Torrential Rain, Touchdowns and a 68,000-Person Chorus: Sunday Night in Gillette

January 438Indianapolis Colts’ head coach Chuck Pagano sent up distress flares, begging for rescue.

At least this was the theory of the section I sat in when fireworks exploded accidentally mid-play on a ho-hum 4th-Quarter 1st-down run by New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray during their 45-7 thumping of the Colts in the AFC Championship game.

I didn’t think of the flares as distress signals. Rather, I thought it an eager display of overzealous workers in Gillette Stadium dubbed by my friend Justin Demers, “The Razor”. The workers must’ve gotten so excited they accidentally lit off the fireworks, because the game was over at that point. Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck had just thrown his second pick and the Patriots put in their back-ups in Gray and QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

For those watching at home, it must’ve been a bore to see such utter domination, a lopsided affair lacking the slightest semblance of suspense. When I returned to Syracuse my friends confirmed my suspicion.

“Ugh. Weren’t you bored?” they asked. The answer is no. I was never bored throughout. I experienced their expected tedium as delirium.

In fact, the second-half played more like a concert than contest.

After Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount pounded home a 13-yard TD run with time winding down in the third-quarter to make the score 38-7 New England, a boisterous ruckus exploded.

Strangers hugged, men ran up the stairs high-fiving everyone in sight, my uncle grabbed my shoulders and wouldn’t let go, yelling “What a play!” over and over. Standing throughout the game, a unified crowd of 68,756 belted out Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain? as the drenching downpour soaked everyone in the stadium.

The camera panned around the stadium, capturing every sign, each decorated with a different pun about the Colts needing more than “Luck” to win. It seemed clear that the Patriots had forged a path to Glendale, AZ for the Super Bowl – Patriots fans had earlier groaned while watching the Green Bay-Seattle game finish with a miraculous Seahawks come back on both Jumbotrons.

The finishing blow came on the Patriots next possession when Blount – again – crossed the plain for six points. It’d be the final score of the day and The Razor went over its edge.

“Su-per Bowl!” chants rang out sporadically, Blount posed with the Militia Men in the endzone and Scott Zolak, the Patriots radio color analyst, leaned out of his broadcast booth shaking his towel emblazoned with the Patriots slogan “Do Your Job” as he, purple-faced from screaming, rejoiced as the 68-thousand-person chorus practically shrieked out,

I don’t want to lose your love toniiiiiiight!

It was all the celebrating Patriots fans were too nervous to do last week in their 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Unfortunately, Blount’s score sent smug scoundrels scurrying for the exits, confident their team sealed the win, but now just wanted to go home.

“I forgot championships happen every day!” my uncle called after them.

My uncle and me

When the game went final and CBS cut to commercial, players and executives stormed the field. Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s wife planted one on her victorious husband’s lips (met with impressed applause), Gronk donned his “AFC Championship” t-shirt, held up a “Yo Soy Fiesta” sign and danced in a circle of teammates (met with laughs) and RB Brandon Bolden took off his shoulder pads and knelt in prayer on the west end zone line near the podium and did not rise until after the trophy presentation (met with head-bobbing and polite claps).

The trophy presentation: Never have I ever heard a louder collective roar than when Patriots owner Robert Kraft held up the trophy, displaying it to New England faithful.

On the 1.1-mile walk back to our cars from the stadium, I stopped to turn around to look at the stadium one last time.

An elderly man sat on the steel fence next to the sidewalk behind me. His beard patchy, red throwback Steve Grogan jersey tattered and black shoes raggedy.  His eyes were glassy behind thick spectacles and as I looked at him, we both nodded.

His words slurring, he said, “You know, I might never see another one of these. You probably will, but you can never tell what’s going to happen after tonight.

“But don’t worry about tomorrow. Just remember this moment for the rest of your life.”

I nodded, took a long, final look back at the glistening Gillette gem, put my head down and trudged back towards the car.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York as a freshman at Syracuse University. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and using the word “wicked” as an adjective. He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

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