Based on their epic dynasty during the first two decades of the 21st century, most people think they know the New England Patriots. Granted, that period of success won a lot of games and sold a lot of Patriots tickets, but it’s only one part of the team’s history. The franchise has been around since 1960, so there’s more to the Patriots than just Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. With that said, let’s explore the team’s history a little more in-depth and check out some interesting Patriots facts.
The Franchise Began in Boston
While the Patriots are often associated with Boston despite not actually playing in Boston, that is where the franchise got its start. They played their inaugural season in 1960 in the American Football League as the Boston Patriots. They even reached the AFL Championship in 1963 before losing to the Chargers. In 1970, the Boston Patriots played their first official season in the NFL before becoming the New England Patriots in 1971.
It Took a While to Settle in Foxborough
Not only did the team’s official name change in 1971, but the team’s home stadium changed several times during their first 12 seasons of existence. They played their first season at Boston University Field, which is now known as Nickerson Field. Over the next decade, Fenway Park, Harvard Stadium, and Alumni Stadium on the Boston College campus all became the team’s home stadium. When the Patriots changed from Boston to New England in 1971, they finally found a permanent home at Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The stadium would later be renamed Sullivan Stadium and eventually Foxborough Stadium, serving as the team’s home stadium through the 2001 season.
The House is on Fire
Before the Patriots finally found their full-time home in 1971, there was a little bit of a mishap. During a 1970 game at Boston College’s Alumni Stadium, action on the field had to be stopped when a popcorn machine that was positioned under the bleachers caught on fire. The good news is that nobody was injured, although a small section of the bleachers did burn, and a significant portion of the crowd had to vacate their seats. Plus, once the fire was out, there were enough unburned seats to fit everyone with a ticket and finish the game.
What’s in a Name
At the time the Patriots moved to Foxborough in 1971, the team narrowly avoided disaster with its name. They were set to change from the Boston Patriots to the Bay State Patriots, a reference to the state of Massachusetts. However, many were quick to point out that some folks could refer to them as the B.S. Patriots. That couldn’t be allowed to happen, and so the Bay State plan was scrapped with the team being renamed the New England Patriots.
They Almost Moved Multiple Times
The move to Foxborough in 1971 turned out to be the franchise’s final move, but that almost wasn’t the case. In 1992, the Patriots were purchased by James Orthwein, a Missouri native who planned to relocate the team to St. Louis a few years before the Rams ended up relocating to St. Louis. However, Robert Kraft owned Foxboro Stadium at the time and stood in the way of Orthwein moving the team. Kraft would end up buying the Patriots two years later, although he also toyed with the idea of moving the team. The state of Connecticut made an appealing offer to Kraft in 1998 when he was looking to build a new stadium. But Kraft finally managed to get funding help from Massachusetts, allowing Gillette Stadium to be built, keeping the Patriots in Foxborough.
An Unlikely Hero
Snow has occasionally played a role in Patriots’ history, most notably a game in 1982. During a game against the Dolphins, a snowplow operator named Mark Henderson played the role of unlikely hero by clearing a patch of grass that allowed kicker John Smith to make the game-winning field goal. Naturally, Henderson became a folk hero for his unusual role in a Patriots’ win. The story took an interesting twist when it was discovered that Henderson was a convict on a work-release program.
Third Time is the Charm
Obviously, the Patriots are best known for the dynasty that began with their win in Super Bowl XXXVI. But people who aren’t Patriots fans may not remember that New England lost two previous Super Bowls. First, there was an unlikely run to the Super Bowl in 1985 with the Pats winning three road playoff games, only to get crushed by the Bears 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. They also had a chance in Super Bowl XXXI but lost 35-21 to the Packers four years before getting their first title.
Vladimir Putin Owns a Patriots Championship Ring?
This one is perhaps more myth than fact but is interesting nonetheless. There are conflicting reports about how it happened, but in 2005, Robert Kraft handed one of his Super Bowl rings to Vladimir Putin while in Russia. It’s unclear whether it was a gift or if Kraft was pressured by the White House to give the ring to Putin or if Putin asked to hold it and then walked off with it. One report alleges that Putin said to Kraft: “I could kill someone with his ring.” The ring is supposedly on display at the Kremlin, although Putin has also claimed that he doesn’t remember anything involving Kraft or the ring. Of course, Putin isn’t necessarily the most believable character.