Tailgating is a time when fans can come together to celebrate, creating unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime. Tim Flynn has been tailgating at New England Patriots games from 1987 until present day. He says tailgating is more than a celebration – it’s also a time that keeps friendships alive and going strong. Here are five of his most epic tailgating moments.
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. Tim recalls the game lasting for about three hours, and although he only lived 20 minutes from the stadium, it took him two hours longer than the game to get there. He arrived just in time to hear the “National Anthem,” only a day after New England weather had hit big with 28 inches of snowfall. Flynn calls it the “Snowball Game” for what he describes as the “magical celebration” that Pats fans had created with the snow that piled up in the stands. Every time the touchdown music blared, Pats fans would pick up snow and toss it into the air. Flynn says he might have spent five hours in traffic only to consume zero tailgating food and have snow piled up on the seats, but the holiday spirit was there. He recalls, “Everyone in the stadium felt it too.”
December 9, 2001 – Patriots 27, Browns 16
Tailgaters will likely all say the same thing – a grill is the most important tailgating item (aside from the actual food, of course). Flynn remembers 2001 as the year when on Father’s Day, his three daughters bought him the Grill-to-Go. He also remembers that year as the one in which he lost that very same grill. 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 if there’s one thing tailgaters should know about grease, it’s that it solidifies very quickly upon cooling, so Flynn just let it build up over the weeks. By the week that the Pats faced the Browns, the plastic grease tank was filled. He says he remembers sitting in their tailgating chairs, drinking and watching the burgers cook, as they noticed a small flame rising out of the grease tank opening – it had caught fire! It didn’t phase Flynn and his crew, though. He remembers they joked about using it as a torch. When they packed up their tailgating equipment to head into the game, Tim realized he had forgotten to turn off the grill and it was still way too hot to pack into the trunk of his car. They decided to bury the grill in the snowbank in front of the car so that no one would steal it. Flynn says it was a great plan, except they decided to skip the post-game tailgate and head straight home. The next morning when cleaning supplies out of his car, he says he remembers saying to himself, “Where’s the Grill-to-Go?”
September 9, 2002 – Patriots 30, Steelers 14
Tim remembers another tailgating memory with much better weather than the above. He says it was the opening game of the season, 80 degrees with just a light breeze. The Pats had just won Super Bowl XXXVI the year prior. The parking lot was like Mardi Gras. “Fans shot off fireworks. Music blasted. People danced. The food was better and the drink was sweeter. We were the champs,” he recalls. That was also the year the new Gillette Stadium opened, so Tim remembers feeling like 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. He also remembers at one point of the game, during the fourth quarter, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played over the stadium’s speakers and the whole crowd – 60,000 plus – began to sing along, even after the music stopped playing.
January 16, 2005 – Patriots 20, Colts 3
Flynn recalls a winter game in 2005 as one of the more memorable pre-game tailgates he’s ever had. Both teams were at the top of their divisions at the time so there was a lot at stake. There were about a dozen people in his tailgating crew, and their tailgating meal included everything from lamb and steaks to shrimp and sausage. They had a fire pit to keep them warm and a variety of cocktails, which Tim says help to do the same. During game time, Flynn recalls everyone in the stadium rising to their feet during the Colts’ first offensive play of the game and never sitting down – they stood and roared for nearly three hours of game play.
January 19, 2002 – Patriots 16, Raiders 13
Another winter game, this one in January of 2002, stands out to Tim Flynn as it was the last game ever played at Foxboro Stadium. Snow was in the forecast, but it was just a gray, snowless sky when Tim and his crew arrived around 4 p.m. After his tailgating team had their first drink in hand, flakes of snow started falling. Several inches of snow piled up in just a couple short hours of tailgating. He remembers large mounds of dirt in the parking lot from the nearby construction of the new Gillette Stadium, which had become covered in snow. Other tailgaters “were sledding down them, without sleds, like school kids on a snow day,” Flynn recalls. He says it was a great atmosphere, and once the game started, it only got better. The field was covered in three inches of snow, with only the yard lines having been cleared by leaf blowers. But the Pats won, in what Flynn says was “the first in what would be a decade of really good games.”
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Victoria Myers is a freelance writer covering all things Boston. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.