A New England Patriot in the Court of Public Opinion

image by John Trainor, some rights reserved

So, the title is a little forced, but it adequately describes how I’ve been feeling lately about Super Bowls, deflated footballs, video-taping, and the general chicanery of professional sports. And, if I can get a literary allusion out of it, why not?

As a diehard New England Patriots fan, I’ve felt pretty uneasy, sometimes even defensive, since around 2007 when evidence was released of a video-taping scandal — what has lovingly come to be known as Spygate. But, like every good New Englander, I repressed those feelings, buried them deep inside. I blamed witchcraft, bad luck, superstition, and the devil himself so that I could enjoy the game. As a transplant living in Milwaukee and Detroit, this hasn’t been easy.

Patriots football at my house was a respite of fun after a morning of church boredom and Catholic guilt. It was nachos. High-fives. Phone calls from friends and family after every touchdown. Fewer high-fives and calls back then, though. But, then we drafted Drew Bledsoe. Then…well, we know the story.

We changed dramatically in the course of a single season from a winter complement to the Red Sox, lovable losers, big chance missers, to winners. Repeat winners. And, it hasn’t stopped for sixteen years. My Dad commemorated the dynasty with a tattoo of the old Patriots’ minuteman logo. It covers his whole bicep. You should be jealous.

But, if we once could take pride in being cast as the rebellion, upsetting the “greatest show on turf,” we are now the evil empire. God, we really are the Yankees of football, aren’t we? I gotta say, it’s good to be evil.

Two “gates” later, a suspension, five Super Bowl rings, and it’s time to reflect. Every Sunday for me during football season is filled with paralyzing anxiety. I stand for every play. I yell at the TV. I jump up and down, scaring the cat. I get defensive at accusations of cheating. I avoid Facebook when friends from other states post anti-Patriots memes. But why?

Maybe it’s all the winning that has me waxing philosophical, or maybe I’m just getting older. Or, more likely I need to let go of some of that anxiety. Or maybe even more likely I’m just crafting excuses. But, it’s only a game. I’ve been telling myself that more and more each week, first to prepare for a possible Super Bowl loss, now to try and relish the win.

So, here’s my hot take. It’s just a game. Win any way you want. I love the drama. I love the theater of it all. Every controversial call. Every yellow flag. Every rumor. Every headset that cuts out. Every Microsoft Surface Pro thrown in disgust. Every videotape. And, heck, every flat football. Bring it on. I came for the strategy, but I’m staying for the show. Now, it’s gonna be a long off-season.

image by Jack Kurzenknabe