I’ve moved to a new field of work at Gillette Stadium. I went from being an usher to being on a response team (we call them roam teams, since when we’re not busy we roam around the Stadium). I figured that since I miss out on all the fun of being a fan - getting a nice buzz going, making noise on big 3rd downs, sitting - I might as well get into more of an action filled job. I did get to see most of the game as an usher, and even though I catch the big plays, I miss the seemingly little plays that set the big plays up, and wind up watching the game on tape anyway.
What a roam team does is basically every part of the job that isn’t customer service related. We’re still encouraged to be friendly to the guests, answer their questions, try to help them find their way. But the primary task of a roam team is to be there when the proverbial shit hits the metaphorical fan. When I was an usher, and things got out of control, my supervisor would call a roam team. If there’s a fight, a medical emergency, a lost child; a roam team is involved, or at least should be.
I’ve had some pretty solid assignments this “off” season. When Bruce Springsteen came, we were holding down the floor (field). Let me just say that Bruce puts on one hell of a show, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like his music.
And when Brazil played Venezuela, I ushered from a nice perch in the 200 level, right behind a 6' 2" Brazilian goddess.
Even though it’s preseason, a Friday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles will jump out at an event staffer. The Eagles travel well, and on Fridays people drink well.
The night started slowly. My roam team got stuck doing pat downs. I had three extremely awkward pat downs. The first involved an older gentleman with a catheter bag in his pocket. The second a man with a prosthetic leg (Me: “What’s that?” Him: “Fake leg” Me: “Oh… well, enjoy the game“). The third was a mentally challenged (if that’s not the correct PC terminology, someone please feel free to change it) young man who danced suggestively as I patted down his cargo shorts.
We had nothing to do until halftime. But then we got a special assignment. Recently inducted Hall of Famer Andre Tippett was going from the field to the press box, and we were going to escort him up.
People unfamiliar with New England Patriots history might not realize how Tippett was a rare spot of brightness in a history dominated by dullness. In fact, some girls from another roam team asked me “Who is Andre Tippett?” My response was to just stare at them. Eventually I muttered “A really really good football player.”
Tippett’s still fast. A few event managers and supervisors kept real close to him, but were out of breath by the time they reached the top of the stairs.
The night seemed pretty peaceful after that little thrill. At 9:25, we went up and down the concourse, shutting down the beer stands, making sure they unscrewed their taps. We found the occasional person smoking where they shouldn’t, and answered a few questions about where to buy ice cream, and where to get anything Dunkin Donuts.
Then things just went south. Or actually, they went north, to the north end zone, my old stomping grounds, where I used to usher in section 142. Like I said earlier, I have a radio set on my roam team, and so does my supervisor. A call came…
Observation = the god of Gillette Stadium, the guy who coordinates EVERYTHING
Alpha Romeo = Glenn, the director of all the roam teams
Romeo 3 = Roam team #3, my team that night
“Observation to Alpha Romeo and Romeo 3... There is a fight in section 143, police are on their way.”
You hear that, and you‘re off to the races. We were behind section 130. My supervisor and I started running. The other guys on our team, who don’t have radios, picked up on our reaction and ran with us. I yell to the team “Fight… 143.” We cut through lines at the ice cream stand and the ATM. We dodge and weave through the herds of slow moving people on the concourse. It’s like going 120 in rush hour gridlock.
Looking back, my reactions don’t make much sense. I’m not a strong guy, I don’t know any martial arts, and I have no clue what I’m getting into. It could be 8 Marines fighting 8 Army Rangers. But there’s a rush when you hear that call on the radio. You want to get there and get into it as quickly as possible. Maybe it’s the boredom of walking around so much (walked 6 miles that night according to my pedometer, which is relatively low. At the two summer concerts we did 10 to 15 miles). Maybe it’s knowing that the ushers are waiting for you to help. Maybe it’s the fear of not running into it and being ashamed. Maybe my German blood makes me want to follow orders.
Or maybe it’s simpler. Maybe I know I have a good team around me. And I know from extensive experience that I can get beaten to a pulp, brush myself off, and go about my business.
When we got there, the fight had apparently reached it’s resolution. But in actuality, it hadn’t. One man was surrounded by police. He made a break for it (dumbass), and was tackled by 6 cops, and Alpha Romeo. Where you goin? Nowhere!
Our team’s job, at this point, is to cordon off the area and give the police room to operate freely. Out of nowhere, a younger guy in his late 20s, early 30s emerges from the crowd. I tell him to stop. He doesn’t. I yell at him to stop. He slows down. “That’s my father!” he yells.
“You have to let the police do their work,” I reply. This wasn’t good enough for him. He tried getting by me. I block him, push him back a bit. Then 4 cops fly out from behind me and envelop him.
But this family wasn’t done yet. The matriarch steps up. She’s wife to the man being crushed by half a dozen cops, and mother to the man just handcuffed after trying to get by me. She too has lost control. I try quietly telling her to step back, but she isn’t having any of it. “He’s my husband! He has the car keys!” Understandable reaction, perhaps, but nevertheless unacceptable. She doesn’t even reach me. More cops appear from behind me and corral her.
All told, the fights and interference lead to about 6 or 7 arrests/ejections. I really couldn’t tell you, because right as this situation was beginning to quiet down, another one popped up.
“Observation to Romeo 3, proceed to section 136 and assist the usher supervisor with a patron causing problems.”
More running. Such a vague description. “Causing problems” could be anything from lighting a cigarette in a non-smoking area, to putting a cigarette out on someone’s face. And with adrenaline still flowing from the fight, a short sprint from 143 to 136 was inevitable.
We got there, and it’s just some guy who called a girl a name after she turned down his buddy’s inappropriate sexual advances. And I was disappointed at this mundane problem. Name calling? And then tattling? But the guy had to go. There was a legit claim, verified by others, that he called a girl a name (still not sure what it was) he shouldn’t have. Plus, he was from Quebec. And we all know what NHL team plays in Quebec, so I was all for taking him out. And he didn’t cause much of a fuss, so no big deal. (This is a joke, I’ve NEVER treated a fan differently because of the team they supported, at least not while I’m on the clock)
By now, the game’s nearly over. We went to the back of the broadcast booth to set-up another escort. This time, we’re taking the TV announcers from the booth to the rear exit of the Stadium. By the way, when Mr. Madden is escorted, he insists on being chauffeured everywhere via golf cart. I don’t think the man has walked anywhere in 6 years.
I don’t know the names of the preseason announcers. But they do thank all of us after we’ve gotten them to the exit, which is extremely nice, whether its sincere or not. It’s just nice to be thanked sometimes. (Note: just looked up who the announcers are: Don Criqui and Randy Cross)
Worst part about being on the roam team: you’re the last employees to be released. Let’s say a game gets over at 10:30, the seating sections are emptied by 10:45, the 300 level concourse is clear by 11:00, the 300 level is done with their sweep by 11:20, the 100 level finishes its sweep by 11:45. Then you can go home.
Best part about being on the roam team: post-game tailgate in the employee’s lot with the other roam teams. Kielbasa, burgers, ribs, BYOB, and stay as late as you want. The State Police usually clear out the regular lots by 2 AM, I’ve stayed there until 4 in the past. And there’s absolutely no traffic by the time you leave.
Funniest moment of the night came over the radio: "Romeo 4 to Observation.. We're in section 238, row 12, seat 6. Someone has... ummm... defecated in their seat."
9/7 - Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots
Events: must be over 100 by now
Ejections: 30 (this doesn’t count the 5 or 6 arrests Friday night)
Ejection threats: well over 100
Uncomfortably hit on/fondled/tickled: 25
Times I’ve heard “Shipping Up to Boston”: ∞