It's always a lot of fun to travel to a Patriots game on the road, especially when you are going with a bunch of guys and staying at a nice hotel. But when the Pats lose - especially unexpectedly - the ride home ends up being a lot longer than the ride to the game.
As I write this, I am in the van traveling back from Buffalo. We make this trip almost every year. There were eight of us this time, including my two sons, but only five of us made the ride across Route 90. My son and his good friend flew in from Baltimore and we picked them up at the airport. That was much easier than dropping them back off at 6 a.m. on Monday.
We laughed a lot on the way to Buffalo, even when my older son's friend hit his head getting into the van - three separate times. We listened to a lot of sports radio, then checked into our hotel that was full of Patriots fans. There was a lot of high-fiving and cheery hellos, as well as good-natured ribbing with the Buffalo folks. We went tailgating in the stadium parking lot and were pumped going to our seats.
The Pats jumped out to a 21-0 lead - then everything started going wrong. We should have known something was amiss. It was hotter than you-know-where in Buffalo, and we all actually got quite sunburned in a place known for snow and cold. But the Patriots played the second half like the game was at the North Pole, and our day went quickly downhill.
New England had beaten the Bills 15 consecutive times, and this was supposed to be the 16th. Next thing we knew, we were exiting the stadium surrounded by smiling Bills fans - something we had not seen in a while. We reacted in a manner befitting the reputation of Boston sports fans.
We scrapped our plans to cook again in the lot and left immediately. We went back to our hotel and ordered take-out so we could avoid the gloating Buffalo folks. We avoided watching SportsCenter or anything that might have highlights of the game, and grudgingly found the Sox-Yankees contest. Then we settled into our collective pouts and tried in vain to treat our red faces and burning arms.
We lightened up by morning, but the ride home has been reserved. No sports radio is allowed, and there has been no further discussion of the events of Sunday afternoon. It is an unwritten code, occasionally violated by a disgusted shake of the head or a sigh followed by, "We blew a 21-point lead - I can't believe it!"
Of course, this too shall pass. We will be back gathered in front of the TV when the Patriots take on the Raiders in Oakland next Sunday. And we will be looking for Buffalo people to torment when the Bills visit Foxborough in December. But for right now, as far as we are concerned, Tom Brady owes us some serious gas money.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a Patriots season ticket holder for almost 40 years. You can express sympathies to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.