PITTSFIELD — Debbie Robitaille, Lisa Welch and Karen Ebbeling are high school classmates, so it’s not unusual that they’ve stayed in touch.
What is different is that one of those connecting points has been football. All three women are huge New England Patriots fans with affiliations that go back to the team’s pre-Super Bowl lean years in the 1970s.
On Friday night, Robitaille, Welch, Ebbeling and eight of the nine other members of the Pittsfield High School Class of 1975 reunion committee went to the Beacon Cinema to watch a film that told a story about slightly older versions of themselves.
They attended the early evening show of “80 for Brady,” a film that depicts the real-life story of four female best friends in their 80s who are die-hard Patriots’ fans and their wild adventure to see their hero, former Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, play in the 2017 Super Bowl. The movie, which Brady appears in as himself, opened nationally Friday.
“Ever since we saw that the movie was coming out we said, ‘Oh, that’s us, we’ve got to go do that,’” Robitaille said. “We decided that it would be funny and cool to kind of replicate it.”
“We feel that it’s kind of like us,” said Welch, who lived in New Hampshire for many years before moving back to Pittsfield. “There’s a correlation between friendship and football.”
The 12th member of the group is a Miami Dolphins fan, and missed the movie because she’s in Florida, according to Robitaille. The rest of the group planned to bond by eating dinner together at the Highland Restaurant on Fenn Street before going to the show.
“You know how girls are, right?” Ebbeling said.
They also planned to attend the show clad in all types of Patriots’ team gear.
“I have a Patriots sweatshirt on,” Ebbeling said. “Some girls are wearing Gronk shirts. One’s got a Brady shirt.
“My Brady shirts are T-shirts,” she said. “It’s too cold for that.”
Two of the real life women portrayed in the movie are now in their mid-90s, and have been friends for 72 years. The Pittsfield women are a bit younger — they all turn 65 this year, Robitaille said.
But their friendships span decades. Two of them have known each other since they were in grade school. Ebbeling met Robitaille in the seventh grade. Four of the women were members of the Pittsfield High School cheerleading squad that Ebbeling captained as a senior.
“We’re a fun bunch of girls,” Ebbeling said, referring to the group as a whole. “We’ve been together for a long time.”
Robitaille, who planned on wearing a Rob Gronkowski shirt to the movie — Gronk’s in the flick, too — said she’s been following the Patriots, “for as long as I can remember.”
She’s not alone.
“All of us. For years,” have been following the Patriots, she said. “A lot of the girls are rabid football fans.”
She said the women often watch the Patriots games together.
“Most of the girls are married, so sometimes husbands are involved,” Robitaille said.
Welch has attended a woman-only Super Bowl party.
“That was a blast,” she said. “But there was a lot of gabbing. When we all started getting into the game that had to stop.”
Ebbeling, who recently moved back to Pittsfield from Mashpee, became a football fan through her father and now discusses the games with her son.
“I remember Jim Plunkett, Steve Grogan, all those guys,” she said, referring to two players who quarterbacked the Patriots before Brady arrived in 2001. “I get football withdrawal after the Super Bowl.”
The women like Brady and appreciate his accomplishments, even after he left the Patriots following the 2019 season to play in Tampa Bay.
“He made us proud to be from New England,” Robitaille said.
Brady announced he was retiring for the second time on Wednesday, a year to the day after announcing his first retirement.
Last year, Brady changed his mind and came back for an additional season. Robitaille said Friday she would like history to not repeat itself.
“I think he’s proven himself,” Robitaille said. “And we all still love him.”