This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Bills vs. Patriots at Gillette Stadium. I could write about how Ryan Fitzpatrick is a huge upgrade over Trent Edwards (although, that's like saying you're happy you got punched in the stomach and not in the face). I could talk about how despite Marshawn Lynch's strong performance the Bills still have to trade him. I could even discuss Tom Brady's hair and how ludicrously stupid it is that that is in any way a worthwhile topic of discussion.
But instead of all of that football talk I want to talk about my experience at the game. This was no normal experience for me. Usually, when I attend sporting event I'm in the upper deck or I might splurge on decent seats. But this weekend I was treated to CLUB LEVEL seats. Are there any more glorious words than "club level?' And that's not even a rhetorical question. The answer is yes there are better words. How about 'free' and 'tailgate?' Thanks to a friend of mine who works for a company with deep pockets I got to spend my Sunday in the lap of luxury.
We arrived early to attend the free tailgate party but the stadium traffic cut into that time. We sat in traffic for about an hour to go maybe 2 miles. Although, I think there's a good chance with our parking situation we could've turned much earlier and avoided about half of that mess. By the time we parked it was 11:15am. The tailgate ended at 12:30. It was a race against the clock and we didn't know where we were going. It turned out the tailgate was on the opposite side of the stadium from where we parked.
We finally got to the tailgate just past 11:30. The party was in the Patriots' practice facility. Although it was a great day, I'd imagine having it inside is a great perk come November and December. They had cheerleaders you could take pictures with and some people were even getting their autographs. I've long thought that all autographs are ridiculous but I can understand how some people go crazy over getting Tom Brady to sign something - but a cheerleader?
The room was full of tables in the middle with buffets on both sides of the huge facility. There was bratwurst, pasta, pulled chicken sandwiches, meatball subs, tomato and mozzarella salad, and a table full of desserts. With less than an hour before it ended I headed right to the food and piled it on my plate. I let my sucker friends find a table - I had work to do.
After setting my food down I got in line for drinks. They had mixed drinks as well as a decent beer selection including Sam Adams' Octoberfest. We ate and drank until they kicked us out and headed to the stadium.
There are so many perks to club level seats and it starts even before you enter the stadium. The lines to the club section are much shorter and where it probably took others 30 minutes to get through gates and security it took us about five. Then it was up the escalator to the amazing club level corridor. There are no lines for the bathroom (with the exception of half time in which the line took two minutes to get through), no lines to get food or drinks, and TVs and couches everywhere. You could just stay in that area for the whole game and be completely satisfied.
We went to our seats that were located at about the 40-yard line and got ready to stand for the opening kickoff. But here's where my gripes begin with Patriots fans. The people behind us told us to sit down because they couldn't see the game. It's not like we were planning to stand the entire contest but you've gotta stand for kickoff. They weren't the only ones sitting. The majority of the stadium stayed seated. During the entire game they got loud only a handful of times on a few third downs and when the Pats scored touchdowns. Remember how Brady recently ripped fans for leaving early? Well, it happened again. Once the Patriots scored in the fourth quarter to take a 38-23 lead with about nine minutes remaining about 30% of the crowd took off. A two score game with nine minutes remaining? That's just not right. I know it was the Bills and a win was all but guaranteed but it was way too early to leave. In fact, the Bills made quite a game of it by scoring on their next possession and having a chance to tie the game later in the quarter.
Of the fans that did remain, they actually booed the Patriots after they went three-and-out for just the second time all game. Are fans in New England that spoiled that a three-and-out is reason to boo? Bills fans are happy when they go three-and-out because at least they didn't turn the ball over.
I know my fan experience was slightly skewed being in the club level. More affluent fans are always more docile than the rowdy fans in the upper decks. But this crowd was so timid compared to a crowd at Fenway or the Garden. It seems like it's a completely different fan base. By the stadium not being in Boston, it seems like many of the fans aren't from Boston as well. They really are from all over New England and they're not the brash hardcore fans from Bawston. I'm now torn. I've hated Boston fans for being far too extreme. They act like the 35th game of the Sawx season is life or death. Now though, I don't know what's worse - that extreme or the malaise at Gillette.
But back to the life of luxury. The other HUGE benefit of the club level is they continue to serve alcohol throughout the game. There's no cut-off. In fact, you can actually stay and watch the 4pm games in the lounge and skip all of that horrendous traffic.
For years I've said I much prefer watching football at home. I can DVR it and skip commercials, eat whatever food I want, sit on a comfortable couch or bed and watch it all on an HD flat screen. But after experiencing the amenities in the club level I might have to rethink that stance.