Drew over at KSK asked Johnny at Metroville to write a piece about what it means to be a Patriots fan, one week later. We decided it would be a better fit here. You decide.
Gather 'round, fans of the New York Football Giants, and let me weave you the tale of one magical Super Bowl.
The two teams pitted against each other couldn't have followed more different paths. Team 'A', having just hoisted the Lombardi Trophy a couple of years earlier, had made short work of their opponents on their way to the best record in the league, in large part due to their MVP-Award-winning quarterback and the record-breaking offense—widely considered one of the greatest in history—at his disposal. After a dismal start to the regular season, Team 'B' had eked into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, courtesy of some key second-half wins on the shoulders of an unproven quarterback about whom just about everyone was maintaining serious doubts. The two factions had squared off during the regular season and although Team 'B' had unexpectedly made a game of it, in the end, they were simply overmatched by the charmed powerhouse that was their opponent. Going into the Super Bowl, Team 'A' was a two-touchdown favorite.
To everyone's great surprise, the rematch-for-a-championship turned out to be a thriller. With both sides scratching and clawing for every point, the lead changed hands a number of times throughout the contest. As improbably as the course of the game ran, its ending would belong in a storybook: Team 'B's quarterback led his squad on a white-knuckle drive downfield to put them within striking distance of a seemingly impossible final attempt at a score with precious few seconds remaining on the clock...but score Team 'B' did, winning the Super Bowl by three points in one of the biggest upsets in the game's history.
That story makes you happy, doesn't it, Giants fans? Puts a smile on your face, warms your heart. I bet you like Team 'B', don't you?
As well you should...because they're the 2001-2002 New England Patriots.
And when they won they Super Bowl, it wasn't just me and my fellow lifelong Patriots fans who were happy; outside of St. Louis (and a few people in Los Angeles who were kidding themselves), the whole world was happy. While you likely wouldn't admit to it now, I'd even wager that some of you were happy. Not necessarily because you'd wanted New England to win, but because they were the team that no one had given a chance. David had slain Goliath, and for a few shining moments, every sports fan in the country could savor the ideal of sports—anything can happen—making an all-too-rare appearance as a reality. For that reason, we all couldn't help but like the Patriots at least a little bit, whether or not they were our team.
Five years later, I would tell people I was a Patriots fan; they would tell me I was a loudmouthed, racist, bandwagon-riding douchebag who should be killed.
What did I miss?
The short answers that a Patriot hater ("Patrater?") might have given are numerous—"two additional Super Bowl victories", "a quarterback who's more handsome than I am and has regular sex with more supermodels (1) than I do", "said hated quarterback being granted one of the best receiver corps in the NFL at the peak of his career", "the unlikely rise to dominance by the Boston Red Sox", "the return of the Boston Celtics to a championship-caliber status", "SpyGate"—and likely interconnected, in his mind, as one long answer. While I did not miss any of those occurrences, I was rather surprised that people seemed to think that I bore responsibility for them. When the 2007 season began, I was the same person I was in 2002, yet the people who'd been anonymously happy for me (or at least tolerant of my existence) then because the Patriots won were now anonymously despising me with vitriol because the Patriots kept on winning. Flattering as it was (admittedly somewhat more so in the former instance), any individual recognition that I received in either case was largely undeserved.
As a devotee of consistently-losing sports franchises throughout my formative years and beyond, I'm no stranger to the active dislike of dominant teams (see: New York Yankees, 1919-2003), but my impotent rage has always been directed in much larger part at the teams themselves than at their fans (I'm getting married on Saturday and I won't be surprised if my best man wears Robinson Cano Underoos; how much can I really hate those people?). The tide that turned against those who rooted for the Patriots—and all Boston sports fans in general—was like nothing I'd seen before, even taking into account that (1) I was (and am) biased and (2) being on the receiving end of popular hatred was still a relatively new experience. Sure, nobody who doesn't like the Yankees likes the team's fanbase as a whole, but the argument never gets much more specific than "Yankees fans are spoiled, arrogant pricks" (although that actually would have been the argument prior to 2001, when "spoiled" was replaced by "deluded"). But to announce my allegiance to the Patriots was to risk casting myself in the eyes of anyone without roots in the Boston area as a drunken, braying white supremacist.
The charges of racism, of course, predominantly came from white people whose closest encounter with African-American culture was a purchase of Will Smith's Willennium. Yes, Boston's history of race relations is not pretty—we all saw that HBO Red Sox documentary narrated by Ben Affleck—which is exactly in accordance with the history of race relations throughout America (and, to take it even further, the world)...or were you not aware, Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins fans, that your teams' cute little mascots are also horribly maligned human beings? Given that fact, does being from those cities necessarily make you a racist? No ... at least not any more than simply being from America does (although that doesn't erase Boston's checkered past, nor does it diffuse the fact that the mascots in question are mind-bogglingly offensive).
This argument inevitably fell on deaf ears because, in that indefinable moment when the New England Patriots were transformed by public opinion from scrappy underdogs into the Evil Horde, the die had been likewise cast for the majority perception of their fans. Somewhere between 2002 and 2007, solely because I cheered for a particular professional sports team (or two), I had become a douchebag in the eyes of anyone who didn't happen to agree with me ... and there was nothing I could do to change it.
There was, however, something the New York Giants of New Jersey could do. And on February 3, 2008, when those scrappy underdogs bested the mighty, reviled New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, they set the change in motion.
Enjoy your moment, Giants fans, Jets fans pretending to be Giants fans and all who've been jumping on the bandwagon since that absolutely horrendous pass hit David Tyree in the head and got stuck there: outside of New England (and a large percentage of bookmakers), the world is happy for you. Keep on smiling, keep on celebrating, keep on lauding your team's accomplishment at every available opportunity. And one day very soon, you will wake up to discover ... that you are all douchebags. Pedophile douchebags is what I'm suggesting be the modifier: you are all pedophile douchebags whose hero is an overgrown Sea Monkey that constantly looks to be on the verge of tears. Eli Manning could fall ass-backwards into a Super Bowl victory with the East Rutherford Giants every season for the rest of his God-affronting career and history will never concede that he is a talented football player by any stretch of the imagination. Peyton Manning is Ellen Ripley, and Eli Manning is those botched clones of Ellen Ripley in the tubes in Alien: Resurrection that beg the one successful clone to kill them. But no one did, and now he's a Super Bowl MVP, and now you have no one to blame but the football team you support for the fact that you are all douchebags.
And now I have that same football team to thank for the fact that I'm not.
For the rest of you who have dedicated yourselves to blindly hating Patriots fans for the last several years, I acknowledge that this revelation is not an easy thing to wrap your tiny heads around. However, by your own established math, the Patriots' dominance made their fans douchebags. A team who collapses on the game's greatest stage cannot be viewed as dominant; ergo, its fans are not douchebags (or at least not more so than any other team's fans). Like it or not (and I know that you don't), I'm just another guy who roots for a team that didn't win the Super Bowl, now. Just like you.
Can you believe those Giants fans, all dancing and happy? Christ, it's been more than a week already—get over yourselves. What a bunch of douchebags.
I also happen to know that they molest children. It's a historical fact.