Last Sunday confirmed the thoughts of many. The Patriots have the worst home field advantage in the NFL.
Fans began filing toward the exit signs with under three minutes remaining in the 20-18 loss to the Cardinals. This was prior to the first down by Arizona’s Ryan Williams and later his fumble on 3rd and 13. Worst case scenario - the Patriots would have gotten the ball back with 25 seconds remaining. For Tom Brady, in today’s NFL, that’s an eon.
All this came after fans loudly booed the best NFL team of the past decade for a few three-and-outs in the second quarter.
Now, the booing doesn’t bother me too much. I’ve long been of the belief that if a fan pays good money to buy a ticket, he or she can do just about anything they want outside of urinating or stabbing someone (both of which actually happens at select NFL stadiums). I also believe that the cynical Bill Belichick actually enjoys negative crowd reaction at home and uses it as just another way to motivate his team.
But leaving a game early? No excuses.
There was once a time when those in this city ridiculed places like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami for having fans that were more into “being seen” than rooting on their team. Fans in those markets didn’t “get it,” we said, and we laughed that they routinely showed up just before halftime and left midway through the fourth quarter.
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The laundry list of excuses does not have to be read aloud anymore. This was a 1 p.m. game on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. It was the home opener. The Patriots were in need of a lift as they struggled against an average-to-below average team.
Yes, the way Gillette Stadium was built is an issue, this is true. The noise routinely whips right past the light tower and under the bridge before spilling out onto Route 1. But fans in the stadium have managed to be loud in the past (look no further than last winter’s two postseason games for proof). The issue here is that the decibel levels don’t reach peaks until either:
1. Fans are told to be loud by Tom Brady (embarrassing that it ever came to that).
2. A Super Bowl berth is a win or two away.
In last Sunday night’s Lions-49ers tilt, the fans at Candlestick Park made things brutal for the visitors from Detroit. Deafening noise when the ’Niners were on “D.” Near silence when the ’Niners had the ball. In other words, they behaved exactly how a football crowd should behave.
It’s possible that this is just a Northeast thing (though we’re supposed to be the ‘tough ones,’ remember?). The New York Giants have always had issues with an “older fan base” that hates attending night games and doesn’t make any noise until it absolutely has to. It’s a fan base that, like that Patriots’, is used to winning.
The issue in New Jersey is that the lowly Jets fans show up the next week and scream (and drink) until they pass out, making the Giants fans look timid.
Do we want to become Jets fans? Absolutely not.
But there has to be some sort of happy-medium here. The Patriots have been the model NFL franchise of the last decade. It’s time for Patriots fans to start living up to their end of the bargain.
- Matt Burke is the Sports Editor at Metro Boston. Follow him on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS
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