The Long Road to Legitimacy

It wasn’t always like this.  In the early days the then Boston Patriots were the sorriest franchise in the NFL.  The last of the eight original American Football teams to join, they were homeless, playing alternately at Harvard, Boston College, Boston University and Fenway Park.

There was talk of moving the team to Tampa… ironically… and in 1968… the Patriots played their home opener in Birmingham, Alabama.  

They got to the AFL championship game in 1963 and lost 51-10 to San Diego.  The next title they’d play for was 22 years later.  They got closer… losing to the Chicago Bears 46-10 in Super Bowl 20.  Their logo was a cartoon. 

Until Tom Brady came along, the high-water mark for the New England Patriots came December 12, 1982.  The snowplow game. 

The field had iced over and it was snowing in Foxborough that day.  The Patriots game with Miami ground into the fourth quarter scoreless.  With 4:45 left to play, the Patriots drove inside the Miami 30 and were about to try a field goal.

Mark Henderson,24, a convict on work release from the Massachusetts Correctional Insitution at Norfolk, Mass, clears snow Dec.13,1982 at Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro,Mass. Referee Bob Frederic looks on during a third quarter break in action between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Henderson was involved in a controversial play in the fourth quarter when he plowed an area where Patriots John Smith kicked the winning field goal. Patriots took Miami,3-0. (AP Photo/Mike Kullen)

Enter Mark Henderson.  Working odd jobs at Schaeffer Stadium on a work release program from a local jail, Henderson manned a small snowplow, keeping the yard markers clean.  Henderson was instructed by Coach Ron Meyer to veer from the yard line and clear a path for the kick.  With Don Shula throwing a fit on the visiting sideline, John Smith kicked the field goal and New England won 3-0.  Until the tuck rule, it was the only time the team got over on anybody.
So, while six Super Bowls may seem a bit glutenous, the franchise paid a steep price to get there.  Which is why they’ll celebrate Tom Brady in enemy colors this weekend.

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