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Power outage halts AFC Championship game

January 13, 1997 GMT

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) _ The moment some of the lights went out, it fired the imagination of some conspiracy-minded New England Patriots fans.

Even though the electrical problem that left players and fans in the dark during Sunday’s AFC Championship game occurred outside Foxboro Stadium, that didn’t stop some fans from linking the brownout to Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft’s campaign to replace the antiquated stadium.

``Come on! Only some of the lights go out and then they fix it right away?″ said Tom Conlin of North Conway, N.H. ``What did they have, an electrician on hand?″

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The partial outage, which halted play for 11 minutes in the first half, seemed to highlight the stadium’s inadequate facilities. Players were sent to the sidelines. Fans headed to the concession areas. A national television audience waited anxiously at home.

Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri was lining up for a 29-yard field goal with 7:32 remaining in the half when the outage occurred. Half of one scoreboard’s lights flickered, while the one at the other end zone went completely out.

Finally, Vinatieri converted the field goal just as the scoreboard came to life.

Vinatieri’s field goal gave the Patriots a 10-3 lead.

Patriots spokesman Don Lowery said the problem was an outage at a Massachusetts Electric Co. transformer across the street. It was unclear whether it was an overload or old equipment that failed, he said in a hastily called news conference outside the team’s administration building during the second half.

``From what we can tell right now, it had nothing to do with the stadium whatsoever,″ Lowery said.

Still, the problem is all too familiar for New England sports fans.

In 1988, Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Boston Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers was suspended after a blackout caused by a blown transformer. The Bruins, who were trailing the series 3-0 at the time, eventually lost when the game was replayed in Edmonton.

Advocates of replacing the Boston Garden used that incident to reinforce their argument for a new arena. Two years ago, the Garden was replaced by the FleetCenter.

Fans expect Kraft to play a similar card in his search for a new stadium in South Boston, a neighborhood known to locals as Southie.

At least one fan used the brownout to lobby Gov. William F. Weld, a Patriots season ticket holder who backs the South Boston plan.

``Hey, Gov! Is it time for Southie?″ the fan shouted as Weld ordered a Samuel Adams beer during the brownout.

``Damn right,″ replied Weld.