2003 Patriots Fan of the Year
The adventure began on Friday, December 19, 2003 as I was leaving the post office after dropping off cards that my students had made for Tedy and Lonie. I received a call from Joe Mastrangelo Jr. informing me that I was to receive the Joseph R. Mastrangelo Memorial Trophy and was chosen as the 2003 Fleet Patriots Fan of the Year. I needed to pull over as I was so excited! He explained that there were over 500 nominations and that I was the recipient. We had quite the conversation in which he told me about his father's love of the Patriots, the history of the award and the reasons why I was chosen. I was ecstatic and completely blown away!! (It's actually a pretty involved process where they narrow down the nominees, then members of the family, Fleet, and the Patriots actually sit down together to discuss the finalists in depth to make their decision.)
Before I knew it, a reporter for the Evening Times called and conducted an interview then sent a photographer out to the house to take pictures for the "Slice of Life" column that runs every Monday. I spoke to the Patriots on Christmas Eve then again on Friday to firm up plans for the Saturday events. Besides the last minute scramble for extra tickets to allow Kelsea and Jacob to join me on my special day, everything was set to go. Special thanks to Zip's nephew Chris who graciously bowed out of the game in favor of playoff tickets to make it all work out for me!
I spent Friday running around getting tailgate food, doing errands and then hit the gym. Friday night, just as I started cooking my chili, a reporter from WBZ4 called and wanted to conduct an interview. I told him that I was all grubby, had just worked out, and was cooking for the game. "Perfect!!" he said and asked for directions to the house. David Robichaud showed up, filmed me cooking, we talked for a bit then went down to the shrine and filmed some more down there. He really made me feel comfortable with my first foray into TV and once the butterflies subsided, even enticed me to do the tease for the upcoming Nightcast at Ten report!
On Saturday morning we all piled into the van and headed out to meet the rest of the tailgate crew. The morning flew but I couldn't eat or drink anything because of nerves. We headed to the stadium to meet at the Fleet Gate at 10:45. While waiting for our 11:00 appointment, Big Al, Kelsea, Jacob and Dad walked around the field a bit while I chatted with Mr. Mastrangelo's grandchildren. Photographers and videographers instructed us to "just pretend we're not here" as we headed over to the 50 yard line to await the rest of the crew. I spoke to Stacey James for a bit and he joked "I guess if you want to be Fan of the Year you should be a member of Tedy's fan club!" (Tedy was asked by the winners to present the award 3 years in a row.)
Mr. Kraft came out, Chad Gifford of Fleet arrived and then Tedy emerged from the locker room. Introductions and congratulations went round, and Tedy kept shaking his head and laughing at my expense. He said that when they told him that the winner of the FOTY award requested that he present it and that the person was someone that he knew he said "It must be Karen!" He kept smiling and saying "and you definitely deserve it!" He was very gracious and we got to chat a bit. I introduced him to the Mastrangelo family and managed to get a few laughs out of him as well. When Chad Gifford introduced himself, I recognized him and said "It's nice to meet you, Chad!" He laughed and said, "You even know my first name! What do you call him?" (pointing to Tedy) I said "He's Tedy." Then he pointed to Kraft and said "What about him?" I was like "Oh, him? He's MR. KRAFT!" Everybody got a kick out of that one.
The best line of the day came later however, when Kraft asked, "So, do they REALLY call you Mrs. B.?" To which I replied, "Yes, they do... that's my nickname on the internet." He looked confused and asked why. I told him that I always wear my Bruschi jersey and that I've always been a huge supporter of Tedy and that people just started calling me Mrs. Bruschi but it has since evolved into Mrs. B. (and now I don't even think "Bruschi"...it's just "Mrs. B.") But he immediately turned to Tedy and said "And what does Heidi think of that?!" Tedy laughed and said "Oh, she wants to take her out!!" (Yikes!!) We all hung out for little bit, Kraft pulled Tedy aside for a chat, then he talked to Drew who was warming up across the field. I put my order in for another INT/TD but requested it to be in my endzone this time... Kraft said, "How about both?!" We all agreed that it would be perfect! Tedy declared that it was time to get to work, Channel 6 interviewed me then we headed back to the tailgate with a beautiful bronze statue in tow!
I ate a little bit, accepted congrats from my crew and hung for awhile before heading back into the stadium with sideline passes. Kelsea and Al took some great shots and I shot the breeze and watched the boys warm up. I met Paul from the NFL who handles the mikes and stop watches and he recognized me from my Channel 4 newscast the night before! We had a nice little chat and wished each other well. Before we knew it, the boys were heading towards the tunnel and it was time to depart.
We enjoyed Zip's great seats, a blowout win and beautiful weather. As halftime drew near, the butterflies started again and suddenly there I was up on the Jumbotron. They put together a wonderful tribute and showed footage from our morning encounter. It was a complete thrill for me to see my beautiful children, husband, and father up there as well. Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead so I didn't get a shot of the footage but hopefully the Pats will oblige and provide me with a copy of the tape to show my family. (I was so nervous, I don't even remember what was said!) When it was over, my pals sitting in 201 called me on the phone and stood up cheering like crazy. People around me started to recognize me as well and began to applaud. It was freaky!!
I guess it's just the beginning and goes with the territory, as I've already been contacted by more reporters, did a spot on 790TheScore radio show, and was even recognized in plain clothes at Tweeter in Braintree the following day. My email box is full of congrats from people that I've never met...and people are giving me props just for doing things that I've always done. I never imagined just how much of an impact it has had on others.
I am grateful to the Mastrangelo family, Fleet, and the Patriots for honoring me for something that just comes naturally. Saturday was a magical day and is one that I will never, ever forget. I'm also thankful for Tedy; for his Full Tilt Full Time attitude and play, and for being a classy guy and all around nice person, without whom I never would have had the motivation or content to start this website. There are many, many wonderful, supportive fans out there who are deserving of the accolade as well, and I applaud you all and encourage you to stay positive no matter what. I am so proud to represent Patriot Nation in 2003 and will continue to share my Pats passion with others through my teaching, website, training camp reports and.... who knows what's to come?!
01/05/04 Imagine arriving at work on Monday morning after vacation and seeing this on display in front of the main office?! (Thanks to fellow teachers, friends, and Pats fans, Amy and Steph, the huge banner and posters have now found a new home in my family room Pats Shrine. ... luv you, guys!!) Of course my kids tackled me when I walked in the door and were screaming and hugging on me. Everyone was so excited because "Mrs. Cardoza, I saw you on TV and in the newspaper ... and Tedy too!!"
01/07/04 Here's one of those "you had to be there" stories. (Sorry if it loses something in the relay but it really was hilarious!!) Quite often, when we have a few minutes between activities, we play "Wheel of Fortune" in my classroom. The kids are beginning readers so it's a fun way to practice reading and spelling. I began with "H a p p y N e w Y e a r" and we moved on from there. Brittany won so she got to choose the next puzzle. She came up with a whopper: "Mrs. Cardoza is fan of the year." The kids took turns choosing letters and soon figured out the "Mrs. Cardoza" part. "The" is a familiar sight word so they got that one quite quickly too. As more and more letters were uncovered they were getting really excited, the noise level increased and they were popping up out of their seats... Nehemiah's turn was coming up and he was squealing with delight and jumping up and down. He picked "N" which revealed "Mrs. Cardoza is _ _ n o _ the _ ear. He very slowly and deliberately proclaimed in a very loud voice: Mrs.... Cardoza.... is.... QUEEN.... OF...THE.... PATRIOTS!! Everyone in the room began roaring and people in the hall could even hear us laughing. I laughed so much I cried and every time I think of it I laugh more and more! (God, I love those kids!)
3 Patriots "Fan of the Year" recipients meet at Rotman signing 01/11/05
Current FOTY Noel Texeira, Randy "Zip" Pierce, 2001, and Karen Cardoza, 2003, pose with the Mastrangelo trophy.