998 Miles by Susan Chapman

My son, Jonathan, who had left home at 18, struggled with addiction. But he had gotten off the drugs, moved home, and restarted his life in the summer of 2014. He was doing well, but was getting restless, feeling lonely, and missing old friends. I wanted desperately to help him; so I wracked my brain for a hobby we could enjoy together.
Although we were a conservative Mennonite family who had never owned a television, I asked him if he’d like to watch football with me. I had not seen a football game since attending the Patriots and Bears in Super Bowl XX in New Orleans when I was a young girl. He reluctantly agreed so we made a date each week to go to our nearest Buffalo Wild Wings and watch the Patriots games as that was one of the only teams I had known. I had no earthly idea if the team was even any good; it was just a name I remembered.
We read up on the game, learned the basic football rules, and listened to a few sports shows. Of course, it was an amazing year for the Patriots, and we were watching together when Malcolm Butler intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on the goal line to win Super Bowl XLIX. We were holding hands and literally crying with joy. It was OUR WIN as much as the team’s. It was one of the happiest moments of my life to see my son, living sober and healthy, and celebrating a championship win beside me.
Since then, we’ve traveled the 998 miles from Pikeville, Tenn., to Gillette stadium seven times. We traveled to Cleveland for Tom Brady’s first game after serving his suspention. We went to the Superdome to see the Pats beat the Saints in New Orleans. After a great win over the Jets at the Meadowlands, we waited so long behind the stadium toi see the team load the bus. We traveled to Atlanta for media nigh during Super Bowl LIII and we watched the defense pick off Andy Dalton repeatedly in Cincinnati this past season. We sat in the driving rain and watched the Boogeymen help beat the Browns at Gillette this past season. We were in Nashville when we suffered that terrible loss in 2018 and we cried as we stood in a cold drizzle and watched the great Tom Brady walk off the field after losing to the Titans in the 2019 playoffs. We both had a sinking feeling that it was his last game as a Patriot. We make the trip to Foxborough twice per year. It’s a long drive and often snowy since we have attended the Divisional Playoffs four years in a row an a Wild Card game this past year. It makes for scary driving for a southerner. I am a mother of 12 and we aren’t wealthy people but Jon and I have paid as much as $400 apiece for nosebleed seats at Gillette Stadium and loved every second of it. Definitely some of the happiest times of my life. Jonathan is still sober, the team is still winning, and we still watch every single game together. Thank you for your interest in my story.

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