Patriots fans are a dedicated bunch, but few would go to the lengths Naval Commanding Officer Mike Gunther of the USS McFaul did in order to watch a game.
The ship can access TV channels via satellite, depending on the course it is on. Officer Michael Kennedy said the McFaul and its crew never missed a game – purely coincidental, of course.
"Every time a Patriots game was on, our captain made sure that we were on that TV course to make sure that we weren't losing any of the Patriots footage," Kennedy said. "I don't know how many people would control a warship to watch their favorite game other than a true Patriots fan."
"It was just convenient," Gunther countered.
Whether or not the reception was intentional, Gunther is known as a "die-hard" fan on the McFaul, so when the ship had a port visit in Boston for St. Patrick's Day, his crew made sure he was able to see Gillette Stadium.
As a lifelong fan from Windsor Locks, Conn., the trip to Gillette on March 18 was his first. Gunther and seven members of his crew set up a trip to the Hall at Patriot Place to explore Patriots history, were given gift bags from the Kraft family, walked on the field and met Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett.
"It's one of the highlights of my tour that I was able to get up here. Just being able to get to Boston and then my big push was I want to go to Gillette Stadium. I want to get down here," Gunther said. "We started planning this last year on deployment. I don't care what else we do in Boston. I want to get to Gillette Stadium. This is the highlight. Even yesterday, I was saying we need to get back early tonight. We got Gillette Stadium tomorrow, we're going to go see the Patriots, so it's really big."
The trip is especially bittersweet, as Gunther will be completing his tour in May. Marcie Farley said the visit was a good send-off for Gunther.
"It was great. He's getting ready to leave us, so this is like the icing on the cake for us to say goodbye to him. Giving him a tour of Gillette Stadium is awesome," Marcie said.
Gunther said the day was more than he could have hoped.
"I would say overwhelming, but it's just been awesome … You can see. We've got tears in our eyes from joy and being out here. It's awesome," he said.
Though Gunther came into his fandom in the Steve Grogan era, he said his favorite player has to be Tom Brady, and the team's first Super Bowl victory goes down as one of his favorite moments.
In his 32 years serving in the Navy, Gunther said the Patriots have helped him feel connected to home.
"Really we want to thank the Kraft organization and the entire Patriots organization for having us, allowing us to come down here. The hospitality, the support they have for our armed forces across the board. They reach out and they touch people, the sailors, the Marines, Army and Air Force, worldwide," Gunther said. "Although they go out there on the gridiron and play their games, what they do for those of us out serving our countries overseas, it just brings us back home."