I’m celebrating a milestone with the Pats over the next few months; we’re both turning 50! Actually, the Patriots are technically a year older than I am. They started their first season in 1959, mine was 1960.
I grew up with the Pats, and like the Pats. I had a few rough years in the early going. That’s a large part of the reason the Patriots have always held a special place in my life. Like the Pats, I went through some lean years, some failures, nearly lost my life at times, and saw a few ownership changes. There were times when I wasn’t sure if I had a home and many periods where any home was temporary.
Like the Pats, I learned how to persevere and how to create opportunity out of disaster!
The “nouveau fan” will not understand what I’m about to say; the die-hard Pats fan will. Parts of my hind-quarters are probably in some scrap-metal yard, forever frozen to the old Schaefer Stadium benches.
We did actually drink Schaefer beer as we sat through some of the Pats most challenging years. This was a feat in itself as Schaefer is the only beer that actually increases in volume leaving the body, a phenomenon our beloved Foxboro facilities were ill-equipped to handle.
Some of you will remember sitting with about 5,000 other people who braved an icy wind to make it to the 4th quarter of Drew Bledsoe’s first victory. Remember the brilliant snap out of the end zone on the punt to set up the game-winning drive?
Some of you will remember feeling not only elation, but retribution for the infamous “Tuck Rule” call. The Raiders had their phantom roughing call against Ray Hamilton in ’76; to us this was just long-awaited payback. I don’t care if it was the right call or not; but it was.
Some of you will remember the first prototypical running quarterback in the NFL, Steve Grogan. Grogan was probably the toughest man ever to play the position. He may well have set the tone for Michael Vick and his peers and may be the person most responsible for setting a linebacker to “spy” on the quarterback. Steve, some of us were with you all the way.
Some of you may have been around long enough to remember Gino Cappelletti, as a player and not for his infamous call of the first Super Bowl victory. Those of us who do are entitled to our righteous indignation at Canton’s snubbing of the greatest kicker/player ever to strap on the pads. Gino was an All-World receiver, defensive back, kicker, and punter. He put the slash in slash before Kordell Stewart was born.
One of the greatest unresolved atrocities in pro-football history is the fact that Gino Cappelletti is not a member of the Hall-of-Fame. Screw ‘em! Gino is revered here and for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, take thee a pilgrimage to Patriot’s Place.
There are too many great players and great memories. It would take a book to tell them all!
Let’s fast-forward to 2001. To the people in the northeast, the attacks on 9/11 were not a news story. It was an attack on our soil and our neighbors. In a year that demanded patriotism, an unknown Tom Brady and his crew of NFL misfits cast us all in a Hollywood movie version of NFL history. They picked us up, put us on their backs, and gave us arguably the least probable and most exciting championship in NFL history.
The country and the Patriots gave us something to believe in.
For many of you, your love affair with the Pats started the moment Adam Vinatieri’s foot launched the “Shot Heard Round the World.” For those of us in the Old Guard, that drive was vindication for all our years of loyalty and validation that the underdog could still take it all.
The past two years were still two of the greatest in Patriots history. You nouveau fans will not understand. The rest of us don’t expect you to.
The last second corruption of the perfect season was painful. Lesser failures have ruined other franchises. Instead, the Pats simply picked up their now proverbial “lunch pails” and prepare.
Dare to do it again? How tight was your chest when Brady went down in the first game last year? Revenge would have to wait, right?
Then up stepped the latest untried, untested phenomenon in the Belichik era. Matt Cassel simply decided to become a top tier NFL quarterback and went to work re-writing the rules on the role of backup to a franchise player.
The intelligent football fanatic could make a reasonable argument that the past two years were among the best put together in any NFL campaign.
One for the absolute domination of the league until two games showed that the spirit of the 2001 Pats was alive and well, albeit in a Giant’s uniform.
The other for the nearly unparalleled job of coaching, teamwork and tenacity that kept a decimated Patriots unit in the battle through the last game of the season.
What’s next? Is the Patriots Dynasty nearing the end , or are you ready for the "Next Coming of the Brady Bunch?" It looks like Brady will be back, Belichick is still the commander, Moss is still hungry, and, Bruschi is still alive. I can hardly wait!
You nouveau fans may be in a state of apoplexy over the last two seasons, the rest of us are right where we want to be, ready for the next incredible Patriots come-back. “Buckle up your chin-straps,” here we go again!
(By the way, you may have noticed the conspicuous absence of any mention of video cameras, Eric Mangini or Tony Eason. May they all rest in peace!)
Jim Bouchard is a life-long Pats fan and America’s Black Belt Powervator!