No game this weekend so instead of a gameplan for the Pats I’m writing a gameplan for us, the Patriots fans.
It’s hard work being a Patriots fan when the games aren’t on, when we’re not kicking ass up and down the gridiron. Because we’ve been doing it for so long the countless blowhard pundits who need people talking about them often have our team in their crosshairs.
All you have to do these days is have a dumb opinion about Tom Brady and it’s going to spread like wildfire. Just ask Chris Simms.
The Pats’ merits are debated both at macro (Deflators! Videotapers!) and micro (Tom Brady can’t throw deep!, the defense hasn’t played anybody!) levels, because that’s what “sports media” is now and it’s annoying as hell to have to deal with for Patriots fans.
What can you do, New Englanders are passionate about their sports and that passion only seeps into all the other Patriots fans around the globe. I know because I hear from them. From places like Brazil and Germany and Hungary to name a few.
The support of this team runs deep everywhere by those who can appreciate excellent, once-in-a-lifetime quality football.
But this weekend let’s take a moment to appreciate what we have in this football team. How lucky we are that in this crazy world we have a diversion that has brought us all so much joy over the last decade-and-a-half.
Let’s take a short trip down memory lane for some perspective.
First, we must start with the first Super Bowl trip in 1986 and nothing sums up how different a sports world we live in now than this epic video (can someone tell me what a “Patriots and We” is?):
Can you imagine a universe today where the entire city is so excited just to be going to a Super Bowl that they produced an entire music video like this? With Felger and Mazz and Shank and all the rest joyfully singing along? This is what happy-go-lucky fandom used to look like.
We no longer have that luxury.
Everything changed in 2001 and you can tell from the next video just how unexpected it was and in what kind of uncharted territory we were in (BB/TB Dancing at 2:42).
In 2002 things went back to normal and it felt like the flash-in-the-pan Patriots would once again be mired in decades of mediocrity.
But then 2003 and 2004 happened; unprecedented win streaks, the defeat of multiple league MVPs as the NFL punditry just scratched their heads how a team without any stars could win so many games.
In 2005 they finally lost a playoff game, but in 2006 they bounced back and came within a second half AFC Championship game meltdown from likely hoisting their fourth Super Bowl in six years.
At that point the football world was just in awe and admiration of the Patriots.
In 2007 the Patriots went from the toast of the NFL to the hated Patriots they still are today. Spygate was the catalyst but it was also an excuse. People were sick of the Patriots winning and now they had the perfect way to explain their run of success — they were ratted out doing something everyone else in the league was doing, aka (to those who were sick of the Patriots) CHEATING!
It was then that things suddenly took an “us against the world” turn and I was right in the middle of it, staying up late, looking for unauthorized Jets cameramen on the sidelines, arguing into the early morning hours online and forever putting me firmly in the corner of Belichick and Brady.
It was that 2007 that inspired your humble blogger to start writing online about the Patriots and it was my rally call to “Embrace the Hate” that would reach national audiences and give me a new kind of rush from something I wrote.
And strangely, it’s just as true today as it was when I first wrote it.
Nothing has changed. Two stupid “scandals”, a ton of wins and at least one more Super Bowl trophy since 2007. Many take for granted how hard it is to win football games, especially in the NFL. Some would have you believe that a farts-worth of air in the footballs, or taping signals, or warm gatorade, or faulty headsets were why the Patriots were good.
But football games are won on the field, in between the lines. The rest are just excuses and jealousy.
We all know time is running out on Brady and Belichick. Maybe not next year or even the year after, but the end is out there. We don’t know what it will look like, whether Brady will want to keep playing past when Belichick thinks he can, or maybe Belichick hangs them up before anyone (outside of Jamie Conway) saw coming.
Who knows. But we need to get every last Super Bowl we can, because these kind of chances may never come around again. If you’re not savoring every second of this, you’re going to regret it.
So once again, I call on us all to Embrace the Hate, to enjoy another Super Bowl that won’t have a dark cloud over it, and to remember what it was like when we were just happy to be there. When it wasn’t about getting “One More”. When it was just about getting one and being happy with it.
We’ve been blessed as a fan base. I don’t really know what that means. It was through nothing we did, only that the forces of Kraft, Belichick and Brady happened to converge on a team many of us either grew up near or came to love one way or another.
Regardless, I love being in Patriots Nation. I love hearing from my fellow fans around the planet. And I wouldn’t change anything about the last 16 years if I could. Well maybe just Super Bowl 42, but you get the point.
Savor this weekend before the Super Bowl, knowing that win or lose the fun and joy we’ve had because of this team cannot be taken away or minimized unless we listen to the Haters. All we have to do is what Bill Belichick told us — Ignore the Noise.