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Bucs-Patriots pregame scene a Brady jersey bonanza

Tailgate parties outside Gillette Stadium featured a cornucopia of No. 12 jerseys and Tom Brady T-shirts.
Joe Tropeano, a chef from Foxborough, Mass., sports a split Bucs-Patriots Tom Brady jersey in the Gillette Stadium parking lot prior to Sunday night's game.
Joe Tropeano, a chef from Foxborough, Mass., sports a split Bucs-Patriots Tom Brady jersey in the Gillette Stadium parking lot prior to Sunday night's game. [ JOEY KNIGHT | Times ]
Published Oct. 3, 2021|Updated Oct. 4, 2021

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — He tended to the sausages and hot Hungarian peppers sizzling on his two-tiered grill, oblivious to his glaring wardrobe malfunction.

Or in this case, malfeasance.

Joe Tropeano’s fashion ode to Tom Brady was a No. 12 jersey of split allegiances: the left side a red Bucs jersey (the beleaguered style no longer worn by the team); the right all Patriots, in the franchise’s Navy color.

“It’s an impulse Instagram buy,” said Tropeano, a chef from Foxborough grilling in Lot 6C outside Gillette Stadium. “Hate the Bucs.”

On this overcast autumn Sunday, any such animosity stopped at the foot of Foxborough’s favorite son.

“Of course I’m (a Brady fan),” Tropeano added. “I’ve got my TB12 hat in the car.”

A random stroll through a 2,500-square-foot stretch of Gillette’s sprawling parking lot late Sunday afternoon — more than three hours before Brady’s de facto homecoming formally commenced —resulted in sightings of no fewer than seven variations of Brady jerseys.

That didn’t count Brady-centric T-shirts. One couldn’t deliver a spiral in any direction without hitting a No. 12.

“Here for Brady,” said 34-year-old Ryan Massad, a Worcester resident wearing a navy T-shirt with the head of a goat — and the word GOAT —emblazoned on the front. “They’re going to go absolutely ballistic for him.”

The scene included red Patriots throwbacks and modern Patriots jerseys. There were camouflage and solid olive-drab Patriots No. 12′s. Beneath one brown tent, Amish Patel and three of his buddies from the Lowell-Tyngsboro area all had Patriots No. 12 jerseys (three navy, one red).

Brendan O’Sullivan of Marshfield, Mass., even wore a knockoff of Brady’s No. 10 Michigan jersey he purchased from an “Asian website.”

“They’re going to cheer him like crazy,” said O’Sullivan’s dad Brian, a 21-year Patriots season-ticket holder. “But I hope they don’t cheer him during the game.”

North Attleborough (Mass.) residents Matt Reardon (right) and Steve Simonelli show off their Tom Brady jerseys prior to Sunday night's Bucs-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.
North Attleborough (Mass.) residents Matt Reardon (right) and Steve Simonelli show off their Tom Brady jerseys prior to Sunday night's Bucs-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium. [ JOEY KNIGHT | Times ]

Fat chance, said Steve Simonelli, a North Attleborough resident who delivers heating oil. If the prevalent pregame wardrobes were any sign, 20 seasons and six world titles evidently machine-washes any sign of animosity for Brady’s southward migration two springs ago.

“There won’t be a person in here that won’t stand or clap for him,” Simonelli said.

“I remember when (former Patriots quarterback) Drew Bledsoe got hurt back in 2001,” said Jarred Erickson, dining on pregame calzones with Simonelli. “I was only 15 at the time, but I remember thinking, ‘Who the hell is Tom Brady?’ ... And then, obviously, here we are.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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