No, Virginia, The Patriots Are Not Cheaters

“It was hard to swallow because I always felt something happened but I didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t prove it anyway. Even to this day, I think something happened.” – former St Louis Rams head coach, Mike Martz

“There isn’t a day that goes by since 2003 that I haven’t questioned … that there were some things done that might have been beyond the rules that may have given them a three-point advantage,” – former Carolina Panthers GM Marty Hurney.

“Do your job. Maybe the one word that isn’t in that’s implied is ‘Do your job … well.  It could be enough to make the difference.” – Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach

Not sure when you’ll be reading this but I’m typing this a few hours before the kickoff of the 2019 NFL Season. There’s a lot to object to about the NFL. As an organization, they still not remotely take domestic violence seriously. They have a commissioner, Roger Goodell, who does not understand the basic difference between right and wrong. The participating athletes sometimes suffer debilitating injuries that even the millions they make doesn’t always make up for. If you’re a consumer who chooses not to watch football, quite frankly – I don’t have a counterargument for you.

I still like football. For all of its flaws, many of the participating athletes will tell you it’s an amazing game with incredible rewards not often found elsewhere. I’ve also found the game of football to be an incredibly accurate metaphor for the game of life. Whatever one does for a living, or even in personal relationships, we’re all engaged in game of inches. We’re all fighting and clawing through bombarding obstacles just to move forward be it one yard, fifty yards or one inch. I see so many parallels between football and life when it comes to missed catches, punching it through to the end zone, even embracing our rivals. So I remain a fan. And as one who learned to love football in the fair city of Boston, I remain a fan of the New England Patriots.

In February of 2019, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady lead the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl win. I actually had to stop and count for a second (wait is it five or six?) Their Super Bowl record as a coach and quarterback combo is 6 wins, 3 losses. There are some combos wishing for that playoff record or a similar ratio for their regular season. That particular Super Bowl stat is kind of unheard of. And there’s a good chance they’re not done. Entering this season, Belichick and Brady are both widely recognized as the greatest coach and greatest quarterback of all time. Sure, that’s some that disagree and those are some hella fun barstool debates that will happen every Sunday between now and next February.

But there still remains a large portion of the population that think the Patriots are cheaters. That their success can be summed up with stealing some defensive signals on video tape or even more ridiculous – deflating footballs. Not only is this a false narrative, it’s an unhealthy one that actually does more hope to the people crying “CHEATER” than it does the Patriots.

Even as a Patriots fan, I’m going to be as objective as possible here. And I ask you, dear reader, to do the same. I ask you set that piping hot hatred aside for these pages because as you’ll my point here is not to get you to love or even forgive the Patriots. Because many people hate the Patriots, not for any kind of cheating, but for their success.

I don’t want to go down to deep a rabbit hole – this is actually still a post about screenwriting – but it’s easy to point out how flawed the accusations are.

In 2007, Eric Mangini famously reported the Patriots for videotaping defensive signals on the sideline. No getting around it – Patriots broke the rules. When confronted, Bill Belichick offered an explanation that he misinterpreted the rules as to mean videotaping signals was fine as long as the video was not used during said game. Commissioner Goodell didn’t buy it so fines were levied.

But the stigma was created by many fans everywhere because it offered a great comfort. It offered the sigh of relief, “SEE! The Patriots aren’t really that good” They had something they could use as an excuse should their team lose – are having already been defeated by – the Patriots.

Now, here’s the thing in the NFL. It’s not really great defense to say “everyone does it.” But everyone does it. There are probably about 32 teams that videotape signals in the NFL. They will be videotaping signals this weekend. You know who else videotapes signals – NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN. Hell in 2006, when the Miami Dolphins tried to buy a bootleg videotape of Tom Brady in practice, ESPN’s John Clayton dismissed it because videotaping your opponent is just part of the game. He was much harsher when the Patriots were busted, of course, because the Dolphins are established NFL winners while the Patriots were decades-long losers. They just can’t be that good, right?

Rulebreaking is not an anomaly in the NFL. It is a woven part of the game. Teams use violations every game to their advantage. Some of those false starts and off sides calls that get a flag thrown? Strategy to throw off the other team or move the chess pieces around.

The Patriots broke the rules and they got punished for it.

But if one is to be honest – people aren’t mad the Patriots cheated. They’re mad the Patriots won. The St Louis Rams Greatest Show On Turf was supposed to cement their place in NFL history as perhaps the greatest offense to ever play the game. They were supposed to roll over the Patriots like the Bears did way back in the Rock-N-Wrestling days. This is something numerous longer fans of football told me. Instead, the Patriots pulled off an upset over the Rams shifting the paradigm and changing the balance of power in the NFL.

What happen next is actually heartbreaking. The St Louis Rams were back on the field the next season. Did they compete in the  Super Bowl? Not until this year would they return. That’s a 17 year gap. 17 chances they had to return. 17 chances to get that second ring. 17 years later, they were back in LA. In the meantime, the Rams suffered a collapse that was hard to watch. They were consumed by the bitterness of the loss. They never got over it and as result, that team never even came close to touching that greatness again.

Kurt Warner has said on NFL’s “A Football Life” that the loss changed their culture and an atmosphere of negativity poisoned the team. Running Back Marshall Faulk continues to preach that the Patriots cheated and videotaped their practice. But that has long been debunked with no shred of truth. Marshall Faulk is one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. He defines elite athlete but he clings to this accusation in a way that’s maybe more validating than the wins he accumulated.

Most sad of all – it’s not easy to recite this but – former Rams head coach Mike Martz gave damning testimony that the NFL pressured him into not accusing the Patriots of cheating. Where was Mike Martz? In a cabin in Idaho. Why? Because ever since that Super Bowl ever single coaching gig he got ended in miserable failure. In one of Martz’s final stints as offensive coordinator, NFL cameras caught his quarterback Jay Cutler scream “Tell Martz I said ‘fuck him.’”

Bill Belichick is competing for his seventh Super Bowl win as a Head Coach this year. Mike Martz, unemployable in the game, told ESPN this “It was hard to swallow because I always felt something happened but I didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t prove it anyway. Even to this day, I think something happened.”

One can’t blame Mr Martz really. It’s comforting to say, “they cheated” or the even more pathetic “I don’t know what they did but they did something.” That’s a lot easier to say then “I lost. I failed. I wasn’t good enough, not that day.” But quite frankly, everyone has to say that on those terrible days. That’s not limited to football and failure is something no one is immune to.

But let’s just say for the sake of argument, the Patriots are dirty low-life cheaters. They stole that game from the Rams.

 Here’s the rub.

What happened to the Rams after that game – that’s still not the Patriots fault. 32 teams are going to face heartbreaking losses this year. How they respond is not the responsibility of their opponents.

Martz’s Rams had several more seasons to compete for a title. They became a shell of themselves. Kurt Warner returned to the Super Bowl in a valiant but losing effort to the Steelers. He’s admitted it took years from him to get over the first Rams loss but now has embraced a much healthier attitude about looking at life. In other words, instead of sour grapes, drink the fine wine.

The best answer – and quite frankly, best defense – for the spygate allegations came from one of their fiercest opponents, then-Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher. Mr Cowher knows more about football than you & I combined. The idea that his team, his dominant, kick-ass steel curtain Pittsburgh Steelers would lose a game because of stolen signals on videotape was an idea he found insulting to himself and his players. He’s gone on the record several times dismissing the idea:

It’s a great summation of this problem. If one thinks their team is being beat by deflated footballs and stolen signals – one’s team has much bigger problems than the Patriots.

“But, Tim, you’re rationalizing their cheating.” Nope. I’m arguing that speeding tickets should not be treated like committing murder.

I don’t have to turn to the Patriots or any Boston propaganda. I actually can turn to one of their most hated opponents for this defense because they understand what competition is all about – adapt and overcome.

This is a phrase I’ve heard from several professional athletes I’ve worked with. Adapt and overcome. Adapt and overcome. Adapt and overcome. Great advice that works on and off the field.

Here’s the reality of football people don’t want to talk about – it’s not a fair game. “But it’s supposed to be!!!” Sure, but it’s not. Without even pointing to the numerous 60 – 10 scores that liter college football let me ask this question – let’s pit the Kansas City Chiefs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Know what’s fair about that game? Nothing. Not one Goddamn thing. Oh wait, both teams wear red.

“But it’s supposed to be an even playing field!” That’s the ideal sure and the NFL introduces a lot of parity into the league. But barring major injury – anyone really think the Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks, Chiefs and Rams are missing the playoffs this year? Also, the NFL does not care about an even playing field. Google NFL Winnipeg for more.

“Saying other teams cheat is no defense for the Patriots!!” It sure isn’t. Just because other teams steal signals doesn’t mean the Patriots should be forgiven or overlooked for videotaping signals from the sidelines. However, in the context of the NFL where the Jets were caught deflating footballs, where the Vikings were caught heating footballs, where Bill Parcells would open stadium doors to effect the wind during field goals, where players are fined every single week for dirty hits and suspended for banned substances – please don’t insult my intelligence by telling me the NFL is some pure wonderland of innocence. It is good & evil, right & wrong, man’s  strength & flaws, angels & demons, all vying for every inch between the 20s.

Also, want to call the Patriots out for Spygate. Fine. But there’s a looooooong list of teams who committed similar crimes that received no such outrage. That’s the very definition of double standard. 10 teams break a certain – “it’s all part of the game.” The Patriots break the same rule – “THEY’VE ALWAYS BEEN CHEATERS AND THEIR SUPER BOWLS DON’T COUNT!!!!”

No. That’s not how it goes.

There was a Super Bowl between the Ravens and the Niners a few years back. The refs let the players play hard to the part where certain rules were neglected all game. So the Niners were constantly holding illegally – but no calls from the refs. In the end, when one of the Ravens was seen holding one of the Niners illegally there was mass outrage from the Bay Area. But that’s not how it works – you can’t accept an overlooking of the rules that benefits your team, then cry foul when it doesn’t. That’s truly not fair.

“But the Patriots look for any competitive advantage and bend the rules as much as they can!!!”

Read that last sentence again. People have said that like it’s bad. Quite frankly, if your team is not doing that, the Patriots aren’t the ones you should be mad at. There are self help seminars all over the country teaching people these lessons. There are corporate meetings all over the world right now employing this strategy. This is something I see in the entertainment business all the freaking time.

Look for every competitive advantage and use the rules – even bend them – to your favor. Yes. All the time do that. That’s great. That’s how many great things have been achieved across all walks of life. 

And this is probably one of my biggest grips with the bitching about the Patriots. Want to be mad at them for Spy Gate? Fine. I get that. I mean, again, if you’re going to mad teams for that kind of infraction, there’s another 31 other suspects but OK. But to mad at the Patriots for doing what they need to do to be successful – that’s the very height of bitterness. That’s completely irrational. It makes no sense and it sums up on the unhealthiest philosophies out there – “In order to lift myself up, I’m going to pull you down.”

Only it just doesn’t work that way.

Playoffs. January 2015. The Ravens accuse the Patriots of using an illegal formation to get certain players open as receivers. One problem – it was not remotely illegal. Just wasn’t used that often but perfectly legal.

The Ravens lost the game. They would not return to the playoffs until 2019.The less said about those 4 years for the Ravens the better. Well, it is worth mentioning they’re a team which publicly said Ray Rice only backhand slapped not punched his fiancé.

None of that is the Patriots’ fault.

The very next game, the Indianapolis Colts GM Ryan Grigson -tipped by the Ravens who were mad they lost the previous week – complained to the NFL about a deflated football. Everyone heard about this one. Deflategate.

I won’t spend a lot of time debunking this because I really don’t have to. A simple google search does it since the New York Times, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and even high school science fairs have alllllll debunked deflategate. Wired magazine even debunked the Tom Brady cell phone smashing because without destroying the server, destroying a cell phone is pretty meaningless. Even the Indianapolis beat reporters demanding Belichick & Brady’s heads have printed mea culpas regretting they even touched this story.

“But Brady was suspended” Sure was and an NFL even said it was because they wanted the Patriots punished more for Spygate so this was a make good.

The Colts went on to win 3 or the next 4 Super Bowls. Correction – they collapsed in historic fashion. Instead of trying to improve, they clung to the false notion “if only the Patriots didn’t cheat, we’d be Super Bowl Champions.”  No, they didn’t and no you wouldn’t be, Colts. GM Ryan Grigson & Head Coach Chuck Pagano (who would never back the deflategage allegations) were embroiled in a bitter power struggle which saw both lose their jobs. They work on other teams and both in a lower capacity. The Colts mismanaged their talent so bad, they placed the incredibly talented Andrew Luck behind a porous offensive line which saw Luck accumulate years of injuries. He just retired from the sport.

None of that is the Patriots’ fault.

So while everyone else was crying cheater, while the NFL actually changed certain rules like the eligible receiver play they used against the Ravens or revisiting the catch rule because it cost the Steelers a win over the Patriots, while everyone else was screaming, yelling & moaning – the Patriots just went to work.

The Patriots won in 2015 after Belichick stared down Pete Carroll and spooked him into throwing. (I’m not convinced Lynch punches it through anyway, was 0-5 from the goal line that season but still)

The Patriots won in 2017 wearing down an explosive Atlanta Falcons team to mount the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.

The Patriots won in 2019 in a defensive slugfest that saw them make just a few better plays than the resurgent Rams.

Since 2015, they appeared in 4 Super Bowls. They lost 1 of them.

From 2002 to 2012, they appeared in 5 Super Bowls. They lost 2 of them.

To think that is because of stolen signals (something that is super common even without videotape) or deflated footballs is at best, completely misinformed and at worst, total madness.

The Patriots lost some of those Super Bowls. You will hear no accusations of cheating from them about Tom Coughlin’s Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, who won with a quarterback considered a backup.

After losing an upset to the Eagles, the Patriots took the offseason, got some rest and got to work. They won the next Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Rams averaged 30+ points a game in the regular season. The Patriots held them to 3 points.

I listen a lot sports radio. I hear it all the time. “How do they do it?” “This has to be the year they collapse.” “They can’t be this good year after year.” “How are they still around?”

There’s no secret. There’s no mystery. It’s on the walls of their locker-room. Hell, it’s on T-Shirts they market to the general public. It’s the mantra and motto of the entire organization:

“Do Your Job.”

And as Coach Belichick’s quote at the top clarifies – do your job well. As well as you can. Every day. Strive to improve. Do Better. Whether you win or lose. Do Your Job. Do it well.

This another reason why I’m a damn proud Patriots fan. This philosophy has done so much for me and my accomplishments. Do your job.

In the screenwriting world, there’s a lot of snake-oil out there for sale. Writing is a difficult task to not only engage it but to even wrap one’s head around. I have an aptitude for it. I enjoy it. I love sitting at my desk. I’ve had a ball writing this!

One thing I’ve learned being a writer of numerous projects that have gotten off the ground and enjoyed by millions of people – is there is no magic bullet to make it easier. There is no “do this on this page” cheat map. There is no trick. There is one magic formula – sit down and get to work. Put one word after the other in the best voice you possibly can. Then put one page after another. One scene after another. One script after another. Keep putting the words down.

In other words: Do Your Job.

But what if the words aren’t good enough. There’s answer for that too – adapt and overcome.

That’s the secret. That’s the magic formula. Do Your Job.

The Entertainment business is probably even more unfair than pro sports. I see and hear it too much – “they’re not THAT good a writer, they just happen to know the right people.” “Oh the only reason so-and-so got that gig is because they slept together.” “if I was a different color and different orientation, I would have gotten that job,”

And it is all BULLSHIT. Time spent complaining about that should be time spent doing one’s job, honing one’s craft, arming oneself against the unfair obstacles that will be thrown your way. I’ve been in entertainment since 2003. I’ve been screwed over and given rotten deals many times. It’s part of the game. These pages aren’t filled with complaint about that. Instead, my laptop is filled with screenplays. Doing My Job.

“But, Tim,  there IS cheating that happens out there. It must be called out and punished.”

That’s right. There is. And it should be. As I said about the Patriots have been punished (falsely in the case of deflategate) so it’s long past time to move on.

And that cheating in life is not going to go away. Vent to your partner. Bitch to your friends. Go ahead, get it out of your system. But then – adapt and overcome. Do the one thing you can do in the face of life’s unfairness – Your Job.

Because if you don’t, if you let it eat you, if you let it color your lens, if you continue to scream at phantoms and bitter false narratives, it will poison your progress. There will be failures. Defeats. Hearbreak. Hell, rejection is practically the currency of a screenwriter. Get up. Shake it off. Move on to second down.

Bill Cowher stuck up for the Patriots. He didn’t get caught up in the cheating accusations. He’s a proud Super Bowl winner & one of the most respected coaches in Super Bowl history. He did his job.

Tom Coughlin stuck up for the Patriots when they were accused by Mike Tomlin of messing with in stadium communications. Tom Coughlin beat the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Twice. He did his job.

Bill Belichick’s Patriots have been called cheaters, frauds, fakes, every name in the book. Hell, I’ve been harassed publicly for wearing Patriots T-Shirts. They heard it all. And they did their job. They’re 6 and 3 in the Super Bowl.

So as we begin this Season, the Stairway to Seven. I present the 2019 New England Patriots.

Tom “Tom Brady” Brady

“Double J Jeff” Jarrett Stidham

Brandon “Fortune Favors The” Bolden

Rex Burkhead-ing “To The End Zone”

Damien “The Omen” Harris

“My First” Sony Michel

“King” James White

James Develin “Eggs”

“Lucky” Philip Dorsett

Julian “Ladies And” Edelman

Josh “Flash” Gordon

“Better Call” Jakobi “And” Myers

Gunner “Run All Over Youski” Olszewski

Matthew “Saved By The Bell” Slater

“Nefarious” Demariyus Thomas

“The Carney” Ryan Izzo

Matt “Belichick’s Other Favorite Sport” LaCrosse

Jermaine “Eliminator” Eluemunor

“Bill And” Ted Karras

“Love” Shaq Mason

Joe “Me So” Thuney

Marcus “Laser” Cannon

Korey “Ritchie” Cunningham

Isiah “Doesn’t Lose He” Wynn

Michael “First And” Bennett

John Simon “And Simon”

Chase “Better Get The Catch” Winovich

Deatrich “Word To The” Wise

Adam “Don’t Call Me Malcolm” Butler

Byron “Colin” Cowart

Lawrence “What A” Guy

Danny “Give “Em Hell-ton” Shelton

“Money In The Bank Champion” Jamie Collins

Dont’a “Inferno” Hightower

Elandon “On Ya” Roberts

Kyle “He’s Van Nuys” Van Noy

Ja’Whaun “Yes, I Do Drive A” Bentley

“The Clique” Shilique Calhoun

Stephon “Not Gil Less” Gilmore

Jason “No, I’m Devin” McCourty

Devin “No, I’m Jason” McCourty

“Mighty” Joejuan Williams

Terrence Brooks “No Quarter”

Nate “Siskel And” Ebner

JC “Just Catchin’” Jackson

Jonathan “Break Your Bones” Jones

Obi “Wan Kenobi” Melifonwu

Patrick “Everybody Wang” Chung “Tonight”

“Big Ben’s Favorite Target” Duron Harmon

Stephen “Gotstokicksi” Gostkowski

Jake “Beetle” Bailey

Joe “Find Your Beach” Cardona



No Apologies: Why I Love The New England Patriots


I expect to get more heat and hate mail over this blog than any I’ve previously posted. By far.

I like the game of American football. In fact, it’s my favorite sport. I don’t watch college football. Sometimes I’ll tune into a game on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I like watching the USC-UCLA game along with 90% of the viewing audience in Los Angeles County (even though we’re not a football town somehow.) But I do watch the NFL. I enjoy fantasy football and thanks to Peyton Manning and the risky pickup of Vernon Davis while he was still out, I’m glad to report I won my fantasy league last year. I get to drink out of a grail-like cup that says “PIMP” in sparkly letters. (I’ve already warned my fellow fantasy competitors that if one of them wins, there maybe a residue flavor of scotch in said Pimp cup.)

All that’s fine – except for one rather important detail. My favorite team is the New England Patriots. The most hated team – possibly – in all of sports.

To lay down some context, I’ve had many a fierce debate with fellow wrestling fans. In the wide and varied world of Doctor Who, I certainly have had differing tastes with other fans who are close friends of mine. Hell, when I told an unnamed writer of the show why Sylvester McCoy was my all-time favorite. He was flabbergasted; I explained myself. He said “That all makes sense! I shall have to rewatch some of his stories.”  However, I avoid the forums of these and other topics at all costs because, as I will explore in another blog soon – endless debate about subjective topics on the internet is an extraordinarily effective way to waste time.

But never in any other of my interests and passions, be it writing, be it film, be it POLITICS, have I received more venom than I have for being a Patriots fan. Now, I’m not talking about harmless teasing or things like that. I remember in Vegas one time as I left an elevator some guys saw my hat and called out “Pats suck.”  Frat boys drunk at the pool, who cares?  No, I’m talking about deeper disrespect I’ve run into.

One time at bar, a guy said to me after a game, “I cannot shake your hand. You’re a Patriots fan.” Okaaaay. On more than one occasion, “I cannot like you. You’re a Patriots fan.” Some of these people are kidding. I can assure you, dear reader, some of them are not. Whatever good qualities I have as a human being are negated by my liking the Patriots in the eyes of some.

Someone not that long ago yelled at me, demanding I admit that Brady was not that good as a Quarterback because I dared to defend some of his overthrowing in last year’s AFC Title game against the Broncos. (Overthrowing a receiver to avoid an interception is not an unusual play during a game.) “Admit it! Admit he sucked in that game!” No. No, I won’t. In fact, I won’t admit Tom Brady sucks in any game. Why should I?

Of all the sins I’ve committed in my life, wearing a flying Elvis and cheering on Tom Brady seems to be one of the most unforgivable.

The New England Patriots have become the villains of football. It’s as if they beat up Johnny Unitas with baseball bats and spray painted “nWo” on his back. They’re the Master aging David Tennant to small, old man. They’re Darth Vader cutting off Luke Skywalker’s hand. They’re the Four Horsemen beating up Dusty Rhodes. The Patriots defense may as well be comprised of Severus Snape, The Trinity Killer, Roman Grant, Walter White, Mickey Donovan and Joffrey Baratheon. They’re the Cobra Kai:


What malfeasance did they manufacture for such malice?

Like any Patriots fan, I want to tell you they didn’t do anything but I’m gonna try to be objective here.

Much of it has to do with Spygate.  The infamous videotaping scandal that has plagued the Patriots since the fall of 2007. Everybody’s heard the story. Head Coach and indefatigable public curmudgeon but private nice guy Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick stole defensive signals and then he was able to decipher defenses for Tom Brady to pick apart. Even though really, the Patriots and Belichick were punished for videotaping the signals – and the commissioner believed they were lying during the investigation. The fines were relatively small for multi-millionaires – though I’m sure it’s annoying to have to write those checks. And the team was docked draft picks. As NFL punishments go, it was actually pretty strict.

But there’s a funny thing about this. It’s not illegal to steal signals. It’s not. If I figure out your signals by hook or by crook, all’s fair according to the NFL rulebook. It’s just you can’t videotape and archive them. A great article on this topic from the New York Times:

The Times piece doesn’t completely exonerate the Patriots. But Bill Cowher does. Mr. Cowher was the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who lost to the Patriots in several hard fought playoff games. Mr. Cowher watched Super Bowl dreams dashed by Handsome Number 12 and Coach Belichick.  So what does he have to say about the videotapes?  He thinks the Patriots are the greatest team of the 2000’s:

So whenever someone wants to call the Patriots cheaters, I will always ask for a resume of head coaching NFL games that is more experienced than Bill Cowher’s.

That’s the thing, though. Bill Cowher’s a pro. He knows and understands just what it takes to go into winning an NFL game. A lot of fans think they know. Maybe some do. But the working hours of an NFL Coach are usually something like in the office between 5 and 6 AM then back home between 10 PM and Midnight. Something tells me, if it was that easy, these guys would be working from home more.

“But Tim, how come the Patriots LOST two Super Bowls since SpyGate?” (SIGH) In 2006, Peyton Manning and the Colts launched the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history to eliminate the Patriots. In the second half of the game, after being down 21-3, Peyton carved up a formidable Patriots defense. After the game, Coach Belichick figured that he was never going to be able to defend Peyton Manning. He needed to concentrate on a high powered offense that could outscore Peyton Manning as the NFL became more and more of a Quarterback league. So in the offseason, how you doing Wes Welker and Randy Moss? Under more scrutiny than any other NFL team in history, the Patriots high octane offense took them to 18 wins in a row. Lifelong LA Kings fan Al Michaels on Sunday Night Football called the team’s gameplay “High art.” So what happened in the Super Bowl? The Giants defense shut them down. And in a rematch a few years later. It seems defense still wins Championships. Some will argue that Peyton Manning’s 2013 Denver Broncos offense was even better than the Pats 2007 murderers row. And they got eviscerated by the Seattle Seahawks defense in the NFL’s version of Wrestlemania. Coach Belichick has been rebuilding the Pats D the past 2 seasons and is going all-in with one of the greatest defensive players of this century in Darrelle Revis. (Granted, if Brady connects with Welker two years ago against the Giants, they‘d have won but it looks like the NFL teams are striving for a formula of strong regular season offense, strong post-season defense).

So if Bill Cowher can let it go and is so confident about the Patriots not cheating – why aren’t so many fans? Because the Pats were hated long before SpyGate. But that scandal gave people are reason to say “A-ha! They’re not so good after all.”

The Patriots won 3 Super Bowls. In 2 of them, they were underdogs. Against the Rams they were impossible underdogs. Even after they won, I was told by many a football aficionado “The Patriots are not supposed to win Super Bowls.”

They upset the balance. They rocked the boat. They bucked the system. Imagine if this year, Dennis Allen coaches the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory. The football world will not cheer the underdog. They’ll be in stunned silence. (And many still hate their previous owner despite him being on the other side of the ground.)

When the Patriots kept winning I just kept hearing, “I’m sick of your team.” Maybe Cowboys fans went through this in the 80’s. I don’t know, I was too concerned with what was going to happen when the Mega-Powers exploded to watch football back then.

After years and years of losing, Boston fans were overjoyed at seeing their once lovable loser Patriots as World Champions. God forbid, they enjoyed and reveled in this moment. Many accused the Boston fans of being too cocky or arrogant about their team winning. I’m being totally honest here – I’ve seen sports fans as arrogant, cocky and full of their shit as any Patriots fan. For what teams? All of them. Every fucking sport. Every sports fan when their team is winning is kind of a dick. It’s one of the perks of cheering for a winning team.

(And to those who said they called the Patriots a great team or dynasty as being premature, um, Patriots are always predicted to make the playoffs. Like always. Sorry, but not sorry.)

One time during the 2007 run, I saw another Patriots fan in Ralph’s. We both had on Patriots T-Shirts so we were able to recognize each other. I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me. But for five minutes, right there in front of the four for a dollar ramen, we talked about how awesome it was to see Tom Brady outplay defenses with “North By North-Wes” Welker and Randy “This Stone Collects No” Moss. I’ll never forget, I said to him, “Everyone hates us this year.” He leaned in close and said, “Fuck ‘em.”

I can’t really blame him. It feels like us against the world. If everywhere you go all you hear is, “you suck and you’re cheaters and you’re a bad person for liking this team,” it makes you more than a little hard.  And it also doesn’t help that Football is a world that demands credentials.

I somewhat followed the Patriots during the Parcells and Bledsoe era in the late 90’s. I picked up Boston sports during my time there. I worked in a sporting goods store, I made friends with many locals, I was friends with people at other schools. Sports was what it should always be – a unifying topic that people can talk about to break the ice, shoot the breeze, get to know each other. But the deeper I got, the more unfriendly it got.

The football world is absolutely the one I’ve received the coldest reception in. Doctor Who? I’ve gotten hugs from writers, producers – and Doctors.  Wrestling? I ended up working there. I was welcomed into the ring when I trained as ref by seasoned pros. I worked for several WWE reality shows and was told by several major superstars, “You should have worked in the wrestling business.”  Screenwriting? Every single writer and producer with more experience and success than I has given me one message – “Keep writing, you’re good.” Football? “Papers please.”

OK, I’m late to the game but I’ve been watching football for over 15 years now. I’ve had to explain to people I watch games with how this tackle opened a running lane or how a wide receiver was able to outsmart the defense to get wide open. I’ve correctly called plays and sequences. But I’ve still got people in my life who say, “Well, you’ve not been watching football THAT long.” So fucking what? I was a wrestling encyclopedia within 4 years of fandom. I’ve been told “You don’t know anything about football” because I liked a certain announcer on ESPN. After this long, I know how many downs a team gets. Some asshole on twitter told me “LOL, maybe you shouldn’t watch football” because I objected to how Richie Incognito treated Jonathan Martin during their recent scandal. OK, and I guess pussies like Tom Jackson, Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson should stop watching football as well.

I’ve read, studied and listened to people who know a lot more about football than I do. These are the most basic tenets of learning about a subject but they seem to carry little weight to many who follow the pigskin from one side of the field to the other.

One of the ugliest examples of this was actually when the Pats went 16-0 in the regular season in 2007.  I was at the airport, wearing a Pats baseball cap, waiting to board a flight back to LA. A woman walks up to me, Washington fan, said Congratulations on the Pats accomplishment. That was nice of her. She asked me how long I’ve been watching. I told her my interest started with the Parcells era but she cut me off with “So you’re not a real fan.” “Excuse me?” I asked more incredulous than mad. “Real fans grow up on a team, not pick them up later once they start winning.” I nodded and turned away ending the conversation. It was Christmastime so I decided not to reply with “well, you’re a real cunt.”

Seriously, who the hell is anyone else to judge one’s fandom or level of interest? I’m cheering interceptions so loudly the cat has to leave the room, I’m cheering touchdowns like The Ultimate Warrior charging Randy Savage at Wrestlemania VII, I’m laughing at all of Bill Belichick’s humorless jokes, “Of course we game-planned for him. He’s best defensive player in the league.” FUCK YEAH, YOU TELL ‘EM COACH! But this fucking asshole who knows me all of 20 seconds is going to tell me I’m not a real fan because I had the temerity to watch Doctor Who on Sundays in my youth instead of football. Not the sports world’s best ambassador.

Of course, I am answering my own question a bit here. Sal Paolantonio made a good point once when he said, “Baseball is America’s pastime, Football is America’s passion.”

It’s a wonderful game filled with strategy and overcoming direct, attacking adversity to achieve a goal. Football, to me, is the perfect metaphor of the struggle for greatness. You heard me say in a recent post that a recent screenwriting defeat for me was akin to having the game winning touchdown in my hands but then it hit the grass right between my fingers. We get so caught up in the struggle that the game becomes a downright religious experience.  Of course, this isn’t true just for football fans. Every sports fan feels this about their game or games.

It’s fun to get caught up in the passion but like a lot of religious endeavors, a misguided righteousness sets in about good and evil. And like many religious extremists, many of us choose to see the fans and rival teams as evil. Fights break out. A rationalized prejudice sets in against the opposing teams colors. Men are hit over the head with bricks in parking lots. My God.

The Patriots thanks to a major scandal, not knowing their place and an unsmiling coach are now seen as evil. 

The New Orleans Saints had a bounty program to injure opponents. And I mean, INJURE opponents. Audiotape of orders to break 49ers Running Back Frank Gore’s neck were released to the public. I’ve had people try to argue that SpyGate was worse. Yup, stealing signals is worse than intentionally trying to end a man’s career with paralysis.  Rationalization knows no limits.

Maybe I’m not a true football fan because I don’t have that hatred toward other teams. If the Patriots are my “God” well, I haven’t found a devil.  Of course, I hate the Jets. I hate the team. But only when they’re on the field. Rex Ryan saved his job last year but taking one of the worst lineups he had and coached them to a decent 8-8 record. He was on his second rookie quarterback and third offensive coordinator. He was the coach most likely to get fired in September 2013. But he survived. Can I honestly not respect that? I’d be damn happy to shake Rex Ryan’s hand if I ever met him. I mean, I’ll still boo the fuck out of his team. But only during the game. I can’t be that mad at the Jets. They’re just doing their job – trying to win the game. Just like my Pats.

Side-note: A few years ago, I almost worked on a show with Bart “Anyone Can Be Beat” Scott. Goddamn, I hated him after that playoff game. If I ended up working with Mr. Scott I have NO DOUBT that not only I would be able to work with him, I’d probably like him – and hell, we’d maybe even have a laugh about the whole because at the end of the day, despite the intensity the point of a game is fun. I’m actually sorry I didn’t get that chance. It’d be a good story. I owe you a cold one, Bart Scott.

I also know quite a lot of Jets fans. I don’t hate them. Quite the opposite. I like them a great deal. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve met a Jets fan I don’t like. I’m gonna hate them because they like a rival team, one many of them grew up on? How ridiculous is that?

The Pittsburgh Steelers. I can’t even hate them that much. Bill Cowher’s comments helped with that. But also when the day comes that Bill Belichick hangs up his hoodie, I’d love to see Mike Tomlin in Foxborough. Probably won’t happen but still, a Super Bowl winning coach who’s guided his team through their own scandals and survived some ups and downs. And the Steelers presented WWE icon Bruno Sammartino with an honorary Steelers Jersey with the number 1. I cannot in clear conscience hate the Steelers. One of the best, toughest opponents for the Pats. Always great games, a great rivalry.

And as I said, Goddamn Peyton Manning practically won my fantasy league last year single-handedly. One week, injured Victor Cruz and underutilized Emmanuel Sanders were my starting receivers to put that in perspective. I booed Peyton Manning as much as any heel wrestler in my day. But I’ll tell you this, when he announced his comeback with the Broncos, I was terrified he was going to destroy his neck. Peyton Manning killed some Patriots’ Super Bowl dreams. But that doesn’t mean I want to see the man paralyzed. Peyton deserves to ride off in the sunset, waving to a standing ovation. He’s one of the best quarterbacks ever and deserves respect from every football fan – whatever their qualifications.

I don’t know – maybe because I’ve seen how ugly some of the hatred in the football world is, it makes me try to not hate another team that much. Even though hating another team is easier than hating all the other things to hate about football.

I know a few folks who have said, “I morally just cannot watch football.”  I don’t have an argument for them. This blog was almost about how I wasn’t sure I could watch football this year. Everyone saw the news, Josh Gordon several marijuana offenses, 1 year suspension. Ray Rice beats his girlfriend into unconsciousness, suspended 2 games.

To his credit, Commissioner Roger Goddell changed the domestic violence rules to rightfully stiff penalties and admitted like a real leader should do, that he got it wrong and is trying to make it right. Will Ray Rice be grandfathered into this new punishment? Nope. Goodell did the right thing but somehow DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA avoided much of the heat, even though they’ve fought hard to protect players accused of domestic violence and much worse.

Football is a violent game. It’s a violent world. I don’t believe that excuses it from being an out-of-control, savage one. No team is safe from scandal. Michael Vick ran dog-fighting. Ben Roethlisberger has sexual assault accusations in his past. The list is actually depressingly long. Three days after the stiff penalties for domestic violence, 49er Ray McDonald was arrested for that very crime. To his credit 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has said that if it’s clear McDonald is guilty, he’ll no longer be 49er.

The number of arrests amongst NFL and College Football players dwarf those in other sports:

Drunk driving, vehicular homicides, domestic violence, spitting drinks in women’s faces, battery, shooting themselves in the leg wearing sweat pants to a night club – what the hell are these people doing off the field?

Even the Patriots had to deal with Aaron Hernandez who’s now accused of multiple gangland-style murders. The Patriots cut Hernandez before he was even charged (NFLPA still fighting for practice bonuses) but still, I’ve got people saying to me “Yours is the team with the murderer.”

(deep breath)

Yup, we cut him at the first sign of trouble and we’re the team with the murderer.

Maybe it’s just easier to hate the Patriots and before us, the Raiders and Jerry Jones, than it is to confront the dark underbelly at the heart of America’s passion. I’m not saying it is, I don’t know. I do know that much of this, incidents like Richie Incognito and Aaron Hernandez and Ray Rice gave me pause about watching football again this year. A month ago, I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to tune in. For reals. Hell, even Wes Welker just got suspended for banned substances.

But then I watched the Patriots – Carolina preseason game. Good/bad, right/wrong. I’m just being honest. Seeing Bill Belichick on the sideline with his brow so furrowed, you could stick a pen between the folds, seeing Tom Brady throwing a 30 yard touchdown to Shane Wol-Vereen. And now Jimmy “Don’t Call Me Janeane” Garoppolo is bringing his own handsome spin to the Quarterback position. As I watched the game and the Patriots play really well (preseason I know) I can’t help it dear reader. All the scandals and arrests and all the ugly shit went away. My Pats were playing and kicking ass and it was good. 

So yes, I am going to watch football. The change in the domestic violence policy is great step forward. There’s a lot more to be done to fix the game. Hopefully, the arrests and character flaws will lower to a point where some of my friends who object to football will someday say “This game is great, I get why you liked it so much.” But there’s one thing that won’t change.

And that’s my love of the Pats. Because no one has presented me with a good argument for why I shouldn’t like them. We stole signals but we’ve not tried to kill guys on the field. We’ve had scandals but have done our best to cut the bad apples. Bill Belichick is a jerk you say? Find me any uber-successful individual who’s not described as jerk at times and I’ll tell you you’re not looking close enough. Like I said elsewhere, achievement forgives most sin.

And for the hell of it, here’s a picture of Tom Brady:


The Patriots are my team. They’re my corner of Boston that I’ve taken with me to Los Angeles and will be with me wherever I go. They’re my memories of Cleveland Circle, Kenmore Square and the Green Line. Being in Foxborough Stadium a few years against the Jets was magic. I knew no one around me but for 3 hours we were all old friends. Oh and I saw Pats fans & Jets fans have some very friendly conversations. I was waiting for “Ebony And Ivory” to break out with them during tailgating but no such luck.

So people can keep booing, I ain’t gonna stop cheering. Waiting for me to say the Patriots are cheaters? Grab a magazine, it’s gonna be a long wait. Want me to admit when the Patriots have a bad game or totally fuck it up? That’s for the announcers. As a fan, I owe no such contrition. I owe no apology to anyone out there who doesn’t like the Patriots or the fact that I like the Patriots. Anyone can cheer for whatever sports team they like whenever they like. Rules are for classrooms and the workplace. Fandom is a place for passionate enthusiasm, whatever the origin.

And here’s the best part, even though everyone’s booing – they want to be in the nWo. They want to be The Master. They want to be Darth Vader. They want to be a Horseman. They want to be Severus Snape, The Trinity Killer, Roman Grant, Walter White, Mickey Donovan and Joffrey Baratheon. (OK, maybe not Joffrey) And most – if not every – NFL player wants to be Patriot. 

“Would I play for Coach Belichick? Yes. What football player wouldn’t?” – former Baltimore Raven and future Hall Of Famer Ed Reed.

They all hate that flying Elvis until they wear it. They all want to wear the nWo T-shirt. They all want to win.


For the fellow Patriots fans reading this, without any further ado, I give you your 2014 New England Patriots:

Tom “Tom Brady” Brady

Vince McMahon Wilfork

Dan Connelly’s Drug Store

Sebastian What’s In Your Wallet? Vollmer

The Jet Killer Rob Ninkovich

Stephen The Big Gostkowski

Darrelle And Back Revis

Ryan Wendell Pierce

Matthew And Starring Mario Lopez As Slater

He Went To Jerod Mayo

If Calvin Johnson Is Megatron, Then Julian Edelman is Galvatron

Kyle Copley, Next Stop Arrington

Danny The Amendola Of Rock & Rolla

Devin The People’s McCourty

Brandon LaFell Which Is French For The Fell

Patrick Everybody Wang Chung Tonight

Kenbrellichick Thompkins

Nate The Unknown Solder

Michael Doctor Hoomanawanui

Crossing Jordan Devey (it was Boston show, remember)

Devilin’ James Develin

Marcus Cannons Roar

Shane Wol-Vereen

Joe Versus The Vellano

Stevan Ridley’s Believe It Or Not

From Jacked Central, Rob Gronkowski

Sean Connery As Darius Fleming’s James Bond

Nate Go Ahead And Call Him Lil Ebner, I Dare You

Tavon Never Off Wilson

Josh Will Put On The De Kline

Chandler “There’s A Quarterback Under Your Shoe, Mister” Jones

Don “Tell Us Everything You Know About The Dolphins” Jones

Chris No Relation To Don Or Chandler Jones

Dont’a Officer Moses Hightower

Referee Bill Alfonzo Dennard

Malcolm The Butler Did It

Brandon Fortune Favors The Bolden

Ryan Allen Not Adams

Logan’s Run Ryan

Zach Moore Than A Feeling

Damon Puts The Harmon In Harmony

Aaron On The Side Of Caution Dobson

Michael President James Buchanan

James White Bulger

Cameron “Mad That Darius Got The James Bond Name First” Fleming

Danny Breakin Aiken Hearts

Jamie Collins

Bryan Stork From Ork

Dominique Things Don’t Come Easly

Jimmy Don’t Call Me Janeane Garoppolo

Sealver Approval Siliga

Tim Davis Wright OK, OK, OK…How about –

Tim Never Wrong, Always Wright

Brian All The Cool Guys Are Tyms

OK, fine – Brian There Are Some Who Call Me…Tyms

I’d give Bill Belichick a nickname but these can sometimes change from week to week and Coach Belichick can’t even think about next week’s nickname right now.