I have only ever watched American Football at Wembley so it was a completely different experience to watch it on home soil at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Carolina Panthers took on the New England Patriots and we were lucky enough to attend. My friend needed to make his pilgrimage to the stadium to see his beloved Patriots and watch Quarterback Tom Brady play before he retires from the game. Being an American Football fan myself, I made the journey with him and here is the story of our day.
The day began like most while we were in Boston; slightly cloudy with a cool breeze. Warm enough to wear shorts but not in the shade. We wondered from our hotel down to South Station to take the train to the stadium (about 30 miles from central Boston). The train was huge and easily contained 1500-2000 people on board. There was a real buzz about the game on the train as we chatted to all those around us. All was going well until about half an hour into our trip. The train slowly ground to a halt and the power stopped including the lights and the air conditioning. At this point the game kicked off in two and a bit hours time so we thought we would get there with plenty of time to spare, if it was a quick fix. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The day before the game I was chatting to some Panthers fans hailing from Charlotte, in a bar in Boston. They were friendly, kind people and before I had to leave they invited my friend and I to a tailgate before the game the next day. For those readers outside of the US, a tailgate is essentially a barbecue cooked on a grill attached to the back of pick-up trucks. This would be our first tailgate and I was very much looking forward to it. The thought of reaching the game on time let alone the tailgate was going through my mind when an hour later we were still sat on the now very hot, powerless train.
People were getting agitated and annoyed as the train company were not saying much about our situation. Some people got off the train and decided to take an Uber to the stadium (at this point about 10 miles away) knowing that although the traffic was bad, they would likely get to the game on time. Unfortunately for them due to high demand, Uber costs were north of $200! As the last few people got into their expensive taxis, the train announcer told us all that there was engine failure and we have now moved to a different engine. As we started to pull away, many of those who got an Uber were likely regretting it.
By the time we arrived at the stadium we had missed the tailgate but arrived before the game had started. Sadly for us, because of the sheer amount of people on the train, the massive crowd trying to get through security meant we had missed the (currently controversial) national anthem and about 3 minutes of play.
As soon as I entered the stadium I noticed the vast amount of choice of food and drink on offer (probably because at this point I was very hungry). I had to get myself a hotdog; after all, I am in America. I was surprised to see that margaritas and other cocktails were for sale and you can take them to your seat watch the game. Although I have had a beer when watching the Jaguars play at Wembley in my seat, when you watch the England national team play, you cannot drink in your seat and home fans are segregated from away fans. This is something of a surprise to me at the NFL game where both sets of fans were mixed. Of course, this is completely normal for NFL fans and there was absolutely no trouble.
The game was exciting to watch and very close. The final score was Patriots 30 - 33 Panthers, with the Panthers converting a last-minute field goal to deal a final blow. It wasn’t all disappointment however; just before half time we witnessed the longest completed field goal in Patriots history (58 yards)! I also enjoyed the Patriots fans around us. They were so loud, so much louder than any NFL I had watched at Wembley. Horns would bellow out when the Panther’s offence came on the field to put them off and help get the crowd going. One of the best things I noticed that day was every time the Patriots made a score, a line of “Ye Olde” style dressed ‘Patriots’ would fire rifles, in a display that could only be seen in, let’s face it, America. As the game ended, we headed back to the now fully repaired train to make our way back to Boston. We had a great day and even managed to get sunburnt.