There was something about September 7, 2008 that felt wrong from the start.
The New England Patriots, coming off the almost-perfect season of 2007, took to their home turf for the season opener at Gillette Stadium, however they weren’t wearing their usual home blue jerseys.
The commentators pointed out that due to feverish temperature the Patriots had decided to go with the white jerseys this day, those usually reserved for away games.
“Another brilliant move by the hoodied one,” thought every Patriots fan across the country. Why had this never occurred to any one else? White shirts are better in the hot sun than dark blue ones are. Revolutionary!
Not that it really mattered. The Pats could’ve not worn jerseys at all, nor shoulder pads for that matter, and Patriots Nation would’ve remained assured of a New England victory, most likely by two to three touchdowns (closer to three with shoulder pads, more like two without them).
But something else was different. A huge GU patch was emblazoned upon the left shoulder of every player for both teams, as a memorial to Raider great Gene Upshaw.
I don’t know who comes up with the memorial patches for the NFL but apparently they draw the line at big, bold initials. I have to imagine someone somewhere could come up with something a little more interesting than just a big “G” and a big “U” and his number 63 at the bottom.
Thanks for everything, Gene. GU! You were No. 63 too, by the way.
I mean no disrespect to Gene Upshaw, he of course deserved to be honored, but can’t we come up with something a little more clever or creative?
Anyway, there was just something about having a Raider legend’s initials on every Patriot that made me feel uneasy. I don’t need to go into a Raiders-Patriots history lesson, but they’ve already had two plays that have gone down in NFL history where each team felt they got screwed.
Let’s just say we don’t need any Raiders stuff messing with the Patriots' mojo.
White uniforms, GU patches… something was off.
But we brushed it off as Ellis Hobbs caught the opening kickoff. This was opening day. We were about to embark on the 2008 season and put the disappointment of 18-1 behind us.
Then the incredibly reliable Wes Welker fumbled to end the Patriots first drive of 2008. It was the first lost fumble of his Patriots career and would be his only for the season.
Strange. Maybe something really wasn’t right.
A three-and-out by a morbid Kansas City offense. “Okay, everything is fine,” we told ourselves.
But seven plays later it happened.
The clock said 7:27 in the first quarter of the first game, but in many ways the season died right then and there. Tom Brady’s MCL and ACL were shredded when Bernard Pollard fell into Brady’s leg as he completed a 28-yard pass to Randy Moss.
Many were too busy holding their breath waiting for Brady to hop up like he always did to remember that Moss also fumbled on the play. He hadn’t lost a fumble since his Viking days.
There was no doubt about it now. This wasn’t just an off day.
This was a historically bad day.
Everyone knew it right away. Brady limped off the field but clearly something was very wrong. At least to me, my wife still thought he’d be fine since they didn’t have to cart him off the field. This would’ve sent sixty percent of Gillette Stadium into cardiac arrest, by the way.
Our worst fears were confirmed later that night when pictures of Brady’s leg being bent like a pretzel appeared on the internet. The kind of pictures that make you slightly nauseous, even when it isn’t your man-crush’s leg.
Then Brett Favre unceremoniously leaked that he “heard Brady had an ACL injury”.
“What does Brett Favre know!,” we shouted at ESPN. “He could barely beat last year’s one win Dolphin team! Go study your Jets' playbook unretired one!”
But deep down we know Favre had some kind of inside scoop. The outlook was grim. Brady was done for the year.
None of us could’ve foreseen the doomsday scenario for the Patriots and their fans unfolding that day. But there were many things about opening day 2008 that felt wrong from the start.
Now, and for the rest of NFL eternity, Patriots fans will forever be reminded of that day when they see the GU patch, the scarlet letter of Tom Brady’s 2007 season-ending knee injury.
When any highlight or clip plays, and you catch a glimpse of a non-Raider with a GU patch, you’ll know exactly what day that was.
The day you knew the next four months would be a whole lot less fun.
The day Bernard Pollard shot to the top of your "Hate" list.
The day the Patriots dynasty and Tom Brady’s career were forever altered.
So in the future, when things don’t go the Patriots’ way, just say “GU!”. That will sum it up in the only way a Patriots fan could understand.
Mike Dussault is a Patriots Community Leader at Bleacher Report, and also a contributor atBostonSportz.com. His Patriots blog can be viewed here, and he can be contacted atPatriotsPropaganda@gmail.com.