PEABODY — Lots of Patriots fans are expecting victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s American Football Conference championship game.
At Brooksby Village, a large contingent of those fans are expecting victory because they’ve earned it.
Of course, they have their New England Patriots heroes.
“My favorite player is Jerod Mayo,” says John Murphy, 73, citing the hard-hitting linebacker. “I guess defense has always been one of my favorite parts of the game.”
But Murphy and his fellow fans in this retirement community can also hearken back to an era roughly half a century ago when professional football came back to the area with a ragtag, sure-to-fail organization called the Boston Patriots, part of the thrown-together American Football League.
The people who remember that first team also knew in subsequent years the frustration of a team that always seemed to try hard but fall short. Sometimes far short.
Like Mickey Ratte, 77, they remember the aimless management, kooky coaches and freezing aluminum benches that passed for seating at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro.
“Oh, they were awful,” she shudders.
Peg Perkins, 94, grew up in Maine. Even up there, she says, those early Patriots players — people like Gino Cappelletti, Jim Nance and Nick Buoniconti — began to build a loyal following (one that took a blow in 1969 when the latter was traded to the Miami Dolphins).
“I had brothers who played football,” she says. “It was all football all the time.” Her late husband, Howard “Duke” Perkins, also grew to be a Patriot fan. “He would have to be to live with me,” Perkins laughs.
Before the arrival of the Boston Patriots in 1960 Murphy was a fan of the Cleveland Browns. “They were on TV. I liked the Browns because Jim Brown was a spectacular runner.”
It took a number of years to wean him away from televised football to the team that played live in Boston, sometimes in Harvard Stadium, sometimes at what remained of Braves Field, and even at Fenway Park.