Foxborough the place where wins are easy on the ears
“Would those of you in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry.’’
— John Lennon, performing with the Beatles for British royalty at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre in 1963
Was Tom Brady channeling the Beatles when he called out New England football fans last week? Will Patriots fans rise to the challenge this Sunday when the mighty Bills come to Foxborough? Will foam-fingered fans be allowed to stand and make noise? Will they stay till the end? Or will they sit by the fireplaces inside the red level and . . . rattle their jewelry?
So many questions.
Most of you no doubt are more concerned with Sunday’s 28-14 drubbing in the Meadowlands and Kevin Faulk’s injury. You’re wondering whether Bill Belichick has taken on too many jobs this year. Where are the vaunted halftime adjustments? Can this defense stop Harvard’s Ryan Fitzpatrick? What’s up with the play-calling? Does Bill O’Brien know what he’s doing? Why can’t Brady orchestrate late-game comebacks anymore? Will the Patriots win a road game before November?
Beli-strator junkies can dissect X’s and O’s, points of attack, and the search for a running back. Me? I’m wondering about the silent majority — those 68,000 who brave Route 1 every other week and play dead for three quarters while Brady & Co. go about their business on the Gillette grid.
Please try to remember that Brady is the one who raised the issue.
Standing in the locker room last Wednesday, Brady took questions about the Jets. This was just three days after an easy 38-24 victory over the Bengals at Gillette — a game the Patriots led, 31-3, just seconds into the third quarter — and Brady was asked about New England’s 2009 road woes (2-6) and making a statement at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
He started his answer with, “The Meadowlands has always been a tough place to play,’’ then launched into an indictment of the Patriot Place population.
“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. I don’t think the Jets fans leave early. They’re going to be loud the whole game. Communication is always an issue.’’
That was it. Just a few edgy words of truth in the middle of an otherwise boilerplate answer about playing on the road. When Brady’s words hit the sports talk airwaves, they had the impact of a lit match in a barn of hay.
Typically, most Patriots fans accepted the slap. New England football fans rarely challenge Messrs. Kraft, Belichick, or Brady on any topic. This explains why Brady can call them out as overstuffed brie-eaters who want to beat the traffic. Characterizing your own fans as “friendly’’ is never a good thing. Bill Parcells once described his Air Force team as “slow and friendly.’’ It was a shot then, it’s a shot now. And hardly anybody objected.
Belichick wasn’t taking the bait yesterday. Asked about Brady’s comments, Hoodie said, “Whatever question you have about his comments, you could ask him about those.’’ (We will, today.) “I think we have a good record in our stadium’’ — they were 8-0 last year, before the playoffs. “I hope we can keep it that way.’’
Asked about the noise level at Gillette, Belichick said he’s on the headset the whole game and “I’m really not as in tune on that as maybe somebody else would be.’’ He acknowledged that crowd noise can disrupt a visiting team.
Just not here, I guess.
Including preseason games and playoff games, the Patriots have played in front of 173 consecutive sellout crowds in Foxborough. That’s without papering the house the way the Red Sox are doing this week for their rockin’ home series against the Orioles. The Patriots’ sellout streak is legit, and there is a list of 50,000 waiting to replace any ticket-holders who want to bail.
They admit they are quiet. A lot of them are in a rush to get out; Route 1 on game days is a blacktop gulag. Some have complained that they are not encouraged to stand and make noise during the games. After Brady’s remarks, there were calls to talk radio from fans who said they’d been told by security that they cannot stand during the games.
“We don’t have a policy that you can’t stand,’’ Patriots publicist Stacey James said. “If there are multiple complaints about someone standing the entire game, then sometimes an usher will try to mediate and ask people to sit. But it’s got to be multiple complaints.’’
Brady’s words won’t change anything. Ours is not a football culture. We don’t understand the game the way folks do in Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. It has been said that Patriots fans are to sports what nouveau riche are to money. They don’t know how to handle success.
Gillette does not hold the noise. Its split levels create a caste system of supporters. Ticket prices and parking prices have taken the common man out of the mix. The folks who call talk radio and stomp and shout and clap their hands are home in front of the plasma TV.
Brady is right. The Patriots win at home, but it’s not because Foxborough is a den of din. Kraft’s Crib is not a royal pain for the visitors. It’s more like a giant royal box.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.