GRANNIES OF THE GRIDIRON

Written By: Robert Cocuzzo | Photography By: Kit Noble

The most passionate Patriots fans on Nantucket are not who you might expect.

Between the three of them, Nantucket natives Joan Fisher, Jeanne Dooley and Jane Hardy have logged more years rooting for the Patriots than most people have been alive. The three sisters have been season ticket holders for twenty years and have been pulling for the Pats since the late sixties. Today, their names are literally printed on their seats at Gillette Stadium. Every home game, they drive onto the 6 a.m. Steamship for the daylong voyage to and from Foxboro. “Come hell or high water, we’re there,” says eighty-five-year-old Jeanne. And their devotion hasn’t gone unnoticed. Joan, Jeanne and Jane have starred in NFL commercials, have been featured in a Patriots-produced film and were even named Fans of the Year in 2005.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-8-37-16-pm“There’s not many games that we’ve missed,” Jeanne says. “We should really write a book, because you never know with the weather with the trips from Nantucket.” Over the years they’ve driven through blizzards, flown through hurricane winds and even climbed over snow banks to assume their posts in the stadium. “I missed a whole season one year because I was sick and damn near died!” seventy-seven-year-old Jane says with a laugh. “That was ten years ago. Thankfully I was given a second chance at football… and everything else, of course.”

Patriots owner Bob Kraft calls the three sisters his “Nantucket ladies” and always makes a point of seeing them when he’s on-island for the Pops. “He’s such a gentleman,” Jane says. “Very humble.” On week four of this season against the Buffalo Bills, Kraft invited his “Nantucket ladies” on to the field for a photo op and to watch the players warm up. Yet even before walking onto the field that day in September, the sisters had already had some chance run-ins with Patriots stars. “When
we heard Edel
man was on the
island this summer, we came
running,” Joan
laughs. The
eight-seven-
year-old then
 whips out her
 iPhone and 
pulls up a photo
 of her sitting on the star receiver’s lap at Backyard BBQ this summer to prove it.

The three sisters are a riot together, laughing, and talking the talk better than most sports radio hosts. They readily bring up old fan favorites like Ben Coates, Troy Brown, Ty Law and Tedy Bruschi. A jar of dirt from the old Foxboro stadium sits on a shelf in Jane’s living room, and next to pictures of her grandchildren is a framed photo of Tom Brady. Perhaps not surprisingly, when the topic of Deflategate comes up, each lady falls silent as Belichick at a press conference. “It was a disgrace,” Jeanne finally says.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-8-36-57-pmWhen the Patriots are playing on the road, the ladies have on-island game-day rituals. Joan dutifully hoists the Pats colors up the flagpole on her front lawn, and each sister wears matching Patriots medallions carved by the late scrimshander Nancy Chase, the backs of which are inscribed with each Super Bowl win. This is not to say the ladies aren’t willing to travel to away games. “We went to the Super Bowl in Arizona,” Jeanne says. “But that was a bad game.” The sisters all nod in agreement. “We were the first three out of the stadium.”

This season, Jane, Jeanne and Joan have high hopes for the home team. “Everyone is healthy, and things are clicking,” Joan says. Whether the Patriots add another Super Bowl banner at Gillette Stadium is yet to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: Bob Kraft’s “Nantucket ladies” will be doing their part to win.