My bad. I wasn't doing my job a little over a week ago when a major sports anniversary occurred on Jan. 12.

Thirty years ago, the 1985 New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins, 31-17, in the AFC Championship to advance to the franchise's first Super Bowl.

We could use the excuse that we were too immersed in our lives with iPhones, Twitter, our jobs, Donald Trump, The Bachelor and, that good old-fashioned built-in excuse, family, but we won't.

I have the real reason we all were sleeping at the wheel: Apathy. 

AFC Championships are so ... 1985.

There is one fellow, among probably four dozen or so, who had his own private celebration of the most incredible day of his football career nine days ago.

Garin Veris was 22 years old at the time on that day during the playoffs in 1986, a defensive lineman out of Stanford University. 

Veris couldn't forget that day, Jan. 12, 1986, if he tried due to a big, diamond-studded ring on his right hand.

"I wear it every day," said Veris, the former athletic director at Haverhill High, now at Mass. Maritime Academy in Bourne, on the Cape Cod Canal.

"I was proud to have been part of that team. We are kind of a brotherhood now. We have the distinction of being the first team to go to the Super Bowl by winning three road games (as the Wild Card team). That's special."

You're darn tootin' that was special. That was one of the wildest times in Boston sports with the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots were vying for championships.

The victory that Veris refers to was really historic. Remember what had happened the year before, when Ron Meyer was fired halfway through the 1984 season and replaced by Raymond Berry. 

The Patriots started the 1985 season at 2-3 before going on an epic roll, losing only two games, before taking a must-win game in the final regular season game, played in sub-freezing weather (13 degrees), beating Cincinnati in the final seconds on a 42-yard run by backup Robert Weathers, on fourth down, to snare a Wild Card berth.

"It's funny I ran into a guy recently who said he was one of the people that helped rip the goal post down then walked it out of the stadium and down Route 1," said Veris. "You hear that happen at college games, not in the NFL. But it did. I saw it."

Then the Patriots beat the Jets (26-14) and Raiders (27-20) before going to the Orange Bowl in Miami, to "Squish the Fish," where the franchise had lost 18 straight games.

How big was that game? Boston Mayor Ray Flynn gave the team a huge sendoff at Government Plaza in Boston on a very chilly day before leaving for Miami. Fans were throwing around dead fish, for obvious reasons.

"It just felt like the whole region was behind us," recalled Veris. "It really was special."

That euphoria apparently carried over on the field.

"We kept hearing about the losing streak, but honestly, we weren't going to be denied," said Veris. "We got a big lead (17-7) in the first half and never looked back. It was a warm, wet day. I remember seeing Coach Berry being carried off the field. A lot of tension was released.

"When we got back to Providence, it was about 3 or 4 in the morning, but people were climbing over fences to get a glimpse of us getting off the plane," said Veris. "It was an amazing experience."

How about this for a coincidence? The year before Veris worked the Super Bowl, which was at Stanford Stadium, as a security guard. The San Francisco 49ers soundly beat the Miami Dolphins, 38-16.

"I worked the Miami bench area," said Veris. "So one year I'm watching Dan Marino on the sidelines, the next year I'm going against him. It was incredible."

Best of all, Veris not only had a fumble recover but he had sacked Marino (see accompanying photo). It's still his favorite photo as a player.

It really was wild around here. Two weeks later (that will be a big anniversary in Chicago), the "Berry the Bears" campaign fell flat on its face, with the Patriots losing 46-10.

But it wasn't enough to quell the memories Veris wears on his right ring finger every day.

"We were the first and that is special," said Veris. "I remember thinking, because I was so young, that we'd be going to more Super Bowls. But it didn't happen until I was gone, 10 years after we went."

Veris, who turns 53 on Feb. 27, loves his job at Mass. Maritime for many reasons, one of which is the school's ability to bring in strong students and athletes.

He will be watching the Patriots try to win their ninth AFC Championship, six under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, on Sunday. 

"We're supposed to get a big storm on the Cape on Saturday," said Veris. "I live on a winter rental at the beach on Sandwich. I will build a big fire, put on the game and watch the Patriots beat the Broncos. That's my prediction. I really enjoy watching this team."

And New Englanders really enjoyed watching that 1985 team, and is a great reminder how far the Patriots and this region's franchises have come.

You can email Bill Burt at

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