Few things have the power to bring people together the way sports do. Especially for someone who is looking for community after moving across the country.
That's exactly what New Hampshire native Scott Holt found every Sunday around 1996, when a group of displaced Patriots fans promoted a Super Bowl watch party on local Phoenix radio. The New England Patriots Fan Club of Arizona became official the next season, with its president, Scott, along for the ride since the second-ever meeting.
This season, the club is celebrating its 25th anniversary of bringing fans together and contributing to the Patriots Foundation. And on Dec. 12 when New England travels to play the Arizona Cardinals, they'll welcome you with what's sure to be the best tailgate party at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"People tell us it makes them feel like they're back home," Scott said.
Scott left the East Coast for college, and after some time in California following his graduation from Arizona State University, work took him back to Arizona. The football fan longed for a place to watch the Patriots and meet people, and he wasn't alone in the desert.
It started off as a group of people in enemy territory getting together for football and drinks, and evolved into organized activities, fundraisers, road trips, club dues, a board of governors, and their third location.
Eventually, the Patriots Fan Club registry was established in 2005, and Scott met his wife, Tracey, a former club treasurer, at one of their gatherings around two years later.
"I'm from Nashua originally, and it's funny because I met my wife out with the Patriots Fan Club. She's from Hampton Beach," Scott said of the woman he was assigned to do food prep with ahead of one of the club's annual picnics in 2007.
Like Scott and many other members, Tracey was new to Arizona. Her specifically, by way of Chicago. The two have been married 13 years.
"A lot of people are transplants," Scott said. "We happened to have a friend of ours who was a transplant radio personality working at one of the local stations here and that's how he helped us get the word out initially. Then, as the internet and social media came to be, it was just people that had moved here and were looking for a place to watch the games. When the Patriots Fan Club registry started, and it was 10-to-15 years ago, that opened the door because now you can pretty much go anywhere in the world. You'll be able to find a Patriots home somewhere."
If you're not in Foxboro for a game, Toso's Bar and Grill in Phoenix might be the next best place.
Prior to the pandemic, fans routinely packed the restaurant to its capacity of over 250 people. Watch parties come complete with third-quarter jersey raffles and New England-style clam chowder provided by owner Dave Dilettoso, originally from Connecticut.
Trips to Foxboro are organized during the season for games and they've made the trip 19 times. Uniquely, the Fan Club of Arizona also got to have the Patriots travel to them for Super Bowl victories against the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons.
"That was probably more than we expected," Scott said. "We probably had thousands of people roll through those two days."
The huge party caught the attention of Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft long ago, and he's visited with the club to answer questions during a tailgate and even donated Super Bowl tickets while in town for Andre Tippett's induction to the Hall of Fame.
"He's supported the club since Day 1," Scott said of Robert Kraft. "I don't think we'd be where we're at today. I hope that we've helped them with some areas too, but that they've just been amazing. I don't see here in this town or in any other sport – the way the Patriots connect with the fans."
To learn more about the New England Patriots fan clubs or find one near you, click here.