For the past few years, I have always wanted to attend a Patriots game at Gillette Stadium. Being from New England, I had attended the Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox games, but had yet to cross the Patriots off my bucket list. For one reason or another, whether it was due to illness or “selling out”, I was never able to purchase tickets. We all know it’s tough to score NFL tickets before they sell out, but when you’re restricted to only a limited amount of wheelchair accessible seats, it’s nearly impossible. Each time my dad and brother would go without me, I’d enviously sit back and watch the ritual of the preparation for tailgating, the excitement of the forthcoming game, and the camaraderie between father and son. However, everything changed this past Thursday night when I finally had the opportunity to experience my very first Patriots game. And, unlike the usual “nosebleed” seats my father and brother can only usually attain, my seats were much different.
A few weeks prior to the game, my father and I had attended the last Patriots Training Camp of the season. It was the closest I had ever been to a game, and I loved every second of it. Between the energy, the crowd, and the sport, I could only imagine how exciting it would be to attend an actual game. After practice was over, my father approached a man asking if there were any accessible tickets available for a game early in the year, before the cold and flu season begins. He introduced himself as Stacey James, and he immediately took interest in my disease and how I cope and live my life. He went on to say he would do his best to see if anything was available. To my surprise, Mr. James called me just hours later with an offer I just couldn’t pass up.
My first game day experience would be much different than a conventional night at a football stadium. Mr. James was unable to get me tickets, but instead invited my father and me to the press box to watch the Patriots in their last preseason game. On the day of the game, he made sure we had a VIP parking placard, 2 media passes waiting for us inside, and a perfect view of the field. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, during this first quarter, Mr. James found an empty private box and offered the space for us to use. From there, my father and I watched the Patriots compete against the Giants in the luxury of our own private room as I got a firsthand look at America’s most beloved sport.
Everything about the evening my father and I shared was incredible. I never imagined spending my first New England Patriots game the way I did, and it was surely something I’ll never forget. I couldn’t help but feel like a celebrity with the way the staff treated me, and I almost felt unworthy of what I was given. I was truly impressed by the personnel while I was there which led me to realize just how classy the New England Patriots organization is. The professionalism in the players that we see out on the field is also instilled in the entire organization, as was evident in the way I was treated. The perfection of the evening culminated with the Patriots beating the Giants with a score of 28-20.
Living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy can be really tough at times, but there are these incredible moments like this one that fuel me to keep moving forward. One of the positive aspects of living with a disease is that you get to see the best in human nature and kindness. I found out a few days after training camp that Mr. James is Vice President of Media Relations for the Patriots. He owed me nothing. I did nothing to deserve his kindness, but he took the time to make one of my dreams a reality. Moreover, he went way beyond my expectations for my first Patriots game. I will never forget it. As the season begins on September 8th, my parents, my brother, my friends, and I will gather in my living room to eat chilli, snack on food, and watch the Patriots play against the Bills. And although it will be fun, I will always have that preseason game experience in the back of my mind.
So, to everyone at the New England Patriots organization and especially Mr. Stacey James, thank you for all you did to give me a magical night.