"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Monday, September 24, 2007

To Hate or Appreciate?

So earlier today a commenter of mine, Jim H. from Minnesota, whom I respect a great deal and whose comments I always enjoy, made a very interesting point. He claimed – probably correctly – that the Patriots are verging on becoming the NFL’s Most Hated Franchise, if they haven’t already. And while this is certainly not the first time I’ve heard this, for some reason, it struck me today. Fresh off watching the Pats absolutely demolish the Bills yesterday (cobwebby first quarter notwithstanding), I have to think that Jim is probably right. Of course, I’m a Patriots fan, so that hurts me. I love the team like family and I wouldn’t want someone coming up to me and telling me they thought my brother sucked either. I wish it wasn’t the truth. Personally, I’m often too busy spewing venom in the direction of the Colts and Steelers to pay too much attention to the fact that people hate my football team. But when I do stop to think about it, I have to wonder, just what, exactly, am I supposed to do about it?

Look, I could talk myself blue in the fact about how Tom Brady is a nice boy (I’m guessing) and Tedy Bruschi has a very firm handshake and shiny, shiny hair (both true) or how Mike Vrabel totally helps old ladies cross the street (probably). But people who don’t like the Patriots players aren’t going to start liking them just because I said so. Even if said people like me or respect my ability to call the Red Sox on their shit when the situation demands it. That’s part of sports. That’s how being a fan goes. It’s not rational and I, of all people, clearly understand that.

But I’m also not going to apologize for my team being successful. They have worked very hard to be as good as they are. Spare me the CameraGate bullshit too since the NFL has determined that the Patriots will face no further charges and they consider the matter closed and if you can find me an NFL franchise that hasn’t broken or bent the rules, I will give you a medal. The Patriots are a good team because they have talented players, a smart coaching staff and the ability to execute their game plans on any given week. As a fan, I shouldn’t have to apologize for that.

Likewise, it’s not like I’m new around here. I was born in New Hampshire. I have never lived outside of New England. I have spent my entire life being a Patriots fan. I’m not going to apologize for having the good fortune of rooting for them now. Because in 1990 when they were going 1-15, it didn’t seem like such good fortune. But I am in no way claiming that because I had to suffer through so many years of the “Patsies” that I somehow deserve this current run of success. That would be ludicrous. It is, for all intents and purposes, the luck of the draw. I could just as easily have been born in San Francisco or Cleveland or Arizona. And then the story would be different.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am beginning to understand how these kinds of things happen and how fan bases become so hated. Eventually, you grow tired of defending yourself when everyone starts hating you. Through no fault of your own – unless you are always with the trash talking and then you reap what you sow – people start hating you as an extension of your team. And no one wants that, really. This is why even I will admit that there are some Yankee fans I don’t hate. Hell, if you’ve been a Yankee fan your whole life then there’s really nothing I can say to you that you haven’t already heard. They’re your team. I get it. Doesn’t mean I have to like them but I respect the fact that you do.

Likewise, I love the Patriots because they’re the Patriots. Plain and simple. Sure, I appreciate the fact that Tom Brady is extra nice to look at and that Belichick is a master schemer but I would still don a worn Pat Patriot hat on Sundays because they’re my team. They’re what I know. If Tom Brady performed as well as he does now but he looked like David Wells? Well, I wouldn’t have a picture of him as my computer wallpaper, but he’d still be my quarterback.

This is not to say that people aren’t free to dislike my team. More power to you. Randy Moss has surely earned the ire of people in the past and just because he’s wearing a different uniform now doesn’t mean I expect these people (like the aforementioned Jim H.) to change their tune and start liking the guy. Belichick is, for all intents and purpose, a professional asshole and while I think he’s a brilliant coach, even I’m not sure I could ever work for the guy. But the fans are not their team. Much as I might like to, I can’t be the one to go out there and throw or catch touchdown passes. I can’t be out there guarding Brady’s blind side. I’m not the one wearing a ratty hoodie and calling plays from the sidelines. (I’m doing it from my couch). But just because I’m cheering for the guys that are doing those things – and doing them well – doesn’t mean that I’m a front-running jerk.

I’m probably fighting a losing battle here. It’s probably pointless for me to claim that Patriots fans are good people. The ones I know are but I’m sure they’re not the ones that get all the media ink and camera time. None of the Pats fans I know think we deserve wins or expect to go undefeated. (I could share with you the text messages I sent to my friend Chris during yesterday’s first quarter wherein I lamented our lack of defense but if I clean it up, it doesn’t really make much sense). I am, as are my friends, prone to irrational fits of anger and panic attacks when it comes to the Patriots. I’m sure there are smug assholes out there who never have a doubt and are always 100% confident that things will go our way. But I’m not built like that. It’s not in my makeup. I guess what I’m saying is, I realize this isn’t going to last forever. Tom Brady is not actually an ageless robot. Tedy Bruschi is human (I think). These good times will eventually end. And I will still be there. Because the Patriots are my team. For better or worse. And for that, I won’t apologize.