FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — On a Saturday afternoon in January, New England football fans are used to not watching the Patriots play.
The team made the playoffs for 11 years in a row, but rarely found itself playing in the Wild Card round. That playoff streak came to an end this season after one crucial player left the organization.
This summer, Tom Brady announced he would sign as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that had a losing record the year before. But, Brady made the move and added ex-Patriots Robert Gronkowski and short-tenured Antonio Brown on his way to Florida.
Without going into details, the Patriots finished the season 7-9. The same as Tampa's from 2019. Brady, Gronk, and the team's host of weapons finished the year 11--5 in a tough NFC Conference.
The Bucs 'earned' the right to travel to Washington D.C. to play The Football Team. Washington had a losing record, but won the NFC East and was awarded a home playoff game. You can watch Brady and Gronk on NEWS CENTER Maine for coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m.
It will be a different weekend for Patriots nation and also for the industries that benefit from big events like the NFL Playoffs. Hero's Sports Grill & Entertainment Center in Bangor is accustomed to a packed house every Sunday, especially during the postseason.
The restaurant had been broadcasting each game played in the league which requires separate streaming subscriptions, away from traditional cable. This year, they determined that wasn't in their budget, and have only shown locally broadcast games.
“It’s been a different year not having all the games on, but it’s a decision we had to make for the best of the business," owner Quinn Paradis said.
Paradis says curbside pickup and take-out options helped business in the past year, as well as the regulars that come to support their local spot.
“They’ve been very supportive, they want Hero’s to be there and we’ll be here, and they’ve been coming and supporting and whether it be dine-in or take-out," Paradis said.
Another issue for Hero's, and businesses like it, primetime NFL games don't begin until eight o'clock or later. Per Governor Janet Mills' order, restaurants and bars must close by 9 p.m. Additionally, the 50-person capacity limits also restrict the crowd size for gameday.
“The dining room’s been busy with the restraints that we can have, and the number of people we can have in the business," Paradis says.
The fans aren't the only ones adjusting to a different post-season. Sports Psychologist Dr. Christine Selby says Tom Brady will have some adjusting to do after playing for nearly 20 years in New England.
“I imagine that he has just brought who he is to his team and it’s just an adjustment of a different location, different fans, different weather," Selby says.
Dr. Selby suggests a reason Gronk might have come out of retirement was that the new opportunity was a better fit. Playing in a new organization with a great quarterback is a great mental fresh start.
Regardless if you root for him or not, Brady and Gronk battle for another Super Bowl beginning Saturday night.