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Bay State Patriots? It almost was - a history on the Browns’ Week 8 opponent

Original AFL club has gone through name changes

NFL: SEP 15 Patriots at Dolphins Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Some teams just seem to have the other team’s number. There are no scientific facts behind this phenomenon, but the statement is just as true.

Take the New York Football Giants versus the New England Patriots. When the game matters most, the Giants just seem to have a way to overcome huge odds and beat the Pats. Not every time mind you, but when it counts, the New Yorkers usually come out on top.

The greatest example was in 2007. The Giants lost to the Patriots 38-35 in the season finale. With New England’s sterling 18-0 record pitted against Big Blue in the Super Bowl, the Giants came out on top and ruined the Patriots’ perfect season.

It is common knowledge that some Giants fans are also casual Patriots fans. Both basically play in the same region, since they belong to different conferences there aren’t any negative playoff ramifications, plus former Giants’ defensive coordinator Bill Belichick is head coach of the Patriots. Every Giants fan knows Belichick’s defensive strategies is what was used to thwart the other teams virtually sealed New York’s first two Super Bowls. Most Patriot fans pulled for the Giants anyway prior to 1960 as that was their “home” team as back then Boston was devoid of a pro football club. And it is perfectly okay to have a favorite team in both conferences.

New England Patriots Vs. Oakland Raiders At Gillette Stadium
“Pat Patriot” logo
Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Quite the opposite is true for New England fans. They realize that if not for the Giants their franchise would be known as probably the greatest entity in pro football history with eight NFL crowns. Patriots’ fans are rather bitter when discussing their contests with the Giants.

The Patriots were a charter member of the American Football League (AFL) in 1960. They played their home games at Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston University which seated just over 10,000. Their original official name was the “Boston Patriots” and were the final franchise (of eight) placed into the AFL.

The Patriots were not the first team to call Boston home, however. The Washington Redskins were originally the Boston Braves and then the Boston Redskins. 1926 saw the Boston Bulldogs in the first American Football League while the Boston Bears resided in the third version of the AFL. Other NFL teams from Boston were the Yanks (1944-1948) and Bulldogs (1949). Plus the Boston Breakers played one season in the United States Football League in 1986.

Helmet worn by the Boston Patriots in 1960

Early on the Patriots were annually one of the best teams in the AFL. Eventually they made it to the AFL Championship Game in 1963 but were slammed by the San Diego Chargers 51-10. After the AFL-NFL merger was announced in 1966 it was a different story as the club won a mere 11 games in the final three seasons. Their first year in the NFL (1970) was even worse as the team limped to a 2-12-0 record.

During these years the franchise called four different stadiums their home.

Billy Sullivan, the owner of the Patriots, wanted a new stadium that his club could call their own. Since their inception, the different venues were all old and inefficient. Sullivan not only wanted to build a new stadium but he wanted to build it in downtown Boston. And his efforts began - and ended - with the city council. They refused multiple times to offer public monies to help him build his new venture.

Sullivan then found the small town of Foxborough just southwest of Boston. They were not only willing to entertain a new stadium being built there, but actually donated some vacant land for the project. Foxborough was also home to the Bay State Raceway, a harness racing track. In the fall of 1970 the 62,000 seat Schaefer Stadium began construction.

With the team technically no longer in Boston, Sullivan wanted to make his team more of a regional appeal and attract fans from all over a multi-state area. He also wanted to break the five-year slump his team had accumulated as a doormat squad. He liked the team name Patriots but felt a new surname was warranted and in an effort to recognize the area that had offered him assistance, he decided on the “Bay State Patriots.” The club’s board of directors voted and approved the new moniker.

A press conference was prepared to announce the new team name designation and mailed out albeit in envelopes that read “The Boston Patriots Football Club.” A subsequent press conference was held.

There was a problem though: the NFL owners never approved the name change.

Also, on the press release, because the new team name was so lengthy, the heading read, “BS Patriots.” That week a sports headline sported “BS Patriots to Hire Bell.” Already the new name appeared to be fuel for other teams and their fans. Nobody wants to have constant jokes made about them. Patriots’ General Manager Upton Bell then asked Sullivan if they could change the name to the “New England Patriots.” In the spring of 1971, the board of directors did just that.

Proposed “Bay State Patriots” new helmet design

Every fan of any team in the AFC East has assumed the BS part began when Belichick was hired.

Barry Shuck is a pro football historical writer and a member of the Professional Football Researcher’s Association.