FOXBOROUGH - It was 12:46 p.m. on a Sunday. I sat along among the 360 seats in the south end zone section of Gillette Stadium.
Absolutely nobody was on the field, other than two ball boys for the Dolphins and three staff members for the Patriots.
No fans in the 68,000 seats.
It was 19 minutes before kickoff of an NFL game, Patriots hosting the Dolphins.
Was there really going to be a game? Where the heck is everybody?
It was weird as in Weird 101. Probably a lot like the first day of virtual school.
We’ve all been to football games where we hear nearly everything, including players or coaches cussing. I heard cussing yesterday.
But after watching the NFL become the full-fledged force it has become on the national sports landscape, America’s favored sport, these were uncharted waters at 1 Patriot Place in Foxborough.
The Dolphins fourth and 1 to open the fourth quarter? Normally where fans lose their voices and the opposition can't hear itself think. Instead there was the sound of silence. I actually heard, from 50 yards away, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick yell out "Number 51 is the mike (middle-linebacker)!," and then "Watch number 50!"
This particular tilt warranted 68,000 spectators that usually fill Gillette Stadium on Sundays.
First-time Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is a world-class entertainer (Did you see the yellow suit he wore to work on Sunday?). And entertainers need an audience. They just do.
Newton’s first running play, called by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, deserved a standing ovation. We knew it was coming, but it was a baton-passing event. A new era of Patriot Way football had begun, aka Tom Brady never did that!
But other than a few of his teammates, it was just a routine run.
This was the entire day. About 20 minutes before the opening kickoff, there was nobody on the field. There was no music blaring.
“Is there really a game in 20 minutes?” I said to myself.
There was. And it was, as expected, pretty boring.
Was it the teams, both predicted to be near the .500 mark when all things are said and done in late December?
Maybe a little. But it was more the "quiet."
Like the first touchdown run by Newton. We were waiting for something funny, wild, like his pregame suit. Instead, there was a little celebration, a few teammates jumping up, but then it was over.
The second touchdown run by Newton would've warranted a joyous, one-minute standing ovation amid things like "How ya doin' now Brady?!"
The Patriots won the game in ugly fashion with an ugly score, 21-11.
Newton and the fans lost an opportunity to form a bond. Newton did everything as advertised, completing 15 of 19 passes, and rushing for 75 yards. He deserved the cheers and the fans deserved his usual show in the end zone.
That will have to wait, though. Maybe a month from now or maybe two months, but it's going to be difficult for not only Patriots fans but all fans to watch.
Football is about adjustments. We -- players, coaches, media, fans, etc. -- are going to have figure this all out on the fly.
Wish us luck.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.