Thousands On Hand For Pats Sendoff at City Hall Plaza

By Patrick O’Rourke
BU News Service

The wind chill dipped into the single-digits Monday morning in Boston as a blizzard of historical proportions bore down on the city.

But you wouldn’t have known that looking at City Hall Plaza where thousands of New England Patriots fans convened to send their beloved football team off to Arizona to play the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday for their fourth Super Bowl victory since 2002.

“There’s going to be a blizzard in about two hours and we’ve got about five, six-thousand people out here,” said Patriots fan Tom Collins, who made the trip from Weymouth. “We love our sports teams in Boston.”

Sean Fonteyne, of Portsmouth, N.H., loves the Patriots so much that he flew home from France — where he was studying abroad — to watch the Super Bowl.

“I flew in from France just to watch the Super Bowl with my family, and come to the rally and everything,” said Fonteyne.

One of the many fans on hand Monday was Boston mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has been a season ticket holder for over 20 years.

“[Walsh] has been there in the snow games, all the games with his buddies,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “And that’s what makes this area so special. We’re into roots, tradition and we don’t forget our friends.”

For Walsh, this is the first time a Boston team has been in a championship game since he became mayor in January 2014. The last time a Boston franchise was up for a title was October 2013 when the Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. He hopes to get one title closer to the championships overseen by his predecessor Thomas Menino, who witnessed eight from the Pats, Sox, Celtics and Bruins during this tenure as mayor from 1994-2014.

“I want to be here next week, standing here, with the fourth trophy on this stage,” said Walsh.

The overwhelming majority of fans at Monday’s send-off were confident that Walsh will get his wish. Fans are impressed with the Patriots play in the postseason, where they beat the Baltimore Ravens, 35-31, and the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, to punch their ticket to Arizona.

“I think they have a better shot now than [when they lost to the New York Giants, 21-17, in 2012],” said Josh Cullivan of Abington, who was sporting a playoff beard as a good luck charm. “They’ve got a better secondary, more complete team, a healthy [Rob Gronkowski], I think they’ve got a good shot.”

“It’ll be a very defensive game,” said Fonteyne. “I think [the Patriots] are pretty well set up to beat the Seahawks.”

But the Seahawks are no slouch. Just one year ago, they made a mockery of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos with a 43-8 win in Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey. Seattle followed that up with a 12-4 record in 2014, finishing with the best record in the NFC. They haven’t lost since November 16, riding an eight-game winning streak into the big game.

“I’m a little bit nervous because the Seahawks were really good this year,” said Xenia Hersey, who became a Patriots fan when she moved to New Hampshire from Michigan when she was in middle school.

“I think it’s going to be a great game,” said Victor Slepoi of Lynn. “I think [the Patriots and Seahawks] are both great teams and it’s going to be tight game, and I think the Pats come out on top.”

Then there’s the motivation that comes with many around the country questioning the team’s integrity with the ‘Deflategate’ scandal, when it was reported last Tuesday that the Patriots used footballs inflated below the NFL minimum standard of 12 1/2 psi in the first half of the AFC Championship Game win over the Colts.

“I think [the Patriots] are going to use it as fuel to go out and win,” said Julie Smith of New Hampshire.

As for the scandal itself, which has been the biggest story in America for the past week, most fans think it’s nonsense. That teams are tired of the Patriots success.

“I think it’s nonsense,” said Fonteyne. “I think it’s been blown way out of proportion.”

“I think they’re sore losers,” said Smith, referring to the Colts, who reportedly brought the deflated balls to the NFL’s attention. “We saw with [Ravens coach John Harbaugh], he was cranky because [the Patriots] ran a play he’s never seen, it’s the same thing. They’re just sore losers.”

Smith’s father, Al, an engineer, understands how atmospheric conditions affect air pressure. Based on what the information on hand, he feels Mother Nature was what tampered with the footballs, not the Patriots.

“I ran the basic gas laws,” said the elder Smith. “Twenty degrees is a pound on the football.”

Deflated balls or not, nothing could take the air out of the fans who came out to send off the Patriots before they set off for Logan Airport. And it didn’t go unnoticed.

“We really appreciate your support, you’ve been there all year for us,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said to the crowd. “We’re excited to go out and represent the AFC in Arizona.”

“We have the best fans in America,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

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