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The younger generation hates it when geezers admonish them about times being far tougher in their day. Well, in New England Patriots fandom, no truer adage exists.

If you’re in your teens or early 20s, you probably didn’t start watching the Patriots until the Drew Bledsoe/Bill Parcells era hit the region. One of your first recollections might have been a Super Bowl appearance, and then the indignities of the Pete Carroll (aka Doogie Howser) era.

Since then you have been watching the Brady and Belichick show, where playoffs and Super Bowls measure the season.

It was not always like this. Savor this moment. It’s as special in New England sports history as the various Celtics runs and the Orr/Esposito Bruins.

Some lowlights to help put this grand era in context include the following:

In my very first football game, at what was then called Schaeffer Stadium after some weasel urine that passed itself off as beer, I watched a punter for the Patriots, against Dan Pastorini and the Houston Oilers, kick one that landed a good 10 yards behind him. Yes, behind him. I haven’t even seen such an ignominious feat in Pop Warner Football.

In one game, a guy named Bob Gladieux was sitting in the stands 45 minutes before the kick-off when he heard his name over the loudspeaker. It was the Patriots. They needed him to play. Talk about a free agent.

Some of you may remember the infamous “tuck rule” play against the Oakland Raiders that lead to the Vinatieri snow kick. I remember 1976 when we lost a game to those very same Raiders because of a phantom “roughing the passer” call against Sugar Bear Hamilton. I simply see that tuck rule as Karma’s payback.

Home games never sold out, meaning the networks routinely blacked out Patriots home telecasts. I used to have to drive to bars in New Hampshire to watch home games. I once watched Steve Grogan throw four or five picks, on balky knees, against San Francisco in a game we handed to them. I never did get to see the end of the game, as once the beer bottle whizzed past my head and shattered against the television screen, I figured my best course of action at that point was to crawl on my hands and knees to get out of there.

Players come here and get better. In the old days, players left here and got better. Jim Plunkett served as a human punching bag for us, developing a case of the yips that didn’t subside until he toiled in San Francisco, after which he went to the hated Oakland Raiders and won two Super Bowls. Irving Fryar cracked up his car while a game was in progress; he also stabbed himself with a knife he was allegedly using to separate frozen meat but some believed to have been in the hands of his darling bride. He later found God in Philadelphia, of all places, causing tremors at W.C. Fields’ gravesite, no doubt.

You folks watch games played in a very professional venue. The New England Patriots were nomads for years. They played games at BU’s Nickerson Field, Harvard Stadium, Fenway Park and once played a “home” game in Memphis, Tenn. The old Foxborough stadium came from blueprints for Tulane Stadium, bought by skinflint owner Billy Sullivan. The original home stadium was built on plans, bought from Tulane, designed to house 45,000. Billy upped the capacity by cutting the width allotted for the benches, meaning you had to sit sideways.

That team had the worst record in football several different times during the years. A team believed to be headed for the playoffs under Ron Earhardt went 2-14. A favorite pastime that year, for myself and my college roommates, was to figure out how they were going to blow the game. On Monday Night Football, the night John Lennon died, they lost to the Miami Dolphins when kicker John Smith, known for his accuracy, shanked one at the last minute. The campus security police, who stopped me driving my car across the campus quad, actually let me go after laughing at my excuse of being overcome with grief at the loss.

There’s a limitless list of losers that disgrace Patriots history. Quarterback Mike Taliferro used to get passes to receivers with deadly accuracy, on one hop. He should have been a first baseman throwing grounders to middle infielders between innings. It should have been mandatory for head coaches to dress in clown costumes. Bozos such as Clive Rush, Rod Rust, Dick MacPherson and John Mazur disgraced the sidelines.

So sit back and enjoy the show. Forget about the “cheating scandal.” These guys don’t need to cheat. Those other guys couldn’t have won if they were calling the plays for both teams.

Mr. Woollacott is president and founder of Renaissance Group International Inc. Contact him directly at

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