I recently approached a colleague, a Jets fan, and asked him what his thoughts were on the Jets/Patriots game this Thanksgiving. He rolled his eyes at me. I told him I was worried and he responded, “Why? What do you have to be worried about? I’m the one rooting for the Jets.”
With the Patriots at 7-3 and playing better football in November, some people think I’m crazy for doubting them. Plus, I’m a Pats fan, born and raised in New Jersey. How does that even happen? I must be some “bandwagon” fan. I’m here to debunk both misconceptions.
I became a Patriots fan before football season started in 2007. I was working as an events coordinator at a publishing company and organizing national book tours. Along came Tedy Bruschi, a New England linebacker for over a decade. I worked with Tedy for about two years on his book “Never Give Up” and it was probably one of the best times I’ve ever had, professionally and personally. I’ll always be grateful for the friendship that Tedy and I have and the love of football he instilled in me.
I did not grow up an NFL fan. My house was NY Yankees all day, every day, but football was never a huge interest. After reading Tedy’s book about his incredible comeback after a stroke, I became enamored with the organization he was a part of. We started having conversations- about the New England Patriots, what they stood for, and what they meant to him. I was blown away by his loyalty and knew they must be special if someone I respected so much was this passionate about them. And so began my Patriot allegiance.
I started doing my research. As the 2007 NFL season kicked off, I bought every book about the Patriots that I could. I listened to podcasts. I subscribed to Boston beat writers online and studied the organization’s history. I not only became fascinated with the New England Patriots, I fell in love with the game of football. That year taught me a lot about both.
As the Patriots played through 2007, “Spygate” was in full swing. I had become this steadfast protector, defending Tedy and the Pats on a regular basis to anyone who’d listen. While it was fun to watch my newfound friend play in the NFL every weekend, it was very easy to get caught up in the hype of the “unstoppable Patriots” as they went undefeated in the regular season. Tedy kept telling me he was taking it one day at a time, one game at a time, and wasn’t thinking any further into the future. I should have followed his humble example.
We all know how that season ended. After A LOT of overly-confident trash talking to every friend and family member, I was humbled. I learned that no football team, no one player, is perfect. Cut to a very cautious, bitter, but still football-obsessed fan in 2012.
I am now my team’s harshest critic. I never go into a game thinking it will be a piece of cake anymore. If anything, I usually predict a loss. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a die-hard, devoted, Kool-aid drinking, Belichick disciple, but after two Super Bowl losses (to a city in which I live), no one is harder on my team than I am.
That said, I’m also fiercely protective of them, as I would be of my own family. If you are not a Patriots supporter, you are not allowed to speak of them negatively. In fact, I will chalk up your comments to ignorance of the game and the team. I am the only one allowed to make fun of McDaniels’ idiotic trick plays or Brady’s infamous post-interception pout. If anyone dares to speak a bad word about Wilfork and our front seven, I will jump on them like a rabid squirrel monkey.
So, no, I’m not a bandwagon fan. After two Super Bowl losses in 4 years, I’m as big a New England lover as ever. And I’m not a “bad fan” because I will never again predict a win or boast about how great my team is doing.
I’ve learned to respect the talent on all 32 NFL teams…even the Jets.