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American Football: patriots get super sendoff

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posted on Jan, 30 2005 @ 06:22 PM
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Fans, three governors give Patriots rousing sendoff to Super Bowl
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) — The thousands of fans who gathered outside Gillette Stadium on Sunday to send the New England Patriots on their way to the Super Bowl cheered just as loudly for the team's owner and coach as they did for the marquee players.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, right, speaks to the crowd gathered to send off the defending champs to Jacksonville.


And when fans explain what put the Patriots within reach of the dynasty status they can claim with a third Super Bowl win in four years, few stress the players' athleticism or playmaking abilities.

Instead, fans rave about the leadership of the ownership and the discipline instilled from the sidelines, even if owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick don't have the marketability of quarterback Tom Brady.

"Players want to play for a class organization, and that's what the Patriots have," said Gary Vanderwater, a 46-year-old season ticket holder from Norwell, who smoked a cigar and carrying a sign reading "Nobody Beats the Pats."

"The Patriots' organization is the best around," said Todd Boothroyd, a member of the End Zone Militiamen, a group that dresses up as Revolutionary War soldiers to cheer on the team.

Star players may come and go, but the stable leadership Kraft has brought since buying the team in 1994 has established a winning foundation that Vanderwater confidently believes has plenty of staying power.

"We're going to win, probably the next three Super Bowls," he said. "The organization is the best there is, and the players have their heads on straight.'"

The players who spoke at the rally — Brady, linebacker Tedy Bruschi and receiver Troy Brown — were cautious in their predictions.

"Hopefully, we've got one more left in us. If we go out and play the way we're capable of, we'll see you all at the (victory) parade in a week," Brady said.

The soft-spoken Belichick was typically understated.

"We know we're going to have to play our best game of the year, and that's what we're going to work on for the next week," Belichick said.

The Patriots, winners of two of the last three Super Bowls, play the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla.

The half-hour rally drew thousands of banner-waving, blue and red-clad fans, many of whom began arriving early on the sunny Sunday morning as temperatures hovered in the 20s — seemingly balmy a week after a winter storm dumped two or more feet of snow across much of the state. The event included free coffee, espresso and hot chocolate.

Some boarded free but far-from-crowded trains from Boston and Providence. A 20-foot-high video screen erected above a stage in the parking lot showed Patriots highlights, including a snazzy black-and-white segment set to Carl Orff's high-octane orchestral piece "Carmina Burana." Patriots cheerleaders danced to loud rock music and the team lined up in suits and ties.

The event drew three New England governors — Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Don Carcieri of Rhode Island and John Lynch of New Hampshire — and Boston Mayor Tom Menino. The politicians drew a smattering of boos.

The event was a stark contrast to last year, when fans gathered behind barricades in bitterly cold weather just to watch the team walk to the buses without ceremony.

On Sunday, it was hard to tell whether the fans were there to cheer the players, or the players were there to thank the fans.

"This is the reason we've been undefeated at home for the last two years," Brady said. "We've got the best fans in the league, we've got the best stadium in the league, and you guys got the best team in the league."

Fans lining the parking lot exit cheered and waved as the players afterward departed on buses to Logan International Airport, where the team took off for Florida.

"If they win Sunday, they'll be a dynasty team, no doubt about it," said Frank Daigle, a lifelong 38-year-old Patriots fan from Boston's Dorchester section.




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