Native New Englander Brian Downing has been through his share of ups and downs with the Patriots. As a fan for 40 years, he's experienced the euphoria of winning and utter disappointment of losing. Among those low moments is former Giant David Tyree's so-called "helmet catch," which set his team up to defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
"It [the Patriots' loss] was so devastating to my sports psyche," Brian recalled. "I was in a funk for months after that. Then in 2011, my entire family was watching together and we just couldn't believe it – again. I was saying to myself, 'It's a curse. The curse has to be lifted somehow and I've got to think about what I can do to help.'"
Brian told himself David Tyree was to blame for the curse. So, when he made plans to travel to Glendale, Ariz., for his first Super Bowl experience, he decided to put his own spin on the team's 'Do Your Job' rallying call. He set out to reverse the curse.
"I think passionate sports fans are by nature superstitious and a lot of us believe that what we do during the game, or whether we're watching it or not, can actually influence the outcome. I guess I'm a little bit crazy like that," he explained, with a laugh.
Brian found an autographed Tyree jersey for about $100 on eBay and the day before the big game, he and friend Jim Peterson ventured out into the desert to bury it in the sand.
"We hiked about a mile and found a good spot that no one would ever find," he recalled.
The pair dug a two-foot-deep hole for the jersey and marked it in true Patriots style.
"We took some rocks and we made a number 12 on top of it," Brian explained.
The following day, Brian and Jim were in the stands at University of Phoenix Stadium, hoping they'd witness the Patriots lift the Lombardi Trophy. When Jermaine Kearse made that unbelievable catch late in the fourth quarter, though, doubt set in. Friends started texting Brian, joking that the jersey had been found and the Tyree curse was still alive.
Of course, we all know how the story ended. Malcolm Butler made his now-famous interception and the Patriots became Super Bowl champs once more. And for Brian, being there to witness it all in person – curse or no curse – still seems like a dream.
"It was one of those things where you do something that you've wanted to do your whole life and it lived up to all expectations," he said. "I just felt like a kid on Christmas, except it lasted longer than that. It's still going on."
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