Gridiron Bonding

In a few hours I’m going to be really, really cold.

Temperatures will be in the mid-20s. Sustained winds will be between 15-20 MPH, with occasional gusts up to 35 MPH.  Factor in the windchill and it’ll be about 10 degrees outside. Snow flurries are not out of the question. The whipping winds will lash my exposed eyes making them burn and tear up. I won’t be able to move around to keep warm. I will yell and scream out loud frequently, and I’ll likely feel the chill in my bones for the next 24 hours.

Not only I am thrilled about all of this, I’m paying hundreds of dollars for it.

OK, so technically I’m not paying. My father is the one shelling out the money for season tickets to the best football team in the NFL — the New England Patriots. But either way, if you think it’s nuts to shell out $120 per ticket for the game, $9 for a beer, $7 for a state sausage — all while sitting in freeze-your-nuts-off arctic weather — then you’re obviously not familiar with my family.

My dad has had these season tickets for more than three decades. I’m only 31, but I’ve been going to the games since the age of six. So going to the Patriots games is our thing. A father-son ritual. When I think of the Patriots the first thought in my head is not of three Super Bowls, Tom Brady’s Bieber-esque flowing locks, Bill Belichick’s unrivaled coaching or Tedy Bruschi’s legacy of winning.

I think of my dad.

Dad and I started this tradition before the Patriots were THE PATRIOTS. Before the Palace of Kraft was constructed in 2002, we attended games in a rundown shit-house known as Foxboro Stadium. Before lowering ourselves into individual seats, we froze our asses off on aluminum benches. And prior to Belichick and Brady giving all New Englanders something to cheer about, Patriots fans suffered through 40 years of being football’s joke.

But none of that — none of it — mattered to me as a kid.

For eight Sundays a year I was in my glory. I got to tag along with my dad and his friends and go to a real, live professional sporting event. But make no mistake, it was less the game than my temporary inclusion as “one of the guys” that I cherished.

My dad and his buddies treated me like a quasi-grownup. They swore a lot. They cursed Tony Eason and the lousy Patriots’ defenses of the late 1980s and early 1990s. They cracked crude jokes. Not to mention as the low man on the totem pole I had to sit all the way in the middle of the row. But as a little kid who didn’t have the strongest bladder, that meant I was getting up fairly often to go to the men’s room. Which meant I was disturbing the guys. Therefore the price I paid for my constant urination was getting punched, kicked and put in headlocks as I ran the gauntlet toward the bathroom.

I absolutely loved it.

Soon the other guys gave up their tickets and it was just three of us. Two tickets for my dad and one for his best friend Rick, who I refer to as “Uncle Rick.” My brother and I split the games down the middle (four for each of us) while Rick and my dad attend all eight home games.

We have a super-secret ninja parking space that allows us to leave for the game an hour before it starts and get home 45 minutes after it ends with no traffic. Each week during the fall and winter we don our Pats gear and traipse through the Foxboro woods toward sprawling Gillette Stadium.

That walk has been made through rain, lightning, hail and blizzards. But we make that walk every time. Because it’s our walk. It’s our game. It’s our THING. Luckily my dad is one of my best friends, but even if we didn’t get along so well we’d have the Patriots. Our Patriots. Our inside jokes about the people who sit near us. Bitching about how the Kraft family has turned our football stadium into the Mall of America. Wondering why our beloved quarterback won’t cut his fucking hair.

Someday Will is going to take that walk with us. At some point I’ll punch his ticket for the “One of the Guys” club and this thing will become our thing. We’ll park at the same house, traverse the same woods and have the same heart-to-heart talks on the way. Because those in-depth discussions seem much more manly when you’re on your way to a football game!

And those games will be our thing, borrowed but still new in so many ways. Even if Will doesn’t like football, that’s OK. The game is secondary. Because I’ll tell you right now, I didn’t freeze my ass off and trek through snow and ice for 25 years just to see football games. I did it to see football games with my dad.

Years from now I want Will to look back at the times he was chilled to the bone and soaked to the skin and smile. Not because the Patriots won (although that’d be nice), but because he remembers us doing our thing. Together.


Whew…that’s better.

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9 thoughts on “Gridiron Bonding

  1. I’ve got my UnderArmour ready to go! Bring it on! I’ve got a big group, but if you are there early, let me know and I’ll come say hello.

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  3. So, I guess you’re feeling pretty good after that 45-3 butt whupping the Pats put on the Jets huh? Great post about the relationship between a father and a son. I wish my dad and I had something like this. He and I have never been close, and I’ve always sworn that my son and I will be. If we go your route, it will be to sit in the climate control of Ford Field to watch the forever sucky Lions. That’s right, the Lions. Your Pats put in on them on Turkey Day, and it wasn’t even a surprise. If you want to know suffering, be a Lions fan!

  4. And they sure did whoop some ass!! Nice job Pats! Funny, I’ve been going to Eagles games with my dad since, gosh, I can barely remember… forever! I’m 40 now, dad’s in his 70’s and we still go to the games. Great post.

  5. Enjoyed the post a lot – and enjoyed taking you and your brother over the years more than anything. And I started going to Patriots games with a season ticket my Mom bought for me and my grandfather in 1973, and we went games together for a lot of years. And when Will and I go on my two tickets – we’ll be thining of you! 🙂

  6. Great post! You put the whole father son experience perfectly. It is amazing to share something like that. Just another reason why sports are so great. And you owe your Dad a debt of gratitude for being a true Pats fan back in the lean years so now you can have tickets to the success they have had lately.

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