Around 2010 my sister-in-law moved to America as a requirement of her work in order to be close to where her company was overseeing construction of some communications satellites by an aerospace business out there. Not long after that she started dating an American guy, Will, who happened to be a New England Patriots fan and when he heard that my wife and I were popping over to visit them he arranged and paid for – some of it possibly through his work – flights from Baltimore, hotel accommodation, and tickets for him, me (also a Patriots fan), and my wife (a Vikings fan) at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts for a Monday night game in November. To say we were stunned and excited doesn’t even come close to describing it.
You can read about our time wandering around and exploring the very attractive city of Boston here: Boston, Massachusetts.
I don’t remember which hotel we stayed at (one of the problems with not booking it yourself) but we started game day with a drink and some lunch in the hotel bar. With this being a little bit before I started saving all information and documenting more about the trips we were taking there are no records of what we ate but I’m fairly certain we had crab cakes because that’s what the area is famous for.
We then headed off to Gillette Stadium with one stop at a roadside cafe/restaurant/bar on the outskirts first for something else to eat and drink. Again, I can’t say what place for certain but the parts about this visit that stick in the memory were all alcohol-related. We ordered some beers and watched as the barmaid poured into an upright glass, tipped out the 4/5ths of foam, topped it up, tipped out the 2/3rds of foam, topped it up, etc. We just looked at each other and mouthed “Tip the glass when pouring” but didn’t want to interrupt. She then got someone else’s order wrong so came along the bar to me who was already drinking the thing she’d inadvertently poured and told me it was a free one. Finally, Will ordered a shot of tequila (for warmth as it was a bit chilly) and what turned up was close to a full whiskey tumbler with the Mexican alcohol in. Maybe that’s how they just do shots there but even Will was shocked. He tried to down it in one but failed and took three attempts.
We carried on to one of the vast parking lots that sit on the outside of Patriot Place and walked past numerous people hosting tailgate events from the back of their vehicles. The sun was long down by now and it was getting extremely cold but the gates to the stadium weren’t yet open so – and this might come as a shock – we made our way to a bar in the complex where another drink was had and we could get some shelter from the biting November wind as well as absorb some heat generated by the crowds of Patriot fans doing the same as us.
The game we were in Massachusetts to watch was the New England Patriots taking on the Kansas City Chiefs. We hadn’t really known anything else other than that prior to the game and were incredibly pleased to find out we had really good seats at the end of a row, fairly low down and almost on the 35-yard line. We were on the Patriots side of the field so had great views of the New England sideline and many of its star players (Tom Brady included, naturally) and were in our seats with drinks in plenty of time for the warm-ups to start.
We got to see Patriots owner Robert Kraft up fairly close too while he was being interviewed by the Monday Night Football team and meeting other important people.
And Will even wanted a photo taken on his phone by my wife just to prove he was in the stadium so I snagged a sneaky shot of him at the same time.
Before the game started properly there were still the rituals of the coin toss to sit through and the national anthem to stand for. We were looking forward to some action starting soon on the field by this point as the temperature was plummeting. On the way into the stadium both Will and I had bought some gloves from a vendor selling them from a stall as we hadn’t thought that far ahead when coming up to New England. My wife was sensibly dressed in multiple layers, gloves, and even the fur hat she’d picked up several years earlier from China (see: Diamond Princess Cruise Memorabilia) that numerous people in the stadium remarked on, mostly to comment how nice and warm her Russian hat looked which led every time to an explanation about the differences between the hammer and sickle design and the single red star.
And then the game between the Patriots and Chiefs started and it was absolutely fantastic; everything we hoped it would be. Our seating location meant it was a short walk onto the main concourse and the concessions stands so we were able to keep topped up with drinks (first cold and beer-based, then piping hot coffee-based just to get some circulation back into the fingers) and hot dogs (again, primarily just to hold in the hands for a bit before eating them).
By the end of the first quarter I was so cold I found a stand selling warm-looking hoodies and bought one to put over the top of the three layers I was already wearing. I still wear it when it gets cold these days and I’ve never seen anyone else wearing anything even close to the throwback design, making it my most-treasured souvenir of our time at Gillette Stadium.
Directly behind us in the stadium was a Patriots fan who was a dead-ringer for George Clinton. He was wearing a bobble hat barely covering his dreads, shades, had gold grills filling his mouth, was wearing Patriots hoodie and jersey and gloves, and was wrapped in a Patriots blanket. Every time Brady had the ball we would hear this rasping shout from behind us.
“Throw it to Ocho!”
“Man, he is not even on the field!” Will said on one occasion, turning around. It was true; Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson wasn’t playing. By way of response all we heard was a raspy giggle and it did nothing to stop our fellow Patriot fan from offering impossible advice from his seat throughout the rest of the game until he fell asleep in the third quarter leading to some stewards coming across to check if he was still alive.
It wouldn’t be a sports event without some kind of terrible officiating and this game was no exception leading to several streams of expletives from Will. Spotting that the man in front was attending with his teenaged son we urged Will to tone it down but the father turned around and told us it was nothing his son hadn’t heard before so it was all fine. Will started stealing some of the sweets that the son was eating while the father then chatted to us for a bit as he’d recognised we weren’t from around those parts. This wasn’t the first time someone in the vicinity had stopped us to chat upon hearing our accents as we’d also been forced to sit up front with the shuttle bus driver at the airport to talk as soon as he realised we were from England. Always lovely to have such a friendly experience with locals when you’re travelling abroad.
It’s interesting and almost a little disconcerting looking back at these photos nearly seven years on and seeing pictures like these with Brady, Gronk, and Aaron Hernandez before his fall from grace.
We left before the end of the fourth quarter as Will had almost turned blue and wanted to beat the bulk of the crowd trying to leave the stadium in order to head back to Boston. The game was well and truly over by then anyway with the Patriots running out 34-3 winners over the Chiefs. Despite being frozen to the bone ourselves we wouldn’t have changed a thing about the experience and if we ever got the chance to attend a Patriots game in Foxborough on an icy Monday night in winter again we’d have absolutely no hesitation in doing so. Gillette Stadium was great, well-designed, easy to find your way around, and with plenty of concessions to keep your energy levels up while the New England temperatures do their worst.