FOXBOROUGH – It was 12:46 PM on Sunday. I was seated among the 360 seats in the south area of Gillette Stadium.
There was absolutely no one on the field except two ball boys for the Dolphins and three servants for the Patriots.
No fans in the 68,000 seats.
It was 19 minutes before the kickoff of an NFL game where Patriots hosted the Dolphins.
Would there really be a game? Where is everyone?
It was weird like in Weird 101. It probably looks a lot like the first day of virtual school.
We’ve all been to football games where we hear almost everything, including players or coaches swearing. I heard yesterday.
But after watching the NFL become the full-fledged force it has become in the national sports landscape, Americas preferred sports, these were uncharted waters at 1 Patriot Place in Foxborough.
The Dolphins fourth and 1 to open the fourth quarter? Normally fans lose their voice and the opposition cannot hear themselves think. Instead, there was the sound of silence. Actually, from 50 yards away, I heard Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick scream Number 51 is the microphone (middle linebacker)! And then Watch number 50!
This particular tilt guaranteed 68,000 spectators who normally filled Gillette Stadium on Sundays.
First Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is a world-class entertainer (have you seen the yellow suit he wore to work on Sundays?). And entertainers need an audience. They just do it.
Newton’s first running game, called up by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, earned a standing ovation. We knew it was coming, but it was an event where a stick was passed. A new era of Patriot Way football had begun, aka Tom Brady never did!
But other than a few of his teammates, it was just a routine run.
This was all day. No one was on the field about 20 minutes before the opening staircase. There was no music.
Is there really a game in 20 minutes? I said to myself.
There was. And, as expected, it was pretty boring.
Was it the teams, both expected to be near the .500 mark if all was said and done in late December?
Maybe a little. But it was more the silence.
Like Newton’s first touchdown. We were waiting for something funny, wild, like his pregame suit. Instead, there was a little party, a few teammates jumped up, but then it was over.
Newton’s second touchdown would have warranted a joyous one-minute standing ovation amid things like How ya doin now Brady ?!
The Patriots won the game ugly with an ugly score, 21-11.
Newton and the fans lost an opportunity to form a band. Newton did everything as advertised, completing 15 of the 19 passes and rushing for 75 yards. He deserved the cheers and the fans deserved his usual show in the end zone.
However, that will have to wait. Maybe in a month or maybe in two months, but it will be difficult for not just Patriots fans but all fans to watch.
Football is about adaptation. We players, coaches, media, fans, etc. will have to figure this out on the spot.
Wish us luck.
You can email Bill Burt at [email protected]
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