Franchise QB Tom Brady has gotten some mixed results to a comment made earlier today after practice. Brady, in commenting on the crowd noise the team has to face when playing the Jets, he also noted how quiet and empty Gillette Stadium can be at times. One of those times was last Sunday in the fourth quarter with the Patriots up by 21 points. The stadium began clearing out, and it didn’t go unnoticed to #12:
“It’s a tough place to play. The Meadowlands is always a tough place to play,” Brady said. “The road environment is very different than our friendly home crowd, who, when I looked up, half the stadium was gone when we were up 21 points in the early fourth quarter, which I wasn’t so happy about. But I don’t think the Jets fans leave early.”
Does he have a point?
There are some realities that fan decisions on whether to stay through the entire game or leave early factor on. The major reason is the horrendous traffic to and from Gillette Stadium. The only access road is Route 1, and it is not close enough to a major highway to allow easy access from the stadium. Fans can sit for hours just trying to leave the stadium. I am not a season ticket holder and have only been to one regular season Patriots game as a fan (and one preseason game). I say “as a fan” because I worked at Gillette Stadium doing security during the 2005 season. When I went to the regular season game as a fan, I took the commuter rail to and from the game, thus avoiding the traffic. I made the decision for forgo tailgating in lieu of sitting in traffic.When I attended the preseason game with my father, he was insistent on leaving early (about two minutes left or so) to avoid traffic. He was driving so I had no choice, and we still ended up sitting in traffic.
However, when I worked at the stadium, I experienced the full force of the traffic. Depending on what my duty was that particular game day, I would either be working hours after the event or be released as soon as the game was over. I did everything I could to find something to do if I was released right after the game ended to try and wait out the traffic, but it was a losing battle. There was no Patriot Place to go to back then. At least now, I believe there are some restaurants or stores open that fans can go to after a game. If I’m wrong about that please correct me in the comments section.
That being said, I feel that leaving the game early, win or lose, no matter the score, is foolish. Season ticket prices are astronomical (at least for a poor teacher like myself) and parking is over $40. Why spend all of that money to no enjoy the full game experience? If the game is a 1 pm game, bust that grill back out and cook some dinner in the parking lot and continue the party. When I worked at the stadium, especially when I worked the club and luxury sections, I was astounded at how many people left early. They had the best seats in the house and couldn’t even stay the whole time. Yes, it is a person’s right to leave when they choose, but it just seems like sort of a rip-off, especially for those of us who can’t afford to be in that position.
That is only half of the charge Brady made. He also noted the “friendly” home stadium, referring to the lack of crowd noise. Brady is not the first Patriot to comment on the lack of crowd noise. Gillette Stadium’s open construction does not lend itself to generating the find of noise you’d hear at the Meadowlands or Lucas Oil Field. But that is only part of the problem. When I worked the club section, where folks have a choice of sitting in those red seats at the mid-level part of the stadium or staying inside for fine wine and food, many fans stayed inside during cold weather games. Yeah it’s cold, but c’mon! It’s football! Compare that to the images of bundled up diehards during the Super Bowl playoff runs, especially in 2001 at the old Foxborough Stadium that had no club section. When I was out amongst the crowd working, I marveled at the number of folks just sitting down. Again, it’s one’s prerogative to do so, but seriously?
My most vivid memory of Gillette Stadium fans came when I attended a home game against the Miami Dolphins in 2007. I was sitting in the lower section, a few rows up from one of the end zones, and I jumped out of my seat and starting making noise when the Patriot defense was on the field. People around me were mad at me! They were sitting in their seats and glaring at me! Now, if I were being lewd or a drunken fool I would have understood. But I wasn’t. I was just yelling. I then raised my hands up, gesturing those around me to get up and join in, but it wasn’t happening.
We are all shaped by our experiences, and perhaps my perspective has been jaded by my season and a game of experience. However, based on my experiences, I have to agree with Brady. We New England fans are better than that. I know we are because back in the gritty, metal bench Foxborough Stadium days, we were loud (though seats did empty out then too). The team has brought us some great memories for the past decade, so to anyone attending a home game, let’s keep those memories going and make some noise for the defense!