Rick Reilly joins the Patriots’ End Zone Militia

On tonight’s Monday Night Countdown (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET) – prior to the Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots Monday Night Football game, ESPN essayist Rick Reilly has a feature on the End Zone Militia, the group of fans dressed in Revolutionary War era clothing that fires up the crowd and celebrates Patriots touchdowns at the team’s home games.

Reilly, who always wanted to fire a musket, joined the Militia – in full wig, boot, tricorn and waistcoat – for a Patriots game earlier this year. He interacted with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and team owner Robert Kraft while “in uniform.” He spoke with Front Row about the Militia experience.

They live this stuff and they take great pains to be immaculately, perfectly accurate, which is why I got so many dirty looks in the second quarter when I pulled out my cell phone.
– Rick Reilly on working with the “Militia”

Who makes up the End Zone Militia?
They were Target cashiers, university professors, road-crew workers, just normal people. But they all had at least 20 years of experience as Revolutionary War re-creators. They live this stuff and they take great pains to be immaculately, perfectly accurate, which is why I got so many dirty looks in the second quarter when I pulled out my cell phone.

How itchy is that wool uniform?
If the waistcoat touches your skin, it’s like wearing a Brillo Pad suit.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was surprised to see you. What was his reaction?
Brady looked at me and said, drenched in sarcasm, “Nice look.”

Did you get to fire the musket?
I have some residual bitterness about this. Nearly came to fisticuffs with my sergeant-at-arms. For three quarters, he didn’t trust me to fire.

“Fake it,” he kept saying. Finally, with time running out, he said I could fire at the next touchdown. The Patriots scored. I fired. Nothing happened. Madly reloaded for the extra point. Silence. Finally, one of the other militia men double-packed my flint with gunpowder and, even though the game had ended, I fired. It practically blew my nose off.

I got a face full of flames and gunpowder. It’s hilarious in slo-mo. When I asked Janie, the only woman member, how she liked my shot, she replied, with perfect aplomb, “If it’d been real, we’d have lost the war.”

The End Zone Militia critiques Private Reilly

Editor’s Note: The video above is an excerpt from the feature provided by producer Steve Buckheit.

Geoff Campbell, captain, The New England End Zone Militia, provides Front Row an assessment of Rick Reilly’s showing as a new recruit.

“It’s interesting when someone isn’t as skilled or as crisp as others,” said Campbell, who has been part of Revolutionary War reenactments since 1976. “There is a series of motions with the musket – when you’re standing shoulder to shoulder, and don’t move at the same time, you could take an elbow to someone else’s face.”

Campbell made sure rookie Reilly was “at one end of the line and not in the middle where he could stick up the works.”

The End Zone Militia began in 1996 to help support Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution. Militia members can handle ammunition.

“The guns are real, they’re not pop guns,” Campbell said. “The real black powder is hot, and there’s a concussion factor. The people in front of us know to either get out of the away, or back up, get low, and put in ear plugs. It’s the right of initiation for a rookie – the photographers always put the new guy up front.”

Dan Quinn contributed to this post.

Back to top button
Close