First game in seats at Gillette (long)
Here's a story about my first time sitting in the seats at Gillette this past Sunday vs. Buffalo...
Some background: I moved to CA from MA in '92. Before then, I had been to a handful of preseason and regular season games at the old Schaeffer Stadium. After Gillette opened in 2002, I once drove down to the gift shop and looked at it from outside. In 2004 during an August visit, I took in a training camp practice (and enjoyed it immensely). On New Years Day 2006, I attended my first game there, but didn't have the usual fan experience because I (a) took the T to the game and (b) sat in a suite. Don't get me wrong for the suite was a nice experience (and so was taking the T), but it's not what I'd call the typical experience I'm used to. Last weekend while visiting I was offered my cousin's 3 season tickets so I went with my father and uncle. My father hasn't attended a Pats game since 1986 and my uncle since the '70s. I should also mention that the Pats were something like 0-10 (both preseason and regular season, both in Foxboro and on the road) with me in attendance.
Getting to the game: We drove to rte. 140 which intersects route 1 about 1.5 miles south of the stadium. We had hoped to avoid rte. 1 by taking some side roads, but police block them off; I suspect the neighbors insisted on this when Gillette was built and the infrastructure improvements were approved. Once on rte. 1, right away there was tons of traffic, but for someone who hasn't driven to a game there in almost 20 years, the handling of the traffic on rte. 1 is so superior to how it used to be done. Traffic cones and cops galore keep the traffic jam orderly, unlike the free-for-all in the 1980s. We pulled into the first lot we found for the incredibly good deal of $40 and decided to get some exercise and walk to the stadium. While walking past the traffic jam on the way to the stadium, the first few businesses selling their parking spaces sold them for $40, then the price went up to $50 before we got to the stadium where the parking was set at $40.
Inside the stadium: The concourses are huge. I did not get a chance to check them out my first game. Of course we expected the $7.50 beers, but I was impressed with the wide selection of food choices. It's not just hot dogs and popcorn like it was in the old days. I've heard people rave about the gaps between the red and blue seats in the 2nd deck that allow people in the concourse to view the entire field, but I thought the view was quite obstructed by vendors and people. The bathrooms were all stalls. I wasn't expecting old-school urinal tubs, but most new stadiums I've been to have a bunch of single urinals. That surprised me. The jumbotrons at each end of the stadium are awesome. They were crystal clear and would show each play live which was great for the handful of plays I couldn't see on the field since I was on the aisle and people would walk in front of me.
Our seats: We sat in section 102, row 25. That was the corner of the endzone where Moss caught his first TD (the slant). We were in the sun and it was hot. My face and arms are red. From that lower section, the 300 seats look a mile up. My father commented that the place is like the roman colisieum (and that the opponents must feel like they are being fed to the lions). There were a few tools around us complaining to people a few rows in front of them to "sit down...down in front" on the handful of occasions they stood to cheer on the D for a 3rd down stop, but otherwise the fans around us were great...another nice change from the drunk a-holes that seemed abundant in the 1980s, squeezing as many friends onto the benches as they could. Some dope did puke one row in front of us about 8 seats to our right, though.
The crowd/cheering: I have no idea what a typical Gillette crowd is like volume-wise, but it seemed quiet. Granted it was a hot day and likely took a lot out of the fans, plus it was the punchless Bills, so maybe there's good reason for the mellow atmosphere. The crowd mustered some expected noise for the D, especially after the Bills got pinned on their one after Brady's fumble. The Moss 81 jerseys are quickly become a favorite, soon to match the number of Brady 12 jerseys. I got a kick out of the fan who had a Ravens 96 jersey and another with a Vikings 84 jersey. Stadium was definitely full and the number of SRO fans, especially near the three championship banners, was stunning.
The game: The Pats were feeling my kryptonite presence in the first quarter with a squandered TD opportunity after Hobbs' forced fumble, then allowing Buffalo to drive the field for a 7-3 lead, then fumbling on the Buffalo one. My uncle who knows my losing streak said if the Pats were down at half, I'd have to go back to the car. But this Pats team is so good that even my win-sapping powers are no match for their greatness. Honestly, we just knew they would break open the floodgates. When it was 31-7, my father said it's going to be 38-7 in a minute and a half, then two plays later was the TD bomb to Moss so I kidded him that he was too conservative in his prediction. That's how loaded this team is. Squandered opportunities don't leave one muttering, "Oh that's going to come back and bite them." They'll just score later. It's crazy.
Leaving the game: About a third of the fans left midway through the 4th quarter to beat the traffic. We left once all of the players had left the field. Still it was a logjam of people getting out of the stadium (especially through the lighthouse tunnel). Once outside, we followed the mob through the stadium lots out to route 1, where the crowd started thinning the farther we got away. Once at our car, we were able to merge quickly with the southbound rte. 1 traffic (again, excellent part by the police on traffic management) and got to rte. 495 relatively quickly. We were at my folks' house about an hour after we left our seats. Not bad at all.
Epilogue: I know this story is boring (and way too detailed) to a lot of you, but being a transplant in CA doesn't afford me many opportunities to attend a game. I see Gillette on TV every home game, but don't get to experience what it's like to be there on gameday. I'm sure there are others in my boat and this story is more for them. I also love when people post about their road trips to Pats road games, and to me this is like a road game so I thought I'd write about it.
Re: First game in seats at Gillette (long)
Thanks Chris, great story. Me, I'll be hiking a bit further to avoid the $50 lots.
-phil (the Scot)
Re: First game in seats at Gillette (long)
I live in Indiana, and about 3 and a half hours to Cinci, we went last year, parking is only 20-30$ there (where we parked, and it wasn't too far from the stadium), but it took about 2 hours to get out of the parking garage.
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