Last night, the New England Patriots made history.
And they didn’t do it just once, or twice, they did it over TWENTY times, breaking records that have stood for years and setting new, unbelievable standards. Not to mention that they did this all during the very first Super Bowl to ever go into overtime (okay, I’m mentioning it anyways because DAMN)
That picture up there is one I took of myself yesterday. In addition to blue (I promise I’m not transforming into a Smurf) eyeshadow and what is an excellent candidate for the dorkiest smile in the world, I’m wearing this ancient 10-year-old jersey (given that is basically half of my life, it’s vintage to me, baby) that was a Christmas gift from my parents.
Because I’m certain WordPress has awkwardly chopped off half of my head, I’ll put the picture here too for the sake of… nothing, really; but I’m gonna do it anyways.
There are actually two 10-year-old Brady jerseys floating around our household; one home uniform and one away uniform. The other one is so unbelievably well worn that there’s basically no number on it anymore. I was afraid to touch this one because it’s so pristine and, knowing me, all too likely to fall victim to some tarnishing tragedy. But it seemed appropriate for the Pats’ ninth trip to the Super Bowl (yes, NINE) for a game that was set to be something to talk about for a long time no matter the outcome.
I don’t really remember how old I was when I first sat down and actually bothered to observe some of a Patriots game on TV. Let’s just say that it was back when they sucked. Absolutely atrocious. There were a bunch of gigantic men running all over the screen dressed in colorful costumes, and they apparently purposely ran into each other. And apparently, the crowd liked one team a whole lot better than the other. Including my dad, who watched the game every time it was on.
I was mystified. At this point, the most comparable thing I could think of that I understood was soccer. I mean, two teams competed for control of a ball and tried to get it all the way to the other side.
But there was all this other bizarre crap, like the fact that sometimes the score went up by six and, if they kicked it through this yellow U-shaped thing, it went up by three. And sometimes the team with the ball would kick it away to the other side and I could not for the life of me fathom why they would give up the ball. Didn’t they want to win?
Football isn’t exactly something anyone sits down in front of and immediately understands. I absolutely don’t understand a lot of it still.
And normally, when I don’t understand something, I either try my hardest to figure it out on my own, or I ask a bazillion questions.
I opted for the bazillion questions route. While my family sat in front of the TV, I would badger my dad with all sorts of nonsense. Why did the other team pick up the ball and run away with it? What the heck does that yellow tissue mean? Why were there so many different amounts of points that could be added?
This isn’t to say that football is some sort of impossible mystery to figure out or that you have to possess a specific skill set to get it. In fact, some of the most vapid people I’ve ever encountered have a wonderful grasp of it.
There are so ridiculously many airheaded people who play the game and commentate on it. There are also very intelligent and well-spoken people. Some of them seem to be quite kind and genuine, while far too many others are violent, rude, arrogant, despicable human beings. Honestly, some of them are complete and total pieces of shit. I don’t care how much money you make or how much of a big shot you think you are (oh hey, Mr. President); that does NOT give you a license to purposely injure, assault, attack, ridicule, discriminate against, objectify, intimidate, sexually violate, threaten, rape, and yes, even kill, or any number of other horrible things that people affiliated with the NFL have been accused and charged with, anyone. ANYONE. There is just nothing that ever justifies any of this in the world. And it’s sad and disgusting, to make the understatement of all time, that people still do these things. And that, disturbingly enough, sometimes get treated with gentle hands or even completely get away with and face no repercussions for their actions.
I could sit here and write about how fucking abominable these acts, and the people behind them, are. Professional football players, teachers, college students, political figures, your random neighbor. Because there’s just no two ways about it… there is NEVER, nor will there EVER be, an excuse.
However, that’s not what I set out to write about. I have no desire nor intent to diminish what was just mentioned. Nor do I want to invalidate your opinion, your values, your morals, or anything you hold dear. I highly doubt that you would be so easily swayed to change them based on some random collection of words anyways. Please don’t.
I am simply here to talk about why I put on this 10-year-old jersey with a little flutter in my heart, spent the game either screaming at the TV with a whole range of emotions or hiding my eyes, and will continue about my days turning on game days as they roll around, even as the players change and stories grow and fade and years pass.
I’ve always been very impressionable about some things, to be quite frank. I become very wrapped up in thoughts about what others are thinking and feeling to the point where I let this rule my mind and my decisions. And sometimes, I’m completely wrong. Point being, it’s pretty simple to get me thinking one way or another when it comes to trying to mentally gauge a situation.
However, there was no confusion when it came to the reactions of my dad when he was watching the Patriots play. You know, the whole gamut: cheering, disappointed sigh, angry ranting, deep frowns, laser-focused gaze, amusement; you name it.
So I observed what made him happy, sad, angry, and tried to piece together why that was. Occasionally I would react completely the wrong way, like cheering when the opposing team intercepted the ball or whatever. Eventually I began to understand more. The other team picked up the ball and ran away with it because there was a fumble. The “yellow tissues” were called flags, and they meant a penalty was being issued because a rule had been broken. There were touchdowns, field goals, extra points and two point conversations, and safeties; all these different ways to total up points on the board.
Cool. I learned the game of football, where men wearing tight ass pants crashed into each other in pursuit of glory (and a bigger paycheck). Something meatheaded drunk people and geniuses alike could understand.
Here’s what actually matters to me: I got to spend time with my family every weekend. My dad and I especially developed a rapport about the sport and the team we supported. I made and strengthened friendships because we could talk about this crap. I became vehemently emotionally invested because I felt like I was a part of something. Be it familial togetherness, be it an entire mob of fans, be it just a general sense of belonging. It made me happy (even when I cried… yes, I admit I’ve cried sometimes), so watch the games I did.
If it reached my bedtime before the game concluded, my dad would come upstairs afterwards or in the morning to tell me what had happened. I began to accrue more items of Pats paraphernalia, like t-shirts and PJ pants and blankets. I developed a lexicon of players’ names, positions, and numbers, and did my best to keep up with the transitions.
Let’s make something very clear though: replace football with something like seeing who could throw a cabbage the farthest or could imitate a slug the longest or some other banal, ridiculous thing. Granted, football’s a little more involved than either of those (though I can definitely see why the argument might be made otherwise, and I appreciate and agree with that to an extent). But throw in my family and friends, cool snacks, a good dose of competitive spirit, and some other jazzy elements like giant foam fingers or a Tom Brady pom-pom hat, and I’d be sold.
Does it hurt that the Patriots are an absolute dynasty? That we have, indisputably, the best quarterback and coaching duo in NFL history… and just a whole slew of phenomenal players who have put together the legacy of what will absolutely go down in history as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) teams of all time? That (because I’m cheeky) there are some very attractive men wearing their uniforms? Hah, nope.
But again, I’ll reiterate, though without the weird cabbage-slug metaphor comparison.
I, quite frankly, give perhaps one iota of a damn about that stuff next to what I really consider important and valuable about my fandom. And yes, I’m aware that I can spit stats and share pictures of players and discuss games with you for lengths of time.
But… nah. That’s nice, but here’s the bottom line:
What’s really important to me is the happiness, the belonging, and the utterly WONDERFUL memories and moments this game and this team bring me.
Of course there are other things that could create these same effects. I’ve got a few in my life, thank goodness. But it just so happens that I grew up wearing Pats colors, so in Pats colors I’ll stay (besides, let’s be real, blue looks good on everyone. Whatever that’s even supposed to mean).
During Super Bowl XLIX (which is 49 for those of you, who, like me, don’t really make a habit of thinking about Roman Numerals), in 2015, I was watching the game surrounded by some of the most fantastic friends I’ve ever had and will likely ever encounter in my life. We had wings and fries and pizza everywhere. We had to keep the door shut, because technically you weren’t supposed to be in any dorm but your own (nice try on quelling the riots, it’s the fucking Zoo), but we could hear everyone else in the building reacting and often opened the door to chat with them.
It was just so damn FUN. Even as New England floundered about, I was truly happy on the inside. And then they won the game thanks to Malcolm Butler’s unbelievable interception, and we, along with the entire building and campus, basically, erupted. I was on the phone with my dad screaming as I simultaneously ran up and down the hallway and shouted various exclamations of joy to everyone else. Helped that they canceled classes the next day because of the snow, too.
Again, there are lots of other things to do and experience that can make you feel this way. I enjoy karate, writing, art, concerts by bomb musicians (hi Ed I LOVE you), and dog shows, for example. I hope you have awesome things you’re passionate about in your life, and if they’re not football (which is likely true), then I’m just as happy for you as if they were.
It’s one of my favorite words, so yay for getting to use it, but the camaraderie that I’ve experienced is obviously a huge part of why I love watching my team play so much (the word was camaraderie, by the way…). It’s that same sense of togetherness and solidarity that the Patriots have brought me, tinged with tons of joy, laughter, and excitement, ever since I was a little human bean with messy hair trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
The Pats didn’t make the Super Bowl in 2016 (BOO). What’s deserving of far, far, far more of my sadness, though, is the fact that at the time, I was ordered to stay on bedrest in the loneliest, most hopeless room ever, because I was too medically unstable and too much of a liability to be allowed to walk around. I was in tears at the news. And when they told me I couldn’t go out into the common room to watch the game even though I didn’t have a vested interest in either team, I completely lost my shit.
Not because I was devastated that I wouldn’t get to see two random teams face off for the right to that shiny Lombardi. It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. A year previous I’d been curled up with friends and food and familiarity. Now I was surrounded by bleak walls in a freezing inpatient eating disorder ward all by myself while other patients and their families were just across the hall. My parents had come to visit, and I was just a wreck.
We managed to get the on-call doctor into the room, and I begged and pleaded with him to please let me get into a wheelchair and have my parents roll me into the common room. And he finally acquiesced, though he told me I wasn’t to dare get up.
I watched the game for a little bit before I became absorbed with other things I’d lost touch with while quarantined to my god forsaken room, like social media and the friendships I’d left behind and god fucking damn it, the whole life I’d left behind. But I stayed in that room because there was life there. There was life on the computer screen as people communicated with me and posted about what was going on. There was life as patients enjoyed being with their loved ones. There was life as my family seemed temporarily out of the intense pain seeing me in this condition brought them. There was life as the darkness in my heart faded away a little.
That completely disintegrated as I ended up having to be rushed to the hospital not long after because of my horrendous vitals and virtual inability to remain conscious.
I won’t bore you with the details about how many times I went to the hospital or how low my blood pressure was or how sick I looked because this is NOT about that shit. I’m not here to create a sob story; nor have I ever wanted one. I did enough crying about my life as I watched it fade away while I cared less and less every second, believe me. I’m also not here to yammer on about how awful eating disorders and other mental illnesses are. I do that plenty, and I’m not gonna stop, either.
Here it is, 2017, and a whopping 20 days before my 21st birthday. I write this to you from a very comfy couch with a deceivingly nice Ocean State Job Lot blanket on my lap. In my own house. I don’t have IVs in my body or wires attached to my chest. I don’t have doctors hovering over me because it’s too dangerous to leave me alone. I happen to be wearing a Tom Brady shirt my mum got me not too long ago, some comfy leggings because pants are lame, and of course, fuzzy socks.
(hi hey hello that’s me with my Harvey Dent/TwoFace-eqsue eyes and that same dorky grin from earlier today)
There was a time when I didn’t know if I’d get to see another sunrise, let alone another Patriots game. And every night, when I go to bed and pull the blue and red blanket adorned with their logo over my shoulders, I’m reminded of how I used to do the same thing in a hospital bed.
Yesterday, I got to watch New England complete the most incredible, jaw-dropping, mathematically improbable (seriously, at one point, they had a .4% chance of winning) comeback ever. From this same couch (because it’s so cozy and more so because the TV is in this room), with some random thrift store shirt and Pats PJ bottoms on. My mum was downstairs watching it with me.
There weren’t friends and ecstatically jubilant people running amok everywhere. There weren’t people down the street rioting in happiness (although someone did set off fireworks). There was no junk, comfort food and that mildly intoxicating feeling of knowing that your school is as amazing as it is.
There was just the two of us losing our minds, along with everyone I am connected with on social media, my dad once again on the telephone, and my cat lurking somewhere far away from our noisy belligerence.
And guess what?
I was so, SO happy.
Yes, they won. They won in the most dramatic, improbable, thrilling way. They shattered tons of records, set new standards, wrote their name over again in the history books, and also made Roger Goodell make the most hilariously uncomfortable face in the world. Of course that makes me happy. It makes me positively GIDDY.
I have gone on and on for some ridiculous quantity of time now, and if you’re still reading, you’re a special breed of crazy just like me.
All this to say, thus, that I am a New England Patriots fan. Of that there is no doubt.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I grew up watching them.
I am a New England Patriots fan because my family supported them.
I am a New England Patriots fan because their games became a part of my routine.
I am a New England Patriots fan because they persevere and fight like no other team.
I am a New England Patriots fan because they continue to defy expectations and fly in the face of those who constantly spew nonsense about them.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I so fondly recall learning what the hell this was all about.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I love the feeling of cheering with other berserk people when they win.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I know they will get up and keep playing again even if they lose.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I have watched them build an empire from the ground up.
I am a New England Patriots fan because when I become passionate about something, I become wholly invested.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I live in the hub of their fanbase, surrounded by the greatest fans in the world in Boston.
I am a New England Patriots fan because Bill Belichick’s inability to smile and perpetual cutoff sweatshirt dress code makes me giggle.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I admire the remarkable athletic ability they display.
I am a New England Patriots fan because theirs is the story of an underdog who emerged victorious.
I am a New England Patriots fan because of all the amazing people I have met who have only furthered my ties to this team.
I am a New England Patriots fan because they are the kind of team that won’t ever be forgotten.
I am a New England Patriots fan because of all the times I’ve jumped up and shouted either expletives or noises of pure glee in unison with those around me, whether that be my parents or some random group of people from a couple doors down in the dorm.
I am a New England Patriots fan because you can see just how much these players value and love what they’re doing.
I am a New England Patriots fan because when some random stranger grins at me since we’re both wearing jerseys, I’ve made a unique connection with another human.
I am a New England Patriots fan because watching them brought me so much closer to my mum, my brother, and my dad.
I am a New England Patriots fan because it’s truly a magical feeling being surrounded by others who love to watch them play just as much as I do.
I am a New England Patriots fan because to do so brought me comfort and familiarity when surrounded by pure fear and the unknown.
I am a New England Patriots fan because you could stick me in the worst seats possible in the middle of a torrential downpour and I’d still be beside myself to get to experience that in person.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I was handed this jersey all those years ago.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I am proud every time I wear any one of now far larger stack of items I own with their logo on it.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I choose to be.
I am a New England Patriots fan because I want to be.
I am a New England Patriots fan, and I always will be.