HARWICH ─ The New England Patriots’ historic win of Super Bowl LI happened more than a week ago, but for Eric Adler it feels like it was yesterday. It helps that he’s been perusing more than 20,000 images captured during the big game and subsequent celebratory parade, and this die-hard fan, who now works for his favorite team, wouldn’t have it any other way.
To some degree, Adler’s tale is your classic small-town-journalist-makes-it-big adventure, which began during his nearly 14 years as the sportswriter for The Cape Cod Chronicle. Though the job was one he adored, he couldn’t deny the pull he felt to try his hand with one of football’s greatest teams.
“I loved working for The Chronicle,” said Adler. “It was one of the best jobs. But part of me was always like, ‘Working for the Patriots would be a dream job.’”
A piece of advice from his brother-in-law Will Richmond prompted Adler to send samples of his work to Stacey James, vice president of Media Relations for the Patriots, requesting an informational interview. Adler’s hope was, at the very least, to learn more about the inner workings of the organization.
That was 2014. When Adler didn’t hear back, he dropped James a line to make sure he’d gotten his information, and was told that while there weren’t any openings at the time, his resume would be kept on file.
“I hung up feeling really good about the conversation,” Adler said. “Stacey was so nice, so gracious. He really gave me more than a few minutes of his time.”
Adler’s mindset following the call was “at least I gave it a shot.” Fast-forward to May 2015 when Adler received what proved to be a life-changing email from James. The organization was looking to create something of a new position, Media Relations Photo Coordinator, and felt that Adler would be a good fit.
“They had someone doing social media and photo coordination who was moving on. They realized they really needed to split that job up,” Adler said. “They had someone doing social media, and I was lucky enough to get the photo job.”
The list of tasks Adler has ascribed to him is extensive; it includes uploading, tagging and cataloging thousands of Patriots and Patriots-related photos to their Digital Asset Management system, as well as shooting various team events and serving as editor of Game Day magazine. To say that he loves his job is an understatement.
“I feel very, very fortunate to be where I’m at,” Adler said. “One of the reasons I really love working here is that I work with a lot of people who are very hard working and passionate, and we all have one goal in mind: to make the Patriots great. Everyone’s pushing themselves and doing everything they can, and luckily for us the payoff was incredible.”
The payoff Adler is referring to, of course, is Super Bowl LI. Though Adler typically leaves game-day shooting to David Silverman and Keith Nordstrom, the team’s official photographers, on Super Bowl Sunday, Adler was on the field at NRG Stadium in Houston, cameras ready.
“Super Bowl Sunday, I got to the stadium early,” he said. “I wanted to make sure everything was running smoothly, but it was also a time to take stock and reflect and mentally thank all the people who helped me get there.”
Less than two years prior the only Super Bowls he’d had the opportunity to shoot were at the high school level. Now he found himself on the sidelines of the biggest game of the season, not knowing it would become perhaps the biggest in NFL history.
But before that came a game that was nothing short of agonizing for Pats fans, including Adler, who was also tasked with maintaining his professionalism while watching his team crumble.
“I thought it was over. It was really depressing. I was so upset,” he said. “28-3 and I figured, ‘Well, I’m just here to photograph the rest of the game.’ I never thought we’d come back.”
But come back the Pats did, and how.
“For the most part Pats fans didn’t have anything to cheer about, but my God once we started to come back that place just erupted,” Adler said. “That was as loud as I’ve ever heard anything in football in my entire life. It was every bit as loud as Gillette gets, if not louder.”
Adler kept shooting after that incredible final touchdown as fans screamed and confetti fell. But there came a time when the photographer-fan had to take a moment for himself.
“I had to just drop my camera and put my arms in the air, with all the confetti coming down,” he said. “It was the experience of a lifetime. I never, ever, ever thought I’d be able to go to a Super Bowl, especially one with the Pats, who I love so much. It was the most amazing experience. If you try to write a script like this it would probably be rejected by Hollywood. It all just really is a miracle.”
Since then, his life has been a whirlwind of celebration, from the Duck Boat Parade in Boston, which saw him stationed on board Tom Brady’s boat, to taking center ice at a Bruins game where the Patriots were feted on Feb. 11.
Turns out Adler had his own following of fans excited to see him pass by the Boston news cameras during the parade, many watching from his former office.
“They gave me my start. I certainly learned a hell of a lot from Tim, Bill, Alan and Hank about how to be a professional person,” he said. “Being at The Chronicle, you have to balance a lot of things at once: writing, reporting, editing, mining for stories. It’s really a juggling act. You’re always working on a deadline, even at a weekly paper. All those things really helped me because there are times when I’ve got 10-15 things due in a day.”
He is especially grateful for the support of the local community.
“I would not be where I am if it weren’t for the people back home,” he said. “I don’t think any one person does anything by themselves. You need help along the way and I certainly got a ton of it.”
That support also includes Adler’s girlfriend Kaiti Titherington, his sister Liz and her husband Will, and his mother, Diane Sernatinger, of Florida.
“I don’t know a bigger football fan than her,” he said of his mom. “She’s really a die-hard. She’s my rock. She’s supported me the whole way. I probably owe at least part of the Super Bowl win to her because she was praying hard that we’d come back.”
When Adler recalls the past two years, including the Patriots’ previous Super Bowl win, followed by Deflategate, up to their stunning victory on Feb. 5, his head does spin a little.
“Two years ago when they won the Super Bowl I lost my mind,” he said. “For me it was just such a cathartic moment. It was so fulfilling and so rewarding for me. At the time I didn’t think I could feel any happier as a Patriots fan. I guess I was wrong. I still feel like I’m dreaming. I don’t really want to wake up either.”