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: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/sports/football/17nfl.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
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: http://espn.go.com/blog/afceast/post/_/id/10084/cowher-patriots-are-team-of-decade
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: http://arrestnation.com/2013-arrest-stats/
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.”
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
Nate The Unknown Solder
Michael Doctor Hoomanawanui
Crossing Jordan Devey (it was Boston show, remember)
Devilin’ James Develin
Marcus Cannons Roar
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
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.
GO PATS!!! P-A-T-S! PATS! PATS! PATS!