Courtney Paquette and Meghan Carey
From tailgating in the same parking space all season, to making sure their jerseys remain unwashed, local fans of the New England Patriots have some quirky superstitions and routines, which they are convinced have helped their team win.
They've seemed to pay off this season | one in which the Patriots have already made history and are looking to lengthen their historic winning streak Sunday at Gillette Stadium against the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship game.
Here's hoping that in writing this story, we don't jinx it.
College pals hope they are good luck charms
What started as a plan to stretch the college partying out a little longer after graduation has turned into a good luck charm for the Patriots.
At least that's what Michael Shattuck and four of his friends, who bought Patriots season tickets in 1994, think.
Since then, the group | Shattuck, Ron Grasso and Richard Foohey, all of Andover, plus Josh Johnson of Roslindale and Justin Gould of Westford | makes almost every game a year. That core group of fans at Gillette Stadium week after week is a winning combination for the Patriots.
"That's what I like to think," Shattuck said.
Things have changed a bit since 1994. Back then, Shattuck paid $300 for his season tickets. There's a new stadium now and the men have different cars, better jobs, and better beer.
They've got different responsibilities, too.
On Sunday, Shattuck's stepson Matthew Donahue, 7, is in his first Cub Scout Pine Wood Derby. It starts at noon.
After he helps his son race his toy car, Shattuck will jump in his real car and race to Gillette Stadium, trying to make it in time for the 3 p.m. kickoff.
"Let's face it. The NFL is made for a group of 24-year-old guys," said Shattuck, now 37. "Over the years, I like to think I've grown up a little bit."
It's all about the karma
An hour before the gates of Gillette Stadium even open for tailgaters, Bob LaRochelle, his wife, Didi, and their friends Mark and Joanne LaPlante of Londonderry, N.H., are waiting in their car, the first in line. That's because the former Andover couple, who now live in Seabrook, N.H., "have" to be the first ones in the stadium, and they "have" to park in the same space every game. They achieve this feat by staying overnight in a hotel down the road where each couple has to stay in the same two rooms they have reserved for years.
Once they're in the stadium parking lot, the cooking equipment has to be set up in the same order as it always has been.
They do the same cheer before every game, always led by Bob LaRochelle.
"It's all about the karma," he said.
LaRochelle got a new piece of barbecue equipment last week | a Dutch oven | but he won't break that out until next season. That would mess up this season's karma, he said.
And, of course, they have to wear the same clothes. Bob LaRochelle has had the same Patriots T-shirt for so long that it now has to be dry cleaned because it would fall apart in the washer. His dry cleaner recently told him it was ripped and had to be thrown away.
"Fix the shirt," he said he told his dry cleaner.
The pillow fight for good luck
The living room in Louann Santos' Methuen apartment looks like a sports memorabilia store. But there's one item that is priceless to her | and very lucky.
During the Patriots' Super Bowl run in the 2001-2002 season, someone gave Santos a small, blue Patriots throw pillow. At the same time, the then-bachelorette was starting to get her friend Colleen Mota, also of Methuen, into watching the games with her. Mota held the pillow during those games. The Patriots won the Super Bowl. The rest is history.
Since then, Mota always has to hold the pillow, no matter where she goes in the house | even to the bathroom | during a game.
"Let's just say when we went away on Saturday to Connecticut, I dropped the pillow off with her before we left," Santos said.
Santos also has to wear the same jersey | Tedi Bruschi | every game. Her husband, Greg, who proposed to her at Gillette Stadium in December 2006, also has to go and get it for her and hand it to her to put on.
The couple were married in a Patriots-themed wedding in November, but will wait until next month to take their honeymoon, so they can see the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
Santos is trying to pass her passion for football and superstition on to her Methuen friends | Erica St. Louis and Amy Krumsiek, whose 4-month-old daughter Annie, may be the next pillow-bearer.
"Louann is the biggest fan there is, and Annie's the littlest," Krumsiek said.
Perfect tailgating cooks up perfect season
The Graeme Millar Tailgaters, named for their founder and 15-year season ticket holder, have brought luck to the Pats by perfecting the art of tailgating. In addition to setting up heated tents, they put out a spread that can include anything from burgers to lobster. Hanging their specially made GMT banner is one of their good luck charms.
The core group includes Lawrence firefighters Millar, Frank Martin, Pat Driscoll, all of Lawrence, and retired Lawrence firefighter Al Pomerleau of Methuen. Also on the team is Pat Driscoll's wife, Pam.
They've got their superstitions, too. They wear the same jerseys and clothes every week, including Pam Driscoll. But she's different in one regard.
"I wash mine," she said. "They don't."
Millar is sort of like the group's mayor, putting out a newsletter every week that includes a bio on the best tailgater | tailgater of the year is Lawrence firefighter Mike Armano | and inviting others at Gillette Stadium to come over to their party.
Dreaming of a Pats omelette
Mike Keefe must have been dreaming about the Patriots when he came up with the "undefeated Patriots omelet," since the recipe came to him in his sleep.
Roast beef, turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, American cheese and five eggs. Plus, home fries and an English muffin.
"All the meats and all the cheeses," the Salem, N.H., man said. "It's fit for a winner."
Keefe said he believes the recipe is the reason the team keeps winning. He is so convinced that he won't take the omelet off the menu at his Route 28 Roadhouse until after the Super Bowl. It's a superstition that breaks tradition.
Keefe, like many other fans in the area, have their superstitions and traditions when it comes to the New England Patriots. And with being one game away from the Super Bowl, those behaviors are certainly running wild these days.
Serving the undefeated Patriots omelet during the week breaks Keefe's 10-year tradition of serving a special Patriots omelet just on weekends during the postseason. But this is a new recipe and a special year, he said.
During the football season, customers may find that they are rushed out of the diner on Sundays. The Keefes have a long tradition of watching each game with family and friends dressed in Patriots garb.
Unless the game starts at 1 p.m. In that case, Mike and his wife, Thelma, linger to watch the first half while they clean up and then rush to the party during halftime.
It's the house Kosik helped build
Thomas Kosik of Pelham, N.H., is very strict about cheering for the Patriots as a whole. He dresses entirely in team clothing during each game, but nowhere on his outfit can a player's number be displayed.
"It's a team I've always followed and I cheer for the team," he said. "No individual players."
While Kosik will take in games at Foxborough occasionally | none of which the Patriots have lost | he said he misses his game-watching routine when he's not home. Kosik once dragged a carload of NASCAR fans away from a race with 50 laps to go so that he could be dressed and in place near his Patriots shrine for a 4 p.m. kickoff.
Kosik, a plumber, worked on Gillette Stadium when it was being built and has a few souvenirs from the experience. Some pieces of the old stadium, as well as pictures of the new one in progress, are all displayed in his basement with other paraphernalia.
While working at Gillette Stadium, Kosik said he greeted every player while working near the entrance one day, and they all kindly said hello. The atmosphere made it difficult to get work done, he admitted.
"It was tough because I'm such a fan," he said. "So everything I saw, every time I walked into the building, I was just speechless."