I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the threads started by NoCalPatriot this off-season about following the Patriots in the old days. I bet you never thought when you were having all those wild times that, thirty years on, people would be so happy to relive them with you! I can’t go back that far but I thought that it would be fun to start a thread for people to reminisce about their first Patriots game. Mine meant a lot to me. Though I’ve followed the Patriots since the 1981 season, it’s been at a distance. Last season, though, I came to New England and, thanks to some help, got the chance to go to my first game. And what a game it was! At home to the hated and despised J*E*T*S, coached by the Perfidious Penguin himself, Eric Mangini. The day was one continuous downpour, soaking right through everything that I had on so that, by the time I got home, I was shivering from head to foot. Oh, and (in case you’ve forgotten) we lost! I don’t have a car, so I had to take the train from South Station. I think that this was the slowest train I’ve ever been on that wasn’t in the Third World. Foxboro is, what, twenty miles from the center of Boston, but the train took more than an hour and a half to get there. At one point we seemed to go past the stadium and come back in reverse. Anyway, we were due to get to the stadium at 12:15 and I was to meet up with my companion by the pro shop at 12:30. But it was after 12:30 when we arrived and I had to make a dash through the rain. Fortunately, he was there and, having exchanged photographs, we had no trouble recognizing each other even though we already looked like drowned rats. No time for tailgating and socializing but we did take the long way through the stadium to get to our (pigeon-perch) seats. I’ve been to some big sports stadia in my time (old Wembley, Olympiastadion Munich, etc., etc.) but Gillette feels the biggest. The impression is quite different from a European sports stadium – the fans are further back from the pitch and there isn’t the enclosed “bowl” feeling. I can’t compare it with other football stadia but however loud you shout from seats like ours (and shout loud I certainly did!) your sound doesn’t link up with what’s going on lower down or across the other side. Not like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at Anfield. The whole thing seems incredibly spacious – there’s lots of room on the ramps and under the seats for concessions and so on. Of course, I couldn’t go to a football game without BEER. $7 for a Bud Light – but there you go. The best bit was that I was carded by the guy selling the stuff, to the great amusement of my companion (hint: I was born in the same year as our esteemed coach). One thing that interested me all the way through was the crowd. The atmosphere on the train was very good – a bit less exuberant than I might have thought (it was raining so hard, of course, and I presume that most of these folks were season ticket holders who had been to plenty of games already) but friendly. The crowd was definitely well mixed socially and by age – predominantly “blue collar” (just my guess) and with more older folks than I’d expected. One kid had on a Harvard sweat shirt and a Patriots hat which I thought funny. I don’t imagine you get many Oxford University t-shirts at Chelsea games! At the stadium there were quite a few Jester fans but they behaved pretty well. Naturally, they were pleased with the way things went and let everybody know about it but the obnoxiousness was of the right kind, if you get what I mean – part of the craic, not the kind of threatening aggression you get at soccer. I stood in the queue for the men’s room behind a guy with a Jets Ty Law jersey on, which I thought was pretty funny (“Yeah. He screwed you – and he screwed us too!”, he said when I commented on it.) I can remember when going to soccer was like that – you could shout and cheer and have a laugh with the other team’s fans too. I thought it was great. The less said about the game itself, of course, the better. Watching from such a high viewpoint, you can forget about understanding much about the line play but you can certainly see how the play develops with defensive backs and receivers in a way that you never can on TV (except when Mike Carlson does replays on British Channel 5). Given the way things went that day, this wasn’t altogether a good thing … On the way back to the train, I had the great pleasure of being introduced to Big Al and Mrs B. They were as gracious as you would have expected, despite being somewhat occupied trying to dismantle a reluctant canopy in pretty dismal weather. All in all, the occasion was great. The way I look on it is if you can go to the stadium in lousy weather and watch the team lose and still enjoy it then this is probably for you. I can’t wait to try to score a ticket to a game next season. Next ambition: to get to a tailgate, if I can. And big, big thanks to Miguel for making it possible!