I imagine it was a picture-perfect New England, Sunday afternoon in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the fall of sometime in the 1970s. There is a man in his backyard raking leaves, listening to the booming voice of Gil Santos play through his radio. It’s Patriots gameday. Quarterback Jim Plunkett, a former number one overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner, and the Pats are 0-3 looking for their first win of the season.
“Plunkett drops back in the pocket,” Santos says. The man stops raking to listen in. “He gets pressure from the backside, throws off his front foot…” the man is now eagerly waiting for what’s next. “And… Plunkett is intercepted. That will do it. Patriots drop to 0-4, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 21-17,” Santos said as he wraps up the broadcast. The man furiously throws his rake to the ground. “You have to be kidding me!” he exclaims. “First overall pick and he can’t even fix the problem.” His son, a boy no older than seven or eight, laughs as his father begins to rake again. Little does the boy know he will soon feel the same agony of defeat.
As Plunkett gets picked off and the game comes to a close another man packs up his belongings off of a cold, metal bench and exits old Foxboro Stadium. “Four straight losses to start the year,” he mumbles under his breath. “There is always next year, I suppose.” That man heads back to the bus station, returning to his home in Rhode Island after another disappointing Sunday in Foxboro.
Fast forward to present day. The New England Patriots go for Super Bowl victory number six this weekend. That ticks off just about every person outside of New England. NFL fans and many national media members have become furious with the consistent dominance of the Patriots over the past two decades.
I won’t hide anything. I am a born and bred Patriots fan. I will go to bat for my Patriots. Let me put this into perspective for you. In high school I was a pretty good kid (at least I like to think so). However, I received one detention and it came in my 11th grade Spanish class when my good friend, who was a Steelers fan, whispered into my ear, “Tom Brady is washed up.” To which I shot up out of my chair and defended my quarterback resulting in a trip to the Vice Principal’s office.
That’s all besides the fact. I don’t deserve to see the Patriots win another Super Bowl. I’ve been spoiled. I have seen the Red Sox win the World Series three times, the Celtics win the NBA Finals and the Bruins hoist a Stanley Cup all while enjoying the Patriots decade plus of unprecedented control of the NFL. I am just 20-years-old.
When people say they are sick and tired of the Patriots I cannot help but think of two people: my grandfathers. One grandpa, my Papa, is a small business owner in Falmouth, Massachusetts on the Cape. The other is my Pop, a Bronx native who moved to Rhode Island with his mother and siblings in the 1930s. These men, and their generation of New England Patriots fans, deserve every banner hanging at Gillette Stadium.
The stories that I started this piece with may not be factually accurate. I am not sure if that situation ever exactly happened but I do know this: before the dynasty that we know now as the New England Patriots, between the 1960s and 1970s the organization had made either the AFL or NFL playoffs just three times while winning one playoff game. In the ‘80s the Pats made the playoffs five times losing in the first round all but once. And up until 2001, the Patriots, in their 40 years as a professional football franchise, had made just two Super Bowls and lost both times.
That is the reality if you are a lifelong Patriots fan. Quite frankly, your team was the laughing stock of the league for most of its existence. That is until Bob Kraft bought the team who hired Bill Belichick who drafted Brady. And the rest, as they say, is history.
This Sunday if the Patriots hoist their sixth Lombardi Trophy, I’ll have three people on my mind: my dad and my grandpas. As a lifelong fan of 20 years, I don’t deserve another championship brought home. But as lifelong fans of 50, 74 and 85 years, they certainly do.