Game Review: Maine Black Bears vs UMass, 9/7/2013, 2pm
Final Score: Maine 24 UMass 14
Weather: Warm 70’s, Ticket Price: $25 Face, $15 from a scalper
“Which one is the FBS team again!?!” by Tree
When UMass made the decision to move up to FBS (DI), it was decided that the campus stadium was too small. They made the move out to Gillette where the Patriots play. Alumni had said they would be more supportive of the football program if it was FBS, but the physical move has not been successful. Attendance has steadily worsened despite a supposedly large alumni fan base in and around Foxboro. This doesn’t surprise me because most pro stadiums are a poor fit for college football. They are not on campus and students often need to be bused to the games. I asked some UMass alums prior to the game for an impression of the experience and they were nonplussed. One even said he was unaware they had a team.
Given such poor attendance, I assumed getting a ticket to the game would be easy, but when I went to the team site it said there were not many left. I almost panicked and bought one there for $25 plus another $5 for internet fees. However, cooler heads prevailed and I decided to risk it at the gate.
It pains me to say this as a Steeler fan, but Gillette stadium is a very good venue. There is an area called Patriot Place with shops and restaurants near the stadium. Outside the gate there is plenty of room for promotions which UMass took full advantage of. However, the family friendly atmosphere was not conducive for scalpers. It took a little work, but my buddy Dave managed to find someone to sell us a pair at $15 each. Once inside Gillette Stadium, I continued to be impressed. It was spacious and clean, with plenty of vending, at least on the home side. The stadium had two giant video scoreboards so we were sure not to miss any action.
Not surprisingly, the whole upper deck of the stadium was closed along with the end zone seats and much of the visitors’ side. What surprised me was how badly the visiting fans from Maine were treated. The only seats open on the visitors side were from goal line to about the 30 yard line and that was on just one end. Our seats were in the end zone corner and like all the other seats on the UMass side, facing the hot, bright sun. Undoubtedly an advantage as the weather turns cold, but fairly awful in early September.
I flew up to Boston from D.C. the night before to hit the Wake Forest vs. Boston College game and this was looking to be the weaker game of the doubleheader. I was staying with an old childhood friend, Dave, at his place outside of Boston in New Hampshire. If there is a plus to going to a pro stadium for a college game, it is the logistics. It was very easy to get in and out of Gillette Stadium and unbelievably, the parking was free – please take note University of Miami. There was some tailgating in the lot but generally speaking it was a mellow scene.
The Maine Black Bears came in as underdog in my mind since they were a FCS (DI AA) team. UMass scored first but then it was all Black Bears. While I normally wear the home team colors and root for them, it did not take me very long to switch my allegiance. Maine dominated the game. What I found surprising was not that UMass was losing, but how much better the talent seemed to be on the Maine side of the ball. UMass kept it close, but it never seemed like they were actually going to win.
It didn’t take long for me to start wanting to move over to the Maine side of the stadium. I was already rooting for them and they were in the shade. I was watching the fans and very slowly, I saw one guy move over to the center section of the stadium and then another and another. The ushers were not stopping them. I suggested to Dave that we should head over there and he happily agreed. By the time we got there, there were a number of folks sitting in the good section. We ended up right on the 50 yard line, and in the shade. They were fantastic seats. It did not take long for the event staff to stop the migration from going any further. To their credit, they did not move any folks out of our section. They just made sure there was not anyone moving into the next section.
The one bad thing about the Maine side was there was only one concession stand going on that side. It was quicker and easier to walk over to the UMass side. The concessions were fairly standard. I was disappointed by two developments. One, they were not selling UMass souvenir cups. I collect the home team cup from each stadium. Second was the “fried dough” I bought. It was a major disappointment. It barely qualified as dough and it certainly wasn’t fried.
On our return to our seats, my spirits were picked up by the Raider fan sitting behind us. We were discussing our mutual hatred of the Patriots and he proudly noted that he had avenged the Brady tuck game by pissing everywhere in the bathroom except for the urinal. Ahhh, Raider Fan – a man after my own heart.