FOXBORO, MASS--It's first and goal for the New England Patriots, and the football is at the Dolphins' one-yd. line. Hometown hero/wonderboy and Patriots' quarterback Doug Flutie has just led his team on an extraordinary 79-yd. drive with less than one minute left in the first half of Sunday's NFL Eastern Division showdown at Sullivan Stadium.
So why is Sullivan Stadium quieter than a "Scholars for Quayle" rally?
I've been watching the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots grind it out for eight years--from the other end, where football is the only sport in town. When the Pats come to town, Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium is bustling with electricity.
It's a different story in Foxboro. The interest may be there--Sunday's game was a sellout--but the enthusiasm is not. It seemed like someone had given Sullivan Stadium one big valium pill.
Flutie barks out an audible on first down from the Dolphins 12 early in the second half (yes, I can hear him all the way in Section 325, Row 25). The Pats are poised to score again, but the only rumble in the stands is something about the Bruins.
Fan 1: "How 'bout them Bruins?"
Fan 2: "They look good so far, but..."
(Five seconds of cheering as New England running back John Stephens scores, to put New England ahead 21-3)
Fan 1: "You were saying about the Bruins?"
Not that the fans don't show any enthusiasm--it's just never directed at the game. A 20-yd. Flutie to Stanley Morgan completion isn't enough to prod the spectators to stand, but a time-out rendition of "Twist and Shout" is.
"Squish the Fish" posters and a dolphin hung in effigy ellicit a few snickers and whistles, but a "Bush/Quayle" sign erupts the stands into a minute-long shouting match.
And even when fans do get excited
about football it's only because they want agood rumble. The drunk Boston-accented triostanding in the very last row of the stadiumcertainly seems psyched about their team, butwithout the beer and the obnoxious Dolphin fansitting four rows up, they'd probably snooze too.
Friends (most of them native Bostonians) tellme that the community really rallies behind thePats when they need it. In fact, Sullivan Stadiumshowed rare emotion twice in the fourth quarterwhen the Dolphins were threatening deep in NewEngland territory.
But compared to the Miami crowds the NewEngland fans just didn't stack up on Sunday. InMiami, any ball inside the 20 means standing roomonly. A Dolphin score is good for at least aminute's worth of dancin' and singin.'
I'm not trying to rail against all Boston fans.I've been to Fenway and heard enough about theCeltics and Bruins to know that Boston fans areusually loyal and always vocal.
It's just that the Patriots don't seem to havethat place in Bostonian hearts. Maybe it's becausethey're the youngest and least successful in afour-team town. Maybe it's because they play morethan an hour away from downtown. Or maybe it'sbecause Boston just isn't a football town.
Whatever the reason, New England footballdefinitely lacks the enthusiasm of other NFLtowns--at least it did on Sunday