MASHPEE – His dog is named after a linebacker, “Bruschi.” As for his three children, Leon Pinsonneault said, ““They know Dad’s a freak on game day.”
And his wife, Sharon, said, “On a typical Sunday, he gets up singing. He’s like, ‘It’s game day! It’s game day!’ He’s singing in the shower.” So as the New England Patriots prepare to play the Denver Broncos for the AFC Championship this Sunday, Pinsonneault was in an especially confident mood early in the week.
Joe Broderick, a bartender at Dino’s Sports Bar, said of Pinsonneault, “He doesn’t believe they are ever going to lose.”
In fact, it was Broderick who directed Cape Cod Wave to Pinsonneault for this story. Asked for help finding a dedicated, rabid Patriots fan, Broderick said, “I know just the guy.”
Pinsonneault, 50, was raised in North Attleboro where he grew up playing football. “Everybody had their dream when they were a kid,” he said. “Football was mine.” He played plenty of backyard football when he was young, and high school football as a tight end, wide receiver, and cornerback.
But as a child, his father had season tickets from a bakery business he owned, and often let Pinsonneault sit in the worst of his seats, at the very top of the old Sullivan Stadium. “I loved it,” he said. “I have been following the Patriots ever since I was young.”
“Back then, you liked the Patriots but you always had to like another team because Patriots never went to playoffs,” he said. “My second favorite team was the Minnesota Vikings. I watched them lose four Super Bowls.”
After graduating from high school, he wandered down to Florida and worked construction and then was on a road trip when, “My motorcycle broke down on the Cape 28 years ago.”
It seemed like a reason to stay, so he did. He worked construction and now he owns his own firm, Pinsonneault Builders, which has an office in Falmouth. He is also the president of Mashpee Pop Warner Football, and a coach with the Cape Cod Dirt Dogs, a girls traveling softball team.
He takes one day off a week: game day.
Pinsonneault has Patriots season tickets and gets to about five games a year with a rotating group of people including his business partner, his wife, his neighbors, or his children – Casey, 17, Sydney, 14, and Colby, 12.
He and his group gather with a group of about ten in tents in the parking lot, cooking food and enjoying a libation two hours before kickoff, he said. “Then we go to the game and root like hell for the Patriots, and then we come out afterward and tailgate for for a few more hours until (the parking lot staff) tell us, ‘You’re out,” said Pinsonneault.
He has been to one Super Bowl – the one against the Carolina Panthers in Febuary 2004, – and almost all of the home playoff games since the Brady/Belichick run began. But this weekend, he will be watching at home with a gathering of 10 friends or so.
“Tailgating starts here two or three hours before the game, he said. “We eat like kings on game day. Steaks cooking on the grill.”
But food is never the primary focus of game day. “Sunday football is like a ritual,” he said. “When we wake up, I get excited on game day. I put everything else aside.”
The effects of game day for Pinsonneault can often spread beyond the window when the game clock is running, say those close to him.
In fact, that’s just the beginning, according to his administrative assistant, Susie Dostilio, who happens to be a New York Giants fan. Yes, the New York Giants, who beat the Patriots in not one, but in two recent Super Bowls.
“I used to like the Giants,” said Pinsonneault.
According to Dostillo, the two go back and forth about the two teams. “He’s much worse than I am,” she said. “If the Patriots lose a regular season game, give him two days and then you just get a dirty look.”
And when the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and ruined what was up until then a perfect season, “I cried. I’m still not over it,” said Pinsonneault “And I get reminded of it every day by certain people.”
In the office after that game, Dostillo said, “the subject could not come up.”
And that, of course, is the problem with sports. Sometimes, even the team that seems to have a ongoing reservation for a Duckboat parade loses. “I basically would rather go stay with my mother for the night if we lose,” said Sharon Pinsonneault of how her husband is after even a regular season loss.
But luckily, she said, “He has one friend who will come over, and if they lose, he will take him for a long walk and work out the demons. He’ll say, ‘I’ll bring him back when the demons are gone.’ “
But the flip side of that is the usual experience of Patriots fans: winning. “Watch out after they score, said Sharon. “Here comes the high-fives, and your hand hurts.”
In a version of he said / she said, Pinsonneault and Sharon acknowledge that she was not a big football fan before they met.
She said, “It’s evolved over the years. He got me watching football. I didn’t really watch it too much before I met him. Before I knew it, I was going to games and it became a ritual.”
He said, “She was never a fan before I met her. But I created a monster in her.”
And although Pinsonneault has seen plenty of great victories through the years, nothing will compare with the first Tom Brady Super Bowl win in 2001. “It was a party,” he recalled. “All I can remember is hugging 80-year-olds. It was the greatest time ever.”
He disregards the threat of losing this Sunday. “I’m pretty confident. Peyton Manning is going to choke against us.”
And then, almost as if he was prompted by Bill Belichick himself, Pinsonneault said, repeating the company line already stated by Tom Brady, “Nobody’s giving us a chance.
While no one knows what’s going to happen, if the Patriots win this weekend, Pinsonneault is going to the Super Bowl in New York.
— Brian Tarcy