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Roughing the spectator

Ends up, the most serious injury in the Patriots phenomenal playoff run hasn't been sustained by a player, but by a boy in the stands.

And from the way it happened to the way it was handled, the incident is an unmitigated disgrace.

We'll take it from the beginning. A Cohasset father named Jay successfully bid at an auction on four tickets for the Jan. 7 playoff game against the Jets. The family has already gone through enough grief for one season, so I'll leave their last name out.

On game day, Jay, his wife Mary Jo, their 10-year-old son Charlie, and their 7-year-old daughter Sara got to Foxborough early to take in the sights.

When the game started, the guys in the row behind them were getting out of hand. At one point in the second quarter, one of them fell onto Mary Jo. Jay blocked the fall and told the guys to knock it off.

Flash ahead to the fourth quarter. The Patriots were moving down the field when Mary Jo and Jay heard Charlie let out a scream.

They looked over and saw a 200-pound man from the row behind them sprawled on top of their son. Jay pulled him off. Charlie remained jammed in his seat, his face by his knees.

"We're trying to assess what's wrong with Charlie, and people are screaming at us to sit down," Mary Jo recalled this week. "I stood up and called to the police for help."

A police officer beckoned them to come into the aisle, but Charlie couldn't move. People yelled at them to sit down. Charlie cried in agony.

"My husband was asking the officer to look at our son and see how hurt he was and get some help," Mary Jo said. "The officer kept saying, 'Get your son and come out.' And they weren't saying anything to the guys."

Charlie eventually stood up and, doubled over, hobbled to the concourse. Paramedics were finally summoned, put Charlie in a brace and on a backboard, and rushed him to South Shore Hospital. Meantime, Jay kept pressing cops, security officials, and a man who said he was a stadium insurance representative, to get the guys in the row behind him. No one did.

Charlie was diagnosed with compression breaks of two vertebrae, and ordered to wear a hard vest that prevents him from moving his chin and neck for the next 10 weeks. It's brutal.

He's a polite, athletic kid who speaks in full sentences, and remains an adamant fan.

"It's very annoying," Charlie said. "We got a new pool table, and I can't play. I can't play any sports. I can't go to school."

After the parents sent a letter to the Krafts last week, team president Jonathan Kraft called to apologize. He shipped a package that included an autographed football, a sweat shirt, and a Tom Brady jersey.

It was appreciated, but what the parents wanted was a name. By yesterday, they had received no progress report in the promised investigation, mostly because there was no progress, and there doesn't seem to be an investigation.

Team spokesman Stacey James said that since Foxborough police were the first to respond, it was a police issue.

Of the identity, James said, "It's not something we have." The seats, he said, weren't season tickets, and when I asked why the team wasn't matching them to credit card records, he replied, "I could ask."

Foxborough Police Chief Edward O'Leary said he had neither a report nor an identity, though he planned to talk to the officers.

The parents are, how to put this, frustrated. "We want this guy to know what he did to Charlie and at the very least to apologize," Jay said.

A 10-year-old boy went to a playoff game thinking it was going to be one of the best days of his life. He left in an ambulance with a broken back caused by some unsteady -- read, drunken -- fan. And the parents have been left on their own.

The Patriots, the Krafts, the fans are better than this.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached