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Moving up Patriot's game time; facts about firsts

The town of Foxboro, Mass., is fed up with rowdyism at Monday night pro football games, but can't quite figure out what to do about it. A week ago the selectmen voted to license no game starting after 8 p.m. even though the New england Patriots, bound by the conditions of an ABC-TV Sports contract, have always scheduled Monday evening games at 9 o'clock. (The late kickoff accommodates the network's interest in attracting a national audience for its live telecast.)

Some observers were happy to see Foxboro take on the powerful National Football League, but the selectmen are wavering. At their latest meeting, they unanimously agreed to reconsider their prohibition on 9 p.m. games. If the ban should be lifted, New England would play the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 21 in Foxboro as planned. Otherwise, the Patriots and the league might have to switch another game into the Monday night time slot or find another site for the New England-Dallas contest.

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The late kickoffs, many observers feel, have heightened drunkenness at Schaefer Stadium. Leaving right from work and arriving at the staduim early, some ticket holders fill the hours until game time drinking. Moving up the kickoff, the theory goes, will cut down on the pre-game boozing. Changing it just one hour, some have argued, won't do much to defuse the "animal house" atmosphere. Others, meanwhile, point out that most violence occurs after New England's Monday night games, indicating much of the belligerence may be induced by in-stadium drinking.

Complicating matters for the town is its desire not to antagonize the Patriots, who have cooperated with police efforts to curb violence at home games. The town-team relationship has been a good one, with the Patriots currently turning over about $200,000 to Foxboro out of admissions each season.

If the town doesn't give the green light to 9 o'clock kickoffs, one Boston writer suggests the Patriots get tough by cutting off favors to Foxboro and its charities and refraining from hiring townspeople at games. Threats, however, aren't the way to settle things. Both parties, after all, basically want the same thing -- well attented, nonviolent events.

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