'Baggers bring the noise
FOXBOROUGH -- This is the 17th Patriots' mailbag of the season here on Boston.com, and as we come down the home stretch, it's time to ratchet things up.
But before we do, a special thanks to Patrick Flynn, who sometimes submits questions from his hometown of Hadley, Mass. Patrick suggested we open each mailbag with a few quick words, previewing what is to come, and perhaps offering some power rankings from around the NFL.
This week, we offer three Patriots thoughts to ponder:
1) After playing much of Sunday's game with one tight end after Benjamin Watson was injured in the first half (he didn't return), the Patriots might have to bring in another player at the position. The likely candidate would be free agent Jed Weaver, who was with the Patriots in training camp and hasn't hooked on with a team this year. With Daniel Graham fighting through some shoulder pain, and Watson not being able to finish the game Sunday, the team is potentially thin at tight end. Weaver would be a logical choice to fill in. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, declined comment when reached Tuesday morning.
2) Free-agent linebacker Mike Maslowski, who visited with the Patriots last week, was brought in with an eye toward next year. Maslowski was scheduled to work out in Green Bay on Tuesday.
3) When the Patriots were looking for a head coach after the 1999 season, one of the possibilities was a tandem of Dom Capers as head coach and Tom Donahoe as general manager. Six years later, Capers is on the verge of losing his job in Houston and Donahoe could have a similar fate in Buffalo, where he serves as president.
The mailbag was overflowing this week. The crowd noise issue at Gillette Stadium generated passionate response. As usual, there were many injury inquiries, as well as some fans peeking to the playoffs.
Thanks to those who wrote in, and we'll look forward to doing it again next week. Here we go ...
Like many people expressed here, I was very disappointed with the crowd noise in the Jets game. I felt like spectators were observing a funeral there. This is really not fair for the Patriots, who have been world champions for 3 out of 4 years. New England fans know how to root for Red Sox though they never won until last year. Patriots never get respect in Boston area as much as Red Sox not even on a game day.
Gajanan Bhat, Marlborough
A: The crowd noise remains a hot topic, with double-digit emails to this mailbag. Some think it's the team's job to give the fans something to cheer about. Others say the fans should step up regardless and support the team. Some say the "real fans" have been priced out. Others pin it on the club seat patrons, who sit in the prime areas of the stadium. Some have fingered ownership for creating fear among ticket holders that they might lose their tickets if they get too rowdy. Pick a theory and hang on for the ride, because there are plenty more emails to digest on the topic.
With all this talk about crowd noise in the past week, I haven't heard anything about the cost of going to a game. Could it be that charging the highest ticket prices in the league draws a more corporate crowd and leaves more passionate and knowledgeable fans out in the cold (or in the warmth of their own living rooms)?
Josh Houghton, Watertown
A: That is certainly one theory that has been mentioned. The Patriots' response would probably be that they charge high ticket prices, but that's because they didn't have personal seat licenses -- when fans pay an up-front fee for the right to buy their seat.
In response to Richard Seymour: When I go to games I'm as loud as I can be. But I find that Pats tickets are so rare. When I can find tickets, they are too expensive. I go to 3-4 games a year and the only game I went to was the Falcons, IN Atlanta. The truth is that the true fans can't afford going to the games. Tickets prices are among the highest in football, and impossible to get.
Seth Beecher, Unionville, Conn.
A: Checking the Patriots' Web site, it looks like prices for tickets are $125, $89, $75 and $59, depending on location. For a comparison, I checked the Cowboys' Web site and their tickets range from $93, $80, $73, $62, $49 and $48. So the difference between the cheapest tickets is $11.
The Krafts are just as much to blame for the low crowd noise at Gillette. The key noise areas on both sides of the field are club seats. The club members are often in the club and are not the rabid season ticket holders. They are there to enjoy the club. When you pay so much per ticket, you want to spend some time in the club. My club seats have lawyers, surgeons, accountants and others who frankly enjoy the club and feel that they have to get their money's worth. This is the key. You can't tell club seat members to not leave their seats 5 -10 minutes before the half because reality is that if you don't leave for the [inside] club early, you won't get a seat. It's too full with absolutely no seating for its members.
G. Peter Libby, Attleboro
A: I was unaware that this might be a reason for club-seat holders to leave their seats early. Thanks for sharing the information.
An open letter to the Patriots about stadium noise. To Richard Seymour: Dear Richard, I heard you were concerned about the lack of fan noise at Gillette Stadium. I thought I might be able to help you figure out the problem. As a 12-year season ticket holder, I was cheering the team in training camp -- didn't you hear me? I guess not, since you weren't there. I was cheering players such as Tedy Bruschi, who was trying to make a comeback from a debilitating stroke and Rosie Colvin, who suffered a devastating hip injury. You know, players who understand the meaning of team. Of course, you couldn't hear my crowd noise since you were at home demanding more money, despite your contractual obligations to the team. If you want to hear my crowd noise, show up in training camp and play every down. Just what have you done that warrants fan noise? Here is a suggestion -- try talking to your owner, who threatens revocation of season tickets if you make too much noise or get too excited when the team plays well. Take notice, the crowd always finds a way to cheer Willie McGinest, Troy Brown, Mike Vrabel or Adam Vinateri. To Vince Wilfork: You play football in New England, not south Florida. Have you ever sat in Gillette for four hours in the cold; it's not that fun. What makes it worse is watching mediocre teams blow by you with their running attack. Remember Keith Traylor and Ted Washington, they were here to stop the run, now that's your job. If you want me to take off my gloves and cheer, do something extraordinary. Having a defense that ranks at the bottom of the league isn't much to cheer about. To Bob & Jonathan Kraft: As owners, you have created a stadium that is lifeless and dull, so change the policies and the fans might find a way to create more noise for the team. Unlike Richard, Vince, or Tom I have lived through many bad seasons. So maybe it's the players who are spoiled. How often does Richard Seymour acknowledge the fans for their support; we can only provide so much support to a team that provides a lackluster effort. I don't see the fans dropping passes, overthrowing wide-open receivers, or getting torched in the secondary. Improve your game and the noise will follow.
Bill Simon, Brighton
A: The crowd noise issue has generated responses from across the spectrum, and this is the harshest response toward the players and ownership. With all due respect, the Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls. The fans have been given a great ride, unmatched by any team in the NFL's salary cap era. This seems too harsh, over the top.
Do you think that Pats fans are complacent or do you think that this team doesn't inspire them? Do you think that perhaps the fans are worried about losing their season tickets if they get too rowdy and vocal? Is winning a third consecutive Super Bowl a realistic hope after what we have seen so far?
Peter H. Thompson, Tampa, Fla.
A: My feeling is that the fans' expectations are as high as they've ever been, and to this point, there has been little to be inspired about during home games. That said, I think the crowd can certainly make more noise than it has. It was mentioned last week that simply winning the AFC East division used to be met with great cheer, but now it's all about Super Bowls. It shows how high the bar has been raised. I can't speak for fans, but a few e-mailers mentioned they were concerned about losing their tickets by getting too rowdy and vocal. As for if a third consecutive Super Bowl is realistic, the Patriots will be underdogs should they advance to the divisional playoffs, but I wouldn't be surprised if they upset the Colts, or another better seed. This team thrives in big games.
The Patriots players can complain all they want about lack noise from the fans at The Razor. But Bob Kraft got what he wanted, a family friendly stadium and now he has to live with the consequences. I'd much rather sit on my hands than have to deal with consequences and take a chance on losing my season's tickets.
Name Withheld for Fear of Reprisal, NH
A: While I hear what you're saying, I'd be curious to know if there was a fan who truly lost their tickets for genuinely cheering for the team. This seems a bit extreme.
I've been a season ticket holder for more than 10 years, and sit in the end zone of Gillette Stadium. The past few years, my buddies and I have gotten more and more complaints from people behind us to sit down when we are on defense. We try to get the whole end zone to stand up on third down and go crazy. In the old stadium, people would stand the whole time when we were on defense and scream their heads off. Now, if the end zone is not going to cheer, then the rest of the stadium will never be making a sound. My question is, don't you think if people do not want to cheer or take a more active part in the game, then they should just stay home and watch it on TV? It's a lot more comfortable to be home near the fridge and bathroom, and I bet some of the 60,000 people on the waiting list would love to go nuts at a Patriots game. Hopefully there is a marked improvement against Tampa Bay.
Frank Judge, Haverhill
A: My feeling is that it's not my place to tell people what they should, or shouldn't do. I think, based on the comments of the last week-plus, Gillette Stadium will be rocking on Saturday and in the playoffs. I believe the fans will answer the call in a big way.
The reason Gillette Stadium is as quiet as a morgue is obvious: The die-hard fans got priced out of the stadium. In their place are corporations and others who see season tickets as a status symbol. They are not fans, they are wealthy bandwagoners. Kraft stating that the "fans" may be getting spoiled is insulting. Go to any neighborhood bar on Sunday and you will see the blue-collar foundation that built this team. Others have transformed their basements or living rooms into media meccas where they can put on their jerseys and scream their lungs out every Sunday. It is an embarrassment that this region has a 3-time Super Bowl champion, and our stadium is filled with spectators who are more concerned with beating the traffic on Route 1 than the Patriots beating their opponent. Until the team figures out a way to get the fans back into Gillette, the stadium will never be a true representation of how New England feels about their three-time Super Bowl Champions. Thank you Richard Seymour for having the guts to tell it like it is. Please tell Richard the fans are behind him.
A: No doubt, the cost to attend games is high. I'm of the belief this is less of a Patriots problem and more of an across-the-board professional sports problem. The average fan, per se, is being priced out in many locales.
Two questions: Why the sudden amazement as of late about the lack of boisterous 12th man fans screaming demonically during defensive stands on homestands? It should be expected. All season long we've watched the defense perform wretchedly and it's going to take more than one or two games to get excited for them again. The Pats' own defense has taken the fans out of the game and it's up to them to bring them back in. Secondly, why don't we just sign Mike Cloud to a long-term contract? He always produces.
Mark Gehrung, West End, NC
A: Is it the team's job to fire up the fans? Or is it the fans' job to fire up the players? Seems like it should be a mix of both and maybe both sides need to meet in the middle.