The New England Patriots have departed Colorado Springs, but don’t be surprised if other teams follow their example in upcoming years.
The Patriots practiced at the Air Force Academy last week in preparation for a high-altitude game in Mexico City and then put together a 33-8 beat-down of the Oakland Raiders.
In the copycat world of the NFL, it would seem logical for another team to mimic that idea now that an agreement has been signed to continue playing games in the Mexican capital each season through 2021.
Air Force would no doubt jump at the chance to host again.
“We had a tremendous experience with the New England Patriots visit to the academy last week and hope it was mutually beneficial to them,” athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement. “We have received so many positive comments from their organization about their experience and the academy received lots of positive exposure nationally. We hope this experience will help get the word out to other organizations about our people and facilities, which in turn will help us continue to expand our brand.”
That exposure for Air Force included Patriots coach Bill Belichick sporting an Air Force hooded sweatshirt at his postgame press conference Sunday. There were also regular reports from national media outlets on the team’s activities in Colorado Springs and a deluge of videos and posts on social media showing everything from the Wings of Blue parachute team to scenes of life at the service academy.
Tom Brady showed up for practice Thursday wearing an Air Force shirt.
It was the kind of publicity that programs would purchase if possible, but the Falcons were able to generate it by pointing out to the Patriots that the altitude in Colorado Springs is similar to that in Mexico (it helped logistics that New England played in Denver the previous week). Not only did this attention come free of charge, but Air Force actually pocketed a little from the visit as New England will be charged a rental fee for use of the facilities. Air Force public affairs said Wednesday that it was still reviewing the fair market value and logistics support costs based on what the team actually used.
Given this, and New England’s success in Mexico, this has to be considered an all-around success. In the NFL, that generally means someone else will jump in and try to replicate it.