photo by Haley Sylvester
Haley Sylvester

Haley Sylvester is from Greenwich, CT and an undergraduate student at the University of Maine. She is studying Management and Marketing with a concentration in International Business and a minor in Professional Writing. She joined the Maine Campus in the spring of 2016 and currently serves as the News Editor.

I signed on with the New England Patriots in 2015. Growing up in a suburb of New York City subjected me to the hockey culture growing up. My mother is in love with New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, my father played college hockey at Sacred Heart, and my brother started traveling to tournaments when he was 7 years old. Football was not a highly regarded sport where I grew up, so prior to college I was unaware of who the G.O.A.T., also known as Tom Brady, was.

I followed the groove of the Pats the following season when they, unfortunately, did not qualify for the Super Bowl. A bandwagon fan may have lost hope, but I was fully committed. The following year, in the 2017 season, I watched every game with a plate of wings, beer and my boyfriend next to me. I subjected myself to the video game Madden, learning every which way to score a point in the sport of football.

In late February 2017, my friend and I took the trip to Boston for the Patriots Parade following their Super Bowl win. In one word, it was freezing. In several words, it was freezing, snowy and absolutely riveting. Several months later on Tuesday, Sept. 5, I received a call at 12:30 p.m. from a friend who attends Springfield College in Massachusetts. “Pack a bag and get your butt down to Springfield, I have Patriots tickets for the season opener.”

On Thursday, Sept. 7, I packed my Nissan Xterra and gassed it down to Springfield. After joining my two friends and playing the “how far can we get on a quarter tank of gas” game in standstill traffic in Foxborough, we entered Patriots territory.

The atmosphere was exhilarating. The entire city was shut down to allow proper traffic flow into Gillette Stadium and the surrounding Patriots Place. Patriots Place is a small community built specifically around Gillette for the purpose of pre-game festivities. These include drinking, eating and shopping.

Police officers were mounted on horses throughout the several parking lots, fans were cheering, clapping and screaming “let’s go” through the streets, and there were too many tailgaters to count. A large majority of the crowd walking into the venue was sipping on beers and water bottles, and of the thousands of parked cars, hundreds of them had Patriots flags and memorabilia to show their loyalty.

The walk into Gillette was nerve-wracking. People say that “Patriots Nation,” loyal Pats fans, are not a group to mess with. I never understood the severity of that statement until I walked into that stadium.

The season opening game started with a ceremony at 8 p.m. The ceremony included a performance by singer and songwriter Flo Rida, a speech and introduction to players by actor Mark Wahlberg and the release of the fifth Super Bowl banner, among other minor displays. With the release of the banner came a crowd eruption of screaming, fans jumping up and down in their seats and waving Barstool Sports towels with Roger Goodell’s face with a clown nose on it into the air.

Throughout the game, especially during the commercial breaks, music blasted through the speakers to get everyone on their feet and eager for the game to continue. The crowd reacted heavily to calls by the referees, in our favor or not. Following an unfair ruling on the field or a bad throw by our quarterback Brady, parts of the stadium would chant, “bulls—” and “come on Brady.”

Coming onto the team in 2015, longstanding Patriots fans told me that Brady carries the team. Being new to football, I was unaware that the quarterback of a team was the most highly regarded person besides the coach. Being in the atmosphere of Brady and his team showed me how much Pats Nation solely depends on him and his ability to lead the team.

Following the tough loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, the crowd was at a loss for words. People exited the stadium with heavy feet and disappointment in their season opening score. Fans stormed the streets back to their vehicles in despair and as a newcomer, I can only imagine what the atmosphere is following a win.