|Patriots Kickoff NFL 2005|
by Dean Nicosia
The World Champion New England Patriots kicked off the NFL season in style, and I was there to take it in.
The weather was perfect and so was the series of events that preceded the first game of the 2005 NFL season. It was like being at a fireworks show, rock concert and football game all rolled into one.
The Doc and I started out in the parking lot, opting to tailgate at the ESPN tent and witness the live broadcast of ESPN Primetime. They went on at 6pm and 7pm, and in between shows, they spent some time talking to us fans. I was most impressed with Michael Irvin and "Boomer" who worked the crowd and freely talked to any fan that stayed around. They did the autograph thing and pictures and were about as fan friendly as you could imagine. I even shook Irvin's hand and grabbed a picture of his SB ring which as you can see didn't turn out very clear.
Watching them broadcast the show was a unique experience that turned out to be better than your traditional tailgate. When they panned the crowd, I was proud of my fellow Patriots fans, enjoying their time in the spot light. I was quickly reminded of how many times I had tailgated in this parking lot, with no hope that they would ever broadcast ESPN live from our lowly team's parking lot, and no hope that they would ever raise a third SB banner above a beautiful new stadium. We would tailgate and go into our dirty stadium, no better than a run down high school stadium only bigger, and all we could do was hope.
Here we were watching the sports media fawn over our team, our stadium, and our fans, it was a great feeling.
The pre-game activities included a 3 city concert with Santana, and Green Day live from our location. Speakers were wheeled out onto the sidelines to enhance the musical experience, and the stadium lights were shut down, and replaced by colorful spotlights and strobe lights. The setting was about as close to a concert as you could get, only you don't get too many shows that have 68,000 people in attendance.
I had a very proud moment for my fellow fans when the first act came on the big screen, performing from Philly, I think. His name is Kanye West, and he is the rapper who said on National TV that the President was a racist because the help back relief to New Orleans on purpose. Well when his face popped up on the screen, and he was announced to the crowd in Foxboro, he was booed louder than a Yankee at Fenway. Hearing the booing as it rolled through Gillette, was a very proud moment for me. I'm sure that the boos could not be heard on TV, as they were showing this jerk from another location, but let me tell you they were real.
Another proud and cool moment was just before the team was announced. Bob Kraft announced Ozzy Osbourne instead. The helmet that the team runs through to get out onto the field was in it's usual spot. At that point the top slowly came up to reveal a stage and Ozzy, with a Patriots #1 jersey on, as he sang Crazy Train, which is the song that the team has been coming out to since 2001. A very cool site indeed.
As the team ran out with Ozzy singing, lights flashing and fireworks exploding overhead, it was almost too much to take in. It had the feeling of the Super Bowl, only with one team as the featured team.
The game started off a bit scary, but after the Patriots settled in, they started doing what they did best. Tom Brady took control of the offense, and while they couldn't run the ball well, they took what the Raiders would give them and they passed.
The Doc and I had standing room tickets, it was the only way to get in the place, but we found a nice spot to watch the game at the top of the lower bowl on the thirty yard line. I've never watched a game that close on the 30, so I enjoyed the view. You could see every play develop, and you could watch receivers as they came open.
At the end of the night, we walked out with a victory in hand, and the feeling was that this team may just kickoff the NFL season in 2006.
Gillette stadium is beautiful at night, and on a night when the fireworks were flying and the concert lighting was in full bloom, it was even that much the spectacle.
Let's hope that the Patriots host a few more of these Championship parties, and if you can, go see one.