The Super Bowl team I own

Now, of course, I wish I'd spent the money. Because right now I'd be packing to go to Houston for Super Bowl XXXVIII - not to sit in a scalper's seat in the end zone, mind you, but to relax in the expensive boxes on the 50-yard line. That's right: The ones reserved for team owners. But at the time, I wasn't compelled to plunk down my lawn-mowing money.

It was the '60s. I was a boy enamored of all things football. Dad, a stockbroker, came home one day with an idea: How'd I like to own stock in a pro football team?

Had it been the Chicago Bears, I would have jumped at it. I watched them week after week on TV at our home in Indiana.

But no, it was the Boston Patriots, as they were called then. The upstart American Football League team was selling shares for $10 or so. But at the time, investing in a distant AFL team seemed like buying Baltic Avenue when what I really wanted was Park Place. I kept my money.

Fast-forward a decade or so: I joined the Monitor, was assigned to its sports desk, and attended my first pro-football game: the Patriots defeating Joe Namath's Jets in the pouring rain.

I was there when the Pats were a laughingstock, and when they made the playoffs. I watched rookie lineman, John Hannah, blossom into a Hall of Famer; I saw promising quarterback Jim Plunkett driven out of town by the "boo birds."

I gritted my teeth as I drove the traffic-choked route from Boston to Foxborough, Mass., where the Patriots had their home. (When Schaefer Stadium opened in 1971, the tie-ups were so bad that some fans didn't arrive until halftime.)

My love for the Bears evaporated. "No cheering in the press box" was the rule, but I knew where I'd cast my lot.

Today, the Patriots have a new stadium, a long string of sold-out games, a revered coach (Bill Belichick), and a young quarterback (Tom Brady) who went to President Bush's State of the Union address as guest of the first lady.

Alas, they are in Houston without me.

What do I have to show for my decades of rooting for and agonizing with my adopted team? A handful of press passes, a throwback practice jersey, a cap purchased after their 2002 Super Bowl victory. And no stock certificate.

Wait; I don't need a piece of paper. My investment is emotional. I've paid my dues, spent countless hours (in traffic alone) to see this franchise through its many highs and lows. The ownership I feel is Mittyesque, true. But there's something else: Who else but an "owner" can actually hum the Patriots' team song?

I'd better pack; I have a plane to catch.

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