UMass-Amherst Super Bowl XLVI Riots Compared to Students’ Celebration Following Osama Bin Laden’s Death

BOSTON — Hundreds of officers who lined the streets of Boston had little to do as fans quietly mourned their team’s Super Bowl loss Sunday night, but 14 people were arrested across the state at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst when police in riot gear dispersed a rambunctious crowd.

“We’re really sad right now,” said Molly Mackenzie of Boston, who was watching at a bar near Fenway Park with two friends as the Patriots lost the NFL championship to the Giants for the second time in five years. “It was a good game, really close.”

Boston officers focused on the areas near college campuses and sports bars, where previous celebrations had turned wild. Many were brought in from neighboring departments to help out. But after the Giants won 21-17, fans quietly filed back to cars and public transit stations.

Things were rowdier at UMass, where police in riot gear and on horseback used smoke bombs to disperse 1,500 students who gathered in the main residential part of the campus after the game. There were some fistfights, but no one was hurt badly enough to be taken to a hospital and no property damage was reported, said spokesman Ed Blaguszewski.

Thirteen of those arrested were students, and all were charged with failure to disperse or disorderly conduct or both. They will be referred to the dean of students for possible disciplinary action. The school, with more than 27,000 students, is the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system.

Police monitoring the situation decided to issue a dispersal order about 15 minutes after students started gathering. It took about 90 minutes to get everyone out of the area.

“It was a loud crowd and there were fights breaking out in pockets,” Blaguszewski said.

Marissa Faldasz, a junior whose dorm room looks out over where students gathered, said they were chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” and throwing beer cans and toilet paper rolls.

“As soon as the game ended, a bunch of students came running from all across the campus,” she said.

Video she took from her fourth-floor room showed smoke and flashes and students yelling, then much of the crowd running away as police on horseback approached. Police officers wrestled at least one student to the ground. She said there was a similar incident after Osama bin Laden was killed last year.

Back in Boston, at Game On, a bar near Fenway, the atmosphere was tense until people started chanting, “Let’s Go Pats, Let’s Go Pats,” with about five minutes and 30 seconds left to go and the Patriots up by 2. Then the Giants scored a touchdown, knocking the wind out of their sails. The bar stayed full until the final seconds, when Tom Brady’s desperation pass into the end zone fell just beyond Rob Gronkowski‘s grasp.

“It was very disappointing,” said Karen Snyder of Boston, who was celebrating her birthday Sunday. “Defensively, we should have done better. We weren’t ready for when the Giants changed up their offense.”

Earlier in the night, the crowd got quiet when the Patriots trailed in the first half, then erupted into dancing, fist-pumping and shouting when they took the lead with a touchdown right before halftime.

“You know Brady,” said Frank Monti, a fan from New York City. “He’s good for fourth-quarter wins. I’m not worried.”

At McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood, where six large TVs and a framed oval portrait of coach Bill Belichick hung over the bar, manager Art Santora said he had met with the police and the liquor commission to talk about safety measures. No one was being allowed to line up outside to get into the packed bar – once it was full that was it.

Dave Anderson, who was visiting from Denver and declared himself a Patriots fan for the weekend, joined a standing room crowd at McGreevys. Across the street, the top of the Prudential Center was lit up in the Patriots colors of red, white and blue.

“You can tell that there are no fair weather fans in Boston,” Anderson said.

Victor Janczar arrived in plenty of time from Chicopee, in western Massachusetts, because he and his girlfriend wanted to be with other Patriots fans. They’re such serious fans that they purposely flew JetBlue on a trip back from California so they could watch the Patriots play San Diego in Week 2 of the NFL season on the seat-back televisions. They predicted a close game Sunday but thought the Patriots would pull it out, 27-24.

“It’ll really depend on how well the Patriots’ defense can cover New York’s receivers,” Janczar said before the game.

Not that well, as it turned out.

“The good news is that the defense can’t get any worse,” said Keith Versteegden of Red Deer, Alberta, a student in Boston, who afterward declared the game “depressing.”

Said Chris Sondej, a student in Boston University’s College of Management, said: “It was heartbreaking when [Wes] Welker dropped that pass in the third quarter.”

He also noted the game could have implications for the legacy of the team’s quarterback and coach.

“Brady doesn’t have that many years left in him,” he said. “We’ll see what comes of the Brady-Belichick team after this.”