There’s a lot of truth to what Drew Magary says about the Patriots in Deadspin’s “Why your team sucks” series previewing the NFL season. New England football fans can be arrogant, the defense is still suspect, and…yeah, Simmons.
But in the midst of his potty-mouth diatribe, Magary errs greatly in his assessment of the team’s history.
I have a dirty little secret, and that is that I spent more time in my life living in New England -13 years- than living anywhere else. I went to prep school in New Hampshire (I know, I know, I’m a dip&*^%). I went to college in Maine. My parents have lived in northern Connecticut for over two decades. I hung out with a lot of New England sports fans before 2001, and I’m going to tell you something: Before 2001, Boston sports fans HATED the Patriots. It’s not that they ignored the Patriots; it’s that they absolutely loathed them. The Patriots didn’t have the championship tradition of the Celtics, nor did they have the compelling (to Boston people, at least) sob story of the Red Sox, nor the Bawbby &%$#*&^’ Orr scrappitude of the Bruins. The Patriots were given all the love and support of a Russian foster child.
And now Pats fans are the most insufferable species of human being. They ALWAYS want you to think that they’re smarter than you because their coach is smarter than anyone else. Meanwhile, you couldn’t get these people to watch a Pats game in September and October if you offered them a thousand bucks and a Kate Upton [deleted]. Secretly, they can’t wait to go back to hating the Pats and having more free time to dote on their precious, dip&^%$ Red Sox. They’re the worst.
Now, we’ll refrain from judging the stance of a man’s opinion about New England sports fans despite having grown up in (cough) Connecticut, but his take is about as sensible as a mule with a spinning wheel.
Was there apathy regarding the Patriots prior to 2001? Sure. But apparently Magary conveniently misremembered his history, and with the Patriots, the modern era clearly began in 1993, when Jimmy Orthwein hired Bill Parcells to replace Dick MacPherson, who lost about half as many games (24) over his two seasons at the helm as Bill Belichick has lost (53) in 12 seasons as head coach. You don’t need a history lesson here, but let’s be honest, it’s not like they were the Cannons prior to gaining that legitimacy. (With all due respect to the Cannons.)
“The biggest sports fallacy in Boston sports history is that the Patriots didn’t have fans before 1993,” said The Sports Hub’s Marc Betrand, and despite the fact I’d argue the biggest misconception in our sports history is the notion that a fat man hexed a certain baseball team in lieu of admitting the former owner was a racist, helping handicap his team for decades, he’s right.
Oh, look, like Magary I went to college in northern New England, but apparently whatever fandom, or lack thereof, he witnessed in Maine apparently failed to cross the Whites and Greens into Vermont. This was the early-90’s, mind you, back when the Buffalo Bills were relevant. A national laughingstock, but relevant. And it just so happened that the local NBC (Oh, the days of Jim Lampley) affiliate resided across Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y. You know which games I watched for nearly three straight seasons at 1 p.m. on Sundays? The Bills. The Buffalo [expletive] Bills. I grew to hate the Bills. I will never lie to my kids about how much better it was in my day because I had to constantly watch the Buffalo [bleeping] Bills.
Every Sunday was like NFL Roulette, salivating during the pregame to see if THIS would be the Sunday that never came. Of course, aside from two dates each year, it never was, forcing the lot of us to trudge to our respective corners where we could listen to Gil and Gino. Hundreds of us did the same each week, even when the 1992 Patriots went 2-14. I still remember the overtime win against the Colts that gave them their first win. I listened to it on the radio, because THE BUFFALO BILLS WERE ON TV.
Not that that was terribly different from being at home, where the Patriots were blacked out a good half of the season because Foxboro Stadium more resembled an abandoned Caldor than an NFL stadium, but at least at the former, you could take your child, and the worst that might happen is you walk out with Teddy Ruxpin and a lighter wallet. The ol’ gal on Route 1 was not exactly family entertainment. It wasn’t that anybody hated the Patriots, but damn, it was hard to be a fan of them. But we did it, and when Parcells and Drew Bledsoe came to town though, it was reward, not the genesis of superiority, as some might have you believe.
There was a semblance of a bandwagon effect in ’86, a leap of faith in ’94 when Bob Kraft changed the course of local football history. Today, it stands somewhere in between. Pats fans can be arrogant brutes? Tell me where that’s not true of any NFL fan base. Don’t hate us because we’re beautiful.
And yes, we miss Pat Patriot. That time to revert has clearly come, no?