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As the NFL owners and players battle over millions(oops…I meant BILLIONS), I was in Florida attending my fellow Patriots Season Ticket Holder, Jeremy's wedding. One of the many friendships I forged on Fall Sunday mornings in the parking lots of Gillette Stadium and the former Foxboro Stadium. Being a season ticket holder, is being part of a football social network.
There are no "like" buttons, but you tend to add a lot of friends.
You introduce the person that changed your "relationship status" to the rest of the crew.
The Extended Section 336 Tailgate Family.
I have made lifelong friends cheering on the hometown Patriots. My fellow tailgaters have become family while we made our weekly pigskin pilgrimages. Each pre-game gathering gives us four hours to share stories, beers and to catch up during our busy lives.
And there is a football stadium full of memories…..
Friends have tried to get engaged via the Jumbotron before being thwarted by sickness.
Others had one too many 40's and fell asleep on the floor of my jeep.
Some folks decided to wear a trash bag as part of their wardrobe.
And others wanted to leave during the "Snow Bowl" causing you to miss the "Tuck" and arguably the biggest kick in New England Patriots history.
Then there was the playoff game versus the Titans, where I got frostbite and my buddy burned his foot by applying a foot warmer incorrectly (yes, this really happened). These are the moments that are as memorable as the outcomes of the games themselves.
We were at the game versus the Jets after 9/11 with USA painted on our faces. Trying to get on with our lives as a country began to heal through sports.
Initials of a fallen brother and friend are emblazoned on one of our seats in memory.
These are some of the reasons why I can't give up my season tickets. Paying $2k a year at this point of my life, is probably not the most financially responsible decision. However, there is no price tag to put on something that is as part of you as the air your breath.
I just hope the nine billion dollar war being waged between the NFL and NFLPA doesn't erase a year of memories for the fans on and off the field.
What will we do with our Sundays?
For the 336 Tailgate Crew, Patriots football is interwoven in our DNA. It is who we are and what brings us together, how family picnics gather relatives. It's our class reunion for eight Sundays a year.
We meet at a local Chili's at 8AM sharp (well some folks come fashionably late still).
We arrive at the lots of the "Razor" at 9AM.
Beers are opened at 9:01AM.
The grill is fired up.
The spread of food is to die for. You will find the tailgate delicacies of Liz's kielbasa and Jess's buffalo dip.
You will also find the box of chocolate chip cookies that I still can't open after 17 years.
Please, don't take these moments away from us.
However, there are some things that the war of greed cannot take away from us.
Like the lifelong bond of the Section 336 Tailgate Crew.
As we all stood around in a circle as Garth Brooks "I got friends in low places" permeated throughout the Florida air, we all knew that we were amongst friends and family.
Some people meet at work.
Some meet at school.
Some meet on Facebook.
We forged our friendships in Foxboro while cheering on our favorite NFL Team, building our own football social network.
Joe Gill is a guest columnist for PatsFans.com, and a featured contributor to Boston Sports Then and Now where you can read his regular column: "Cup Of Joe" every Tuesday and Thursday. If you have a story idea or just want to talk sports, you can also e-mail Joe directly at [email protected]