I live in Massachusetts, and I want the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, and I can’t stand the Patriots.
Let’s get this out of the way: The Patriots are cheaters, Bill Belichick is full of shit, and Tom Brady is dumb malice behind dead sparkly eyes. This team doesn’t deserve another Super Bowl win and the American people don’t deserve to endure another Patriots win and another likely Super Bowl MVP for Brady.
Despite all of this, I’m still pulling for them to win. And it’s not because I want my friends and acquaintances to be happy; I definitely don’t want that to happen.
It’s because I have to live here.
Unfortunately, my mental self-preservation depends on a Patriots win. I’m just not prepared to deal with what would follow an Eagles victory: a year of whining and complaining about how the Patriots were robbed because Goodell and the NFL somehow conspired with the refs to give the game to Philadelphia. It’ll be awful, it’ll be endless, and it’ll be reality here in New England for the next nine months if the Pats lost. I’d rather deal with a short burst of fans celebrating and then being smug but relatively quiet about it. Anything but the woe-is-me bullshit. Anything but that.
If you are unfamiliar with Patriots fans—you are blessed—every autumn the people of New England transform from an elitist aristocracy into a braying group of red, white, and blue behatted and bescarved man-donkey hybrids driven by one thing: their shared love of winning football and their rage at being denied the glory they believe to be their birthright.
The transformation goes something like this:
Me: Oh, hello, Amory Appleton-Gates, how are you today?
Amory Appleton-Gates: Oh, wondrous good. Do you know, I just finished reading Rousseau’s A Social Contract — in the original French, of course — and wouldn’t you know it still has so much to teach us.
Me: Cool. Oh, hey, football season is starting soon.
Amory Appleton-Gates: TAWM BRAYDY WAS RAWBBED
These are simultaneously some of the most entitled and most self-pitying people on earth. It may have something to do with the background of the fan base: Here in the cold reaches of the coastal Northeast we balance the demands of Catholic self-flagellation for feeling a hint of happiness with a WASPy refusal to show any emotion on principle. But not on the football field, where the Patriots are seen as one of two annual excuses for regionwide displays of “feelings” (the other is baseball season).
Because the Pats are supposed to win every game, no matter what, that feeling of superiority brings joy. That inevitably leads to despair. Despair comes when things don’t go right for the Pats. It can never, ever, be the team’s fault. Every loss has to do with an all-encompassing league-wide plot to take down Tom Brady because... he makes the NFL lots of money?
Best not to interrogate it too closely, because illogical paranoia is how the Patriots fan sees the world. The whole suspension debacle from last year is a perfect example of how this delusion works. Despite being the NFL’s most dominant team for two decades and counting, a narrative of a tough and scrappy underdog team beset on all sides by the hostile media, the NFL, and the rest of the country told New England its own story all season long, from the Brady suspension and subsequent comeback in the Super Bowl. It was a perfect replay of the exact same dynamics in the wake of Spygate, and it’s a flabbergasting display of self-victimization that depends on a carefully constructed delusional fantasy that must exclude the reality of Patriots dominance over the last two decades to even work.
But even then, it doesn’t matter. Just last month, ESPN published a fairly thorough piece detailing how the Patriots organization is beset by mild internal divisions and that the long-running dynasty could eventually collapse under the weight of the egos of Brady, Belichick, and owner Bob Kraft. It was a well-reported article that avoided personal criticisms of members of the team — but the way Patriots fans reacted you would have thought William Randolph Hearst had been resurrected by John Skipper to lead the charge against New England.
Predictably, Patriots fans have tried to spin this latest offense against the team into a twisted fantasy of being gritty underdogs. This tweet is a joke, but not among actual Patriots fans:
People here in New England who normally have rational views of the world see all that go out the window when it concerns the Patriots. It defies all logic that, for example, Tom Brady didn’t know about the deflated footballs in the Deflategate scandal, or that the Patriots weren’t in fact spying on their opponents during the Spygate scandal. But talk to a New England fan about these or any other points that reflect poorly on the team and you’re subjected to the worst kinds of denial, bargaining, and an obstinate refusal to deal with reality.
There’s not even the whiff of good old moral ambiguity, which was my technique in discussing these topics with Patriots fans before I discovered it’s a lost cause. Here’s what I mean:
Me: Look, I’ll agree that Brady didn’t do anything particularly awful…
Friend: Exactly, he didn’t!
Me: ….especially because all quarterbacks do it. He did it, but everyone does it.
Friend: He didn’t do it. He didn’t know. It didn’t happen.
And so on. Folks, I can’t deal with this shit again. I just can’t. Let’s just have another Patriots victory so things can go back to normal. Two weeks or so of listening to the worst fans in sports strutting around like full-chested peacocks because they once again got their way and won another title is far better than listening to them complain all year about whatever conspiracy the army of racist Bostonian shock jocks decide is to blame for the loss this time.
No. It’s almost baseball season and I don’t want to have it ruined.
Eoin Higgins is a writer from western Massachusetts. You can keep up with his work by following him on Twitter.