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Let’s just put it all out on the table: I’m a Patriots fan.
It doesn’t matter that I haven’t lived in New England in 20-something
years, being a Pats fan is as much a part of my DNA as those poor old Irish
farmers who took the boat over to Boston during the potato famine. I love the
Patriots now, sure, because it’s easy to since for the past 12 years, we’ve been have been winners. (Yes, it’s "we.")
But guess what? I loved them in the '80s, too,
when it was embarrassing to wear the now iconic, old-school offensive lineman
logo. Then, I suffered through every Sunday watching my team get pummeled by
Miami, New York and just about every other team in the NFL. I went to summer
training camps in Smithfield, R.I., praying for miracles from Steve
Grogan and Craig James. I sat shivering on the frozen benches of Foxboro
before it was swanky Gillette Stadium.
Through losing seasons and losing Super Bowls I’ve stood by
them. So don’t throw shade my way with “Deflate-gate,” “Spy-gate” or
“Any-Other-Gate,” because I’m not going waste my time arguing
about balls. As far as I’m concerned, Tom Brady is a winner. Bill Belicheck is
a winner. They don’t need to cheat to win. And I’m tired of having to argue that point
over and over with naysayers that hate the coach because he’s not TV friendly
and hate the quarterback because he’s too good to be true.
But here’s where things get weird: I’ve got kids, two boys, who, through no fault of their own, have been indoctrinated into the Patriots
family, although they reside deep within Colorado’s Broncos Country. (A fanbase who
becomes fans of anybody but the
Patriots when playoff season arrives.) My 6-year-old is able to take the
ribbing from friends and teachers with ease. He doesn’t yet feel the sting of those
insults being hurled at a beloved Brady, or a revived sports organization
that can make his mother cry in both victory and defeat. But my 9-year-old has yet to learn the art of being insulted over sports. When it’s a 100
kids in his school against one, heading to a Super Bowl beneath the veil of
“cheater” suspicion can be hard for him to understand.
'Root for the Patriots if you believe in them. Don’t root for them if you don’t.'
On our way to school this week, he confessed, “It’s hard to
root for the Patriots when everyone calls them the ‘Deflat-riots’.” We talked
about how cheating in any situation in life was wrong, but that I erred on the
side of the facts and choose to believe the Patriots are the best team in the
NFL simply because they outplay and outcoach all the rest. I tried to bolster
his confidence with a few good canned comebacks. In the end, I had to tell
him: “You either believe they are fair players or you don’t. Root for the Patriots
if you believe in them. Don’t root for them if you don’t.”
And that’s what it comes down to. If you truly believe the Patriots
are cheaters, then it’s easy to hate The Patriots Way. But if you’ve trust in
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Mr. Kraft and the Patriots organization, if you’ve
invested in NFL-approved onsies for your children as infants and Gronk jerseys
for them on their birthdays, then you must refuse to believe they would let
fans down — especially the young ones — in such a seedy way. If you believe in
the Patriots, you will never believe they did anything else but work their tightends
off to win Super Bowl 49.