By Ken Anderson
As we watched the Patriots on tape delay Sunday, my wife Lynda observed that “This is one of the worst football games I have ever watched!” It might have been for her, but I was watching them before she came into my orbit (or I into hers?) and there were plenty of bad games to go around! Let’s go back.
My first Patriots game was at Braves Field in 1961. Our high school football coach, Bernie Megin, knew people and he was a linesman for the game. Forgot the score. The next time I saw them was at Fenway Park, a baseball stadium with a number of bad seats for a baseball game and even more for watching football (they played Buffalo and lost, I am pretty sure). And then, one year, they made the AFL Championship Game (pre-merger with NFL) and lost to San Diego, 51-10!
My friends and I went to most, if not all, of their games in 1968 at BC Stadium. A highlight was seeing Joe Namath score on a run!
In 1969 we had season tickets, which included three preseason games at Boston College. A highlight of the pre-season was a fire at half time in the stands in a game against Washington. The regular (as if anything was regular about the Patriots) season games were at Harvard Stadium. Bob Gladieux had been cut by the Pats. He went to the next game with a friend who went for beers. While he was gone, the announcer asked Bob to report to the Pats dressing room. His friend returned to their seats and was surprised to hear that Gladieux had made the tackle on the opening kickoff.
Another game, Johnny Unitas called for a down and in pass on fourth and 6 which was completed for a 70-yard-plus touchdown. At another game, it snowed the night before. One might have thought that someone, the team or Harvard, would have cleared the snow out of the stadium. No. As a result, if you arrived later than your neighbors, you had to sit on a pile of snow!
Dark days indeed. But not as dark as the days before the American Football League when a football fan, if their house had a TV, had to listen to Chris Schenkel shill for the New York Football Giants. We thanked some higher power for Jimmy Brown!
After the merger, the first Pats exhibition game was against the hated Giants at Foxboro in the new Schaefer Stadium. Not knowing any better, we took the train from Back Bay station and walked across the parking lot to the game. Preoccupied with the game, it was late in the first half when we realized that people were still arriving. The only road in was Route 1, and it was not designed for professional football crowds. An early cry for mass transportation!
Games were a succession of incomplete passes and three and outs. We had bright spots. We traded for Joe Kapp, a tough quarterback, whose spiral, unfortunately, resembled an end over end punt, but sideways. And then we drafted Jim Plunkett, Heisman Trophy winner… to no avail. But, as Pope said, and Thayer purloined, hope springs eternal in the human breast as we drafted Randy Vataha, Jim’s favored receiver at Stanford. To no avail.
Then, we added Mini Mac Herron, 140 pounds of muscle and electrifying energy. To no avail.
And then, one season we started off at 6-1. Lynda, our close friends Terry and Nancy Taylor and I began planning for our trip to the playoffs! To no avail. We finished the last seven games 1-6, for a 7-7 record, out of the playoffs!
Over the past two decades, I have marveled at the thought that easily the worst professional team morphed into the one of the most successful franchises in professional sports… only, apparently, to return to ground level.
I’m looking for a country and western song. My short search comes up with Swan Song, with a two-step beat.