With the Super Bowl upon us, I’ve been reflecting on why I consider myself a fan of The New England Patriots.
Although there are many who will tell you they’ve been a fan all their lives, I can only say I’ve been a fan since the 2001 season. I wasn’t completely oblivious to the Patriots before that time. I’d heard of Steve Grogan. I even got to meet Steve Nelson at a DARE program held at the local elementary school back in the 90’s. I still remember what one kid said to him: “You don’t look 57”. To which Nelson replied, “I’m not. That was my number”. I saw Doug Flutie coming out of the Natick service plaza on the Mass Pike.
I know Bill Parcells once coached the team. I know Pete Carroll once coached the team also. I remember the whole “squish the fish” thing in 1986 and I know the Bears killed us in the Super Bowl. I know Drew Bledsoe took the team to the Super Bowl in 1996 and lost to Green Bay. Gillette was not always Gillette. It once was Sullivan Stadium. Then Foxboro Stadium. The team was once in the rumor mill to be moved to Providence or Hartford.
Then along came Tommy and my viewing of Patriots football went from zilch to just about every week.
Here is how my introduction to Tom Brady went:
It was the Monday after the Patriots’ season opener in the year 2001. My husband had just informed me that Bledsoe had gotten hurt during the game.
“Oh, great,” I said, rolling my eyes. I had always thought Bledsoe was like a bull in a China shop. “So who’s taking over?”
“Some guy named Tom Brady.”
“Never heard of him,” I replied.
Then my husband spoke the three words that would haunt him for the next fourteen years: “He’s nothing special”.
As they say, the rest is history. That “nothing special” quarterback only went on to take The New England Patriots to the Super Bowl and win the damn thing, becoming the youngest quarterback in history to do so. Sunday will mark Tom Brady’s sixth appearance in the Super Bowl. That’s more than any other quarterback. Not bad for “nothing special”.
To really put The New England Patriots Super Bowl appearances into perspective, and to see that, yes, this team REALLY is THAT good, keep in mind that there are 32 teams in the NFL.
Looking back over the past 15 Super Bowls:
Twelve of the teams that went to the Super Bowl within the past 15 years have only been in the Super Bowl once during that time: St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Oakland, North Carolina, Philly, Baltimore, Chicago, Arizona, New Orleans, Green Bay, San Fran, and Denver.
In that same time frame, only two teams have been to the Super Bowl twice: Indy and New York
In that same time frame, only two teams have been to the Super Bowl three times: Pittsburgh and Seattle (this Sunday will be their third appearance)
Standing alone in that time frame is the one and only New England Patriots. They have the honor of having been in the Super Bowl SIX times (this Sunday will be their sixth).
When all the peanuts have been counted, only 17 out of 32 teams have been in the Super Bowl at least once within the past 15 years. The Patriots have been there SIX of those times!
People can say what they want about the Patriots. They can associate them with Spygate, Deflategate, Hategate. Whatever. For these people what it all comes down to is that their team is not the Patriots. They don’t have a Tom Brady, a Gronk or a Belichick. Their stadium sucks. Their team has never been to the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl. Hey, fans of those teams—newsflash: Patriots fans feel your pain. AT ONE TIME THE PATRIOTS DIDN’T HAVE ANY OF THAT EITHER! We sucked. To even mention The New England Patriots in the same breath as the playoffs or the Super Bowl was a joke. There is an urban legend that one time the fans got so pissed off they ripped out a goalpost and carried it down Rte. 1. Another one is that during a game the quarterback sucked so badly, a fan from the crowd who used to play quarterback in college was called in to take his place. So we know what it’s like to be on the losing end.
The Super Bowl is in less than twenty-four hours. I don’t know if the Patriots will win or lose. It’s been a long season and this team has come a long way. They have done their job as a team and I have done my job as a fan. No matter what happens I’m proud of this team and I’m even prouder to say I’m a New England Patriots fan.