather, you use only 25 letters in the alphabet and you develop friendships that don't come and go like NBC sitcoms. For the most part, people don't know what I'm talking about in Miami or Phoenix. It's being able to say that "someone pulled a Rosie Ruiz" and having everybody start to crack up at the memory of Ed King not knowing where to put himself on that day.

The point of this musing is this: Looking back on the last ten years of my life, it's not so much what happened on the field that brings a smile to my face while I am driving along a back road in Maine.

What brings a smile to my face is the memory of jumping up and down after the win against the Colts last month as I met up with Glenn and telling him "I told you not to worry about it!" It's hugging Billy by the Lafayette House after winning the AFC Championship the year before. It's the look on my brother's face as he made fun of a drunk guy who was trying to get the crowd fired up at the Raiders Snow Bowl game three years ago. Or nearly knocking down my grandfather after I jumped on him as Kevin Turner caught a Drew Bledsoe fade for a touchdown to beat the Vikings in overtime in 1994. I suspect that when I am 80 years old, these are the thing that I will remember and not so much the field goals, first downs, or trophies that we now take for granted around these parts.

Whenever and however this run of tailgating, friendship and winning ends, I'll be grateful for it. I could never have put a price on the happiness and laughter that these bozos have brought to my life.

Do me a favor, will ya? Don't tell them I wrote this. The last thing I need on opening night in September is them knowing just how I feel about them and having to deal with their sixth grade brand of humor.

It gets old after a while.

And even if you think that Rosie was framed, I would still like to hear from you. I can be reached at kevin@patsfans.com.


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