It was one year ago that I had my greatest experience as a New England Patriots fan. I thought I would share an essay I wrote below about it.
When the Patriots defeated the New York Jets in the Wild Card game it meant that they would travel to San Diego for the next round - two short hours from my house. I told myself I would be willing to spend three hundred dollars on a ticket. Sunday night I did a preliminary search of eBay and the brokers. If I had to pay $175 for a regular season nosebleed what would it be for a playoff game? I found a ticket for $240 in the very last row of Charger Stadium. If nothing else, I would get that one. But then I heard that the San Diego Chargers were releasing a bunch of single tickets to California residents only on Ticketmaster at noon the next day. Fans from Boston were outraged, but for me it was a chance to actually get a ticket that wouldn't put me into negative checking.
I’d pretty much resigned myself to the fact that getting a ticket like this on Ticketmaster would be nearly impossible. It would require my ultimate focus. The next day at work I told no one to bother me. I brought up five Ticketmaster screens and began refreshing every few seconds precisely at 11:56. At noon the tickets popped up and I scrambled to enter the code of random letters like Agatha8. No luck with one. Incorrect letters on another. The guy who works next to me said he was having no luck either. Another incorrect letter. Then… success. I got a ticket. I clicked to confirm and buy the ticket and… Ticketmaster crashed. It said to press back. I did that but I couldn’t find my ticket. I looked in my account. It was nowhere. It was gone. I tried again to get another ticket. Nothing. It was 12:05 and everything was sold out.
I was furious. I had gotten so close. And lost out a ticket because of a computer error. Meanwhile all the ticket brokers must’ve cashed in and were now selling the ticket I had for ten times it’s face value. Then I thought of something. Maybe the same thing happened to other people. Maybe there will be a few tickets that get kicked back into the system. I tried one more time and, by the grace of God, I got a ticket. I didn’t even look where it was. All I knew is I was paying $146 and the ticket would be Fedexed to me on an overnight. I cautiously clicked the confirmed buttons and codes and info, thinking if it crashed again I might throw my computer out the window. But it didn’t crash. I got the ticket. But where was I sitting? I pulled up a map of the stadium. I was sitting 11 rows behind the Patriots bench.
Needless to say I came as close as I’ve ever come to doing a back flip. It was Monday 12:10pm and I began the countdown to Sunday. I emailed a Boston friend who lives in San Diego. He emailed right back, not only was he going but he lived a mile from the stadium. We could walk there. I had thrown myself into this Patriots season and I had been rewarded with amazing luck.
After what was quite possibly the longest work week of my life the weekend finally arrived. I had been listening to San Diego sports radio all week long and it was getting me even more fired up. The Charger fans were already making plans for the Super Bowl. Everyone said the Pats had no chance. But they didn’t realize that we have heard that a lot in the past six years. We could never beat the Rams. We could never beat the Colts. We could never beat the Steelers. But we beat them all. And had three Super Bowl rings to prove it. I made a mix CD for the drive down that started with the quote from Anchorman… ‘And I’m Ron Burgundy, Go F Yourself San Diego’ then kicked right into some Motorhead. I talked to my family on the drive down. They could all hear how excited I was. My Mom said I sounded like an eight year old going to see Empire Strikes Back for the twelfth time.
I awoke on my friends couch at about 7am. The stadium was just down a steep hill from his house. We decided the best plan would be to park the car in a prime location then walk back up to the house for pregame action. As we drove into the lot a man waving a Patriots flag greeted us. Probably a good idea to park near him we figured. It would be my first NFL game at an opponent’s stadium. The next hour was filled with Bloody Mary and Breakfast Burrittos, then we moved on to beers. We met up with some other fans and began the walk back down to the stadium. Charger fans were chirping at us the whole way down but it was all in good fun. Once we got into the stadium parking lot our merry band of Patriots fans was viciously booed. One person would start and the rest of the are would join in. All I did was hold up three fingers. That’s all that needed to be said.
We ran into various other Patriot fans. Traded home towns. Shared a beer. When we spotted a Pats jersey we would all yell “Good Guys!” There was some good-natured debate with the Charger fans. All of it that I witnessed was civil although someone made fun of my headband which really hurt my feelings. By the time we decided to enter the stadium I found myself at the perfect amount of drunk and giddy.
We were booed even harder as we walked in. Once we got thru the gate I bid my friends adieu, plugged in my Ipod for some good pump up music, and set out on the mission to find my seat. I was completely focused as I walked through the stadium. I would offer a high five to the random Patriots fans as I passed them but all I could think about was just how good my seats really were.
Apparently I might’ve been a little too messed up because finding my seat was a little more complicated than I would’ve liked. At one point I began to wonder if the Ushers were messing with me since I was in my Bruschi jersey and Patriots head band. Eventually I found my seats and they were everything I had hoped. The entire Patriots team was just fifty feet away. Unlike the first game of the season I made sure to get to my seats early. And I was delighted to find myself surrounded on all sides by Patriot fans.
This was even more surreal than the first game of the season for sure. After all this was the premiere game of the weekend. All eyes in the football world were watching this game and I was there. Right there. With my team. The game began and again it was pretty much a blur. Every huge catch. Every huge play was hard to appreciate at the moment since there was no one pointing it out, no one making a big deal out of it. It was simply what was happening before my eyes. The Pats managed to hang on and hang on, never letting the Charger lead get too big. And when it came down to the fourth quarter we knew we had the ultimate weapon – Tom Brady, king of fourth quarter comebacks.
When Gostkowski finally kicked the field goal to go up by three points it was the climax. Time expired. We were going back to the AFC Championship. The kid kicker came thru in the clutch just like Adam had so many times before. The run was not over.
Keywords: New England Patriots San Diego Chargers NFL AFC Playoffs 2006 Tom Brady Fan