After so many years, it was time. There are some global sports stars who are worth the admission price alone, and here was one. Tom Brady.
I’ve been privileged to see so many great sports stars over the years, from LeBron James to Leo Messi; Roger Federer to Dan Carter; Brian Lara to Usain Bolt. But as a long-standing Pat’s fan, getting to see Brady was a proper, top of the pile, bucket list item.
Following the Patriots from afar was great but there’s no replacing being live in Foxboro. Of course, I’d been here before. I’d seen the Pats play at the (old) Meadowlands, too. But it wasn’t the same. Because they were both the year Brady got injured. Sorry, Matt Cassell – it’s not me, it’s you!
I’d already bought my tickets for the Jets road game that year, so that was just poor luck on my part, not getting to see TB12 live. Later in the season when I went to the return fixture, I knew what I’d see but I at least got to see other massive stars like Randy Moss and Brett Favre. It wasn’t a complete bust.
As time went on, I still felt a need to get back and see Brady, and so the start of my current trip came about. A long weekend in Boston with a trip to Gillette thrown in. The ticket was extortionate, but the excitement was just as high.
The only problem? Deflategate and Brady’s suspension. My game was week 6, and after a summer of legal back and forths, I was home and dry and there was only a 4-week ban. Even better was that the game v the Bengals was Brady’s homecoming. And boy, did he work the crowd up to show just that.
Before I get carried away though, let me tell you about the Patriots Train. Gillette Stadium is nowhere near Boston and I decided to give the train a go. There’s one there. And one back. And it sells out quickly. Arriving at South Station I boarded the 10.15 to Gillette, aboard train number TB12. The train reminded me why train travel in the US is so hit and miss – crappy faux-leather seats, plenty ripped and an interior carriage which probably looked aged in the 1980s.
Most people didn’t seem to be regulars aboard this train, either, as it crawled along and people asked “where the hell are we?” Eventually, after about 75minutes, we stopped in a forest. Google Maps told me we were close to the stadium but what nobody realised was that this forest was the stop! We had to jump down from the train as there was no platform and then walk along the tracks to the stadium parking lots. It was certainly an interesting experience. We were also warned the train left promptly after the match so not to hang around. Last thing I needed was to miss my ride home so I planned an exit appropriately.
The train arrived in plenty of time so I was able to grab a beer and some food and walk around the stadium, getting pictures from ends and sides and other ends. I’d done a full lap by time I decided I should probably climb all the way up to the Gods and my seat. Despite the lack of oxygen, it was a great seat, slap bang on the 50, giving a perfect view of the entire field.
One of the great things about the NFL, is all the good causes they support and October is the month where they highlight breast cancer awareness and wear a lot of pink. The Pat’s had two brilliant displays during the game, too.
The game itself were swings of emotions – the noise Brady came out to was unbelievable but the Bengals managed the ball well, on both sides, and kept the Pats quiet on the field and in the stands. Even so, the Pat’s still led at HT but it was tough going and the Bengals came out firing in the second half to take the lead again.
Step up: GOAT. There’s a reason Brady is loved in New England. There’s a reason he’s the greatest of all time. There’s a reason other teams are jealous of him. To be fair to the rest of the Pats, the game actually turned on a holding penalty, a great defensive play and making sure Brady got a chance to impress. The tide had turned and Brady was able to manage a comfortable win, alongside some typical Gronk play, winding up the Bengals as he went!
With about 5 minutes left, I started to work my way down from the lofty upper tier, stopping along the way to watch the game. The great thing about Gillette is that the stadium is open. SO open that on a bad NE day, it can be horrible, but not today in the glorious sun. At each level I could stop and still see the field so didn’t miss any of the action. By the time the final TD came I was down at the bottom level watching along the field, but in prime position to hit the shop and get back to the train, wanting to ensure I got a bloody seat!
Back in the city, I felt tired and had a lie down before heading out to my now-regular bar, Rock Bottom. This place is a bit of a chain but makes its own beer and shows sport. That’s all I needed. I’ve been here each of my three nights here and tried every one of their own beers they had available. I’d felt crappy heading out, but it’s amazing what a few beers, a fat burger and sport on TV can do.
And with that, I’m leaving Boston to head to Chicago. Tomorrow my wife joins me but this doesn’t mean the fun or football stops – it’s just getting going. I’ll see you all at Lambeau Field on Thursday night!