For many college students, the break between semesters is time designated for watching Netflix on the couch, catching up with friends from high school and, frankly, sleeping. But for Ed and Emily Bourrilhon, a brother-sister duo from Melbourne, Australia, school break turned into the opportunity of a lifetime: catching Patriots games in person for the first time.
The siblings planned their vacation around the Patriots schedule, hoping to catch them as many times as they could during their trip. Ed, 21, and Emily, 19, got a taste of a New York-Boston rivalry when they saw the Patriots play the Jets on the road. While that was a special moment in itself, the surreal moment came a week later. On Dec. 4, the pair made their first trip to Gillette Stadium since they started cheering on the team for nearly 10 years ago.
Ed and Emily visited New York in 2007 when their family planned a trip to see their mother's longtime pen pal. Their family friends, originally from Boston, gave Ed a Patriots hat, and that sealed the deal. He became determined, he said, to see his team and Tom Brady while he could.
"This holiday was to see Tom Brady before he retires. I was saving for a car, and it came down to the fact that I can get a car whenever I want to," Ed said. "I thought I might as well spend the equivalent to come over."
Though they have friends who follow the NFL and the Patriots, as the sport's popularity continues to grow in Australia, Emily said being able to see entire cities come together to root for a common cause was incredible and an experience they couldn't get in their home country.
"The games were all just so much fun. The passion from the supporters, the whole city gets around one team," Emily said. "It's not like that in Australia. We have a bunch teams in Victoria alone for the Australian Football League. It's so interesting here."
Ed said he experienced some good ol' fashioned trash talking in New York and a moment of Patriots comradery while wearing a Drew Bledsoe jersey in Santa Monica, but nothing compared to that feeling of knowing they were with a crowd of fans all wearing red, white and blue. This moment of realization that they were now in the heart of Patriots Nation truly struck Ed and Emily as they arrived on the train that runs from Boston to Gillette Stadium on game days.
"The train was called the Patriots Train. I think that's when it really hit us. This is iconic. It's crazy," Emily said.
Between the crowd of entirely Patriots fans, Tom Brady on the cusp of history and seeing the End Zone Militia walking around Patriot Place, Ed and Emily fully embraced all Gillette Stadium has to offer on game day. Even beyond scoring tickets to two Patriots games, the siblings took full advantage of all American sports culture has to offer
Since landing in Los Angeles in late November, they saw the Lakers take on the Golden State Warriors, an Anaheim Ducks game and USC take on UCLA. When they got to New York, they saw the Knicks and the Rangers and are hoping to catch a Bruins game while in Boston.
"All of our friends are going to have this whole holiday, and we're just going to watch sports," Ed said with a smile. "All of our photos [on social media] have been us at sports games."
Their extended sports-vacation to the United States spurred jealousy from their friends and even inspired one to plan a similar trip of his own next year. Despite the longs flights, waking up early to catch planes, trains and taxis, being able to see the Patriots compete in person has been more than enough to compensate for lost sleep.
"We'd pay it 100 times over just to see it live. You don't even think about the time, the travel, and waking up early because you're never going to experience this again," Emily said. "I don't know when I'm going to be able to come back."
"We're just fortunate to be here," Ed said.