Go Other Guys! (Why I’m Rooting for My Team to Lose this Super Bowl Sunday)
Tom Brady is not a classic NFL villain. He’s not dirty. He’s not profane. He’s not the alleged serial rapist, wife-beater, racist bully or murderer whom football fans have agreed to despise. But by being the guy who can’t understand why it’s no longer okay to simply be a football robot who doesn’t grasp the significance of his public affiliations, who doesn’t get why “I just try to stay positive” is a craven response to legitimate questions about those affiliations, he’s just as dangerous.
Brady shores up the status quo. He stifles dissent. He encourages little kids to be like him — a guy who shuts the hell up and plays. And because of his fear to stand for something greater than positivity and Ugg boots, and the certainty that, should he emerge victorious, he will most certainly be exploited by #notmypresident in a way that befouls the achievements and the legacy of the entire team, I’ll be breaking party lines this Super Bowl Sunday and rooting for his defeat.
There are certain sports franchises that, even to a child, seem to possess a heaviness. Like wet towels they don’t look the same on the rack; their beleaguered fan base reaches for them in the vain hope that they might dry their prematurely graying hair. Such were the New England Patriots of my childhood, a team to which I was connected via one long-standing beleaguered fan: my dad — a Boston transplant who raised his sons to revile the flashy, fair-weather fan culture of Los Angeles and bleed Celtic green.
Then when I was eight years old, the unthinkable happened — the New England Patriots made the Super Bowl. And while they were crushed by the Chicago Bears, I found, in Irving Fryar and Craig James, some new heroes to cheer for. Posters went up on the bedroom walls, sweatshirts were FedExed from cousins in Boston, and the label Patriots fan inserted itself into my nascent identity.
Fast forward some 30-odd years and we have a slightly different story on our hands. The Pats have been at the center of a Boston sports renaissance that’s spanned more than a decade. No longer does the franchise hang wetly from the towel rack. Instead, unprecedented success has transformed them into something of a Goliath. And the loathing directed at them clearly has something to do, not only with their mindboggling success (or the controversial means through which they’ve attained it), but with the personality of their leaders — the stoic, humorless, mad genius of a coach — who’s own allegiance to Trump is as confounding as it is disappointing — and the astonishingly gifted Ken doll of a quarterback.
For more than a decade, my dad, my brother and I have cheered these men and welcomed the bitter jealousy, the seething hatred of their detractors. In fact, our devotion grew in proportion to the hatred, so that we relished, like few other victories, the Pats re-ascendency to glory in Super Bowl 49.
I needed to explain all of this to you so you might be able to imagine how I feel as I prepare to watch this Sunday’s Super Bowl with my family, and root, not for the Falcons to win, but for the Patriots to lose.
Perhaps in a different era, Tom Brady’s friendship with Trump, and the petulance he’s displayed when asked to explain it, would’ve gone unnoticed or unremarked upon. But that era is finished.
We’ve arrived at a moment in time where we recognize, with painful clarity, the consequences of segregating our politics from our culture, of entrusting governance to a small set of elected officials whom we check in on once every four years. Such practices have landed us an historically unpopular president inflicting historically devastating policies on the marginalized and oppressed.
Meanwhile, here’s Tom Brady, playing in a league that’s 70% Black, tacitly supporting a man who Tweets phony crime statistics about Black people, who takes out one-page ads in the New York Daily News calling for the execution of five innocent Black and Latino children, who seeks to vilify and threaten the lives of the Black Lives Matter activists who, along with immigrants rights activists, environmental activists, and the courageous water protectors at Standing Rock, represent this country’s last best hope for salvation.
And yet, rather than asking his teammates — men who have firsthand experience with bigotry — why this friendship, or why his prominent placement in his locker of a Make America Great Again cap — the key article of his other team’s uniform — might be problematic, Brady goes on the radio and whines. He asks troglodytic disc jockeys to explain to him why this is a big deal.
That’s the behavior of someone who doesn’t want to understand; that’s the behavior of someone looking for easy absolution.
At the end of Walter Moseley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, Easy Rawlins asks his friend Odell, “If you got a friend that does bad and you still keep him as your friend, even though you know what he’s like… Do you think that’s right?” Odell replies, “All you got is your friends, Easy.” For a long time that answer felt right on to me.
But if this lecherous, mendacious, megalomaniacal bigot truly is Brady’s friend, then Brady ought to do what real friends do and call out his abhorrent behavior. Then, if his friend doesn’t change, he should ditch that friend faster than that friend ditched his promise to “drain the swamp.”
But Brady won’t. Because Brady just tries to stay positive. And he’ll allow this #notmypresident to exploit their friendship in a sloppy attempt to advance his own normalization.
My dad, my brother and I will watch the Super Bowl this Sunday. I’m sure there will be moments when my body and mind will be in conflict. Like I said, Boston sports fandom is a hereditary trait buried deep within my DNA and there will be plenty of Patriots on that field worth pulling for.
But I know what a Patriots victory will bring: Tom Brady, the trophy toothpaste ad, smiling at the center of the grotesque circus. And I feel that, as a true fan of the Patriots, it’s my job to root for their failure with the hope that it might spare them the fetid stench of fascism — a stench that, unlike moisture in a towel, doesn’t evaporate in the Super Bowl’s bright lights.