FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16: Fans pile into a snow covered Gillette Stadium before the AFC divisional playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2005 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.Patriots vs. Colts, December 2005 (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Tim Flynn has been tailgating at New England Patriots games since 1987. Like many tailgaters, he sees tailgating as more than a celebration — it’s an occasion to strengthen friendships and create memories. Here are five of his most epic tailgating moments.
December 9, 2001 – Patriots 27, Browns 16
Many tailgaters agree — a grill is the most important tailgating item (aside from the actual food, of course). Flynn remembers 2001 as the year his three daughters bought him the Grill-to-Go for Father’s Day. He also remembers losing that grill the very same year.
It was a great gift except for the plastic tank at one end which the grease drained into. “It had a little opening like the top of a water bottle. Somehow you were supposed to get the grease out of there,” Flynn says. But every tailgate knows that grease solidifies very quickly upon cooling. Flynn just let it build up over the weeks, so by the time the Pats faced the Browns, the plastic grease tank was full. He remembers sitting in their tailgating chairs, drinking and watching the burgers cook, and noticing a small flame rising out of the grease tank opening. It had caught fire! This didn’t phase Flynn and his crew, though. Instead they joked about using it as a torch.
When they packed up their tailgating equipment to head into the stadium, Tim realized the grill was still on and way too hot to pack into the trunk of his car. They buried the grill in the snowbank in front of the car so that no one would steal it. Flynn recalls that it was a great plan, except for one thing. They decided to skip the post-game tailgate and head straight home. The next morning, when cleaning supplies out of his car, he remembered saying to himself, “Where’s the Grill-to-Go?”
Patriots vs. Raiders, January 2002 (Photo Credit: Matt Campbell/AFP/Getty Images)
January 19, 2002 – Patriots 16, Raiders 13
Another winter game, this one in January of 2002, stands out for Tim Flynn. It was the last game ever played at Foxboro Stadium. Snow was forecasted, but most of the day provided just a gray, snow-less sky. Tim and his crew arrived around 4 p.m. Their first drink was greeted with flakes of snow. Several inches piled up in just a couple short hours of tailgating. Large mounds of dirt in the parking lot from the nearby construction were soon covered. Other tailgaters, as Flynn recalls, “were sledding down them, without sleds, like school kids on a snow day.” It was a great atmosphere, which only got better once the game started. The field was blanketed in three inches of snow. The groundskeepers used leaf blowers to clear snow off the yard lines. The Pats won, in what Flynn sees as “the first in what would be a decade of really good games.”
September 9, 2002 – Patriots 30, Steelers 14
It isn’t always cold in New England. Tim recalled another tailgating memory, from opening day of the 20102 season. It was 80 degrees with just a light breeze. The Pats had just won Super Bowl XXXVI the year prior, and the parking lot was like Mardi Gras. As he recalls, “fans shot off fireworks. Music blasted. People danced. The food was better and the drink was sweeter. We were the champs.”
That was also the year the new Gillette Stadium opened, so it felt like being a kid on Christmas Eve. As they sat in their new seats — Section 109 at the 45-yard line — Tim and his tailgating crew watched as the championship banner was unveiled. At one point during the fourth quarter, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played over the stadium’s speakers, and the whole crowd — 60,000 plus — sang along, continuing even after the music stopped.
Patriots vs. Dolphins, December 2003 (Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
December 7, 2003 – Patriots 12, Dolphins 0
Flynn remembers a winter game nine years ago that he describes as not so pleasant, but definitely worth it in the end. He only lived 20 minutes from the stadium, but the area had been hit with 28 inches of snow the day before. So the trip actually took him about five hours; he arrived just in time to hear the “National Anthem.” Flynn calls it the “Snowball Game” for what he describes as the “magical celebration” that Pats fans created with the snow piled up in the stands. Every time the touchdown music blared, Pats fans would pick up snow and toss it into the air. Flynn doesn’t lament the time in traffic, the uncomfortable conditions or the lack of tailgating. The holiday spirit was there. As he recalls, “everyone in the stadium felt it too.”
January 16, 2005 – Patriots 20, Colts 3
A winter game during the 2004-2005 season provided one of the more memorable pre-game tailgates. Both the Pats and Colts finished at the top of their respective divisions, only to meet in the divisional round of the playoffs. A lot was a lot at stake. His tailgating crew was a dozen people strong, and their tailgating meal included everything from lamb and steaks to shrimp and sausage. They had a fire pit and a variety of cocktails to keep them warm. As for the game, everyone in the stadium rose to their feet during the Colts’ first offensive play of the game and never sat down. We stood and roared for nearly three hours straight.