For the last few weeks, as the regular baseball season began to drag its feet toward the playoffs and sports fans' attention began to wander toward autumn (in most cases because their fantasy baseball teams and/or their actual baseball teams and/or both were already in the crapper), people have been asking me, a fairly outspoken New England Patriots fan, if I am excited about the start of the NFL season.
Surprisingly--perhaps to no one more so than myself--my answer has been: "Enh."
The fact is, I'm mad at the Patriots. Not because they lost the Super Bowl last season and not because they fell one game short of historic perfection...but because those things happened as a direct result of the fact that the Patriots bought into their own hype. There's nothing wrong with a team believing that it can't be beat--one could even make the argument that such is the essence of athletic competition. But as soon as a team starts deriving that kind of unreasonable confidence less from itself and more from a third party--say, for example, bandwagon fans who were barely aware that the team existed before 2001--it has reserved itself a front row seat at its own Comeuppance Circus.
Think I'm overstating the matter? I suggest you familiarize yourself with the tale of the mentally disabled quarterback who earned a Super Bowl ring on the back of the Patriots' hubris.
Given that I am deeply familiar with the vitriolic hatred that fans of professional sports teams outside the Boston area have felt, with increasing dedication, toward fans of Boston-area-based professional sports teams ever since the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I understand that most "Patraters" would be eager to view my apparent indifference as a surefire indication of a fair-weather fan. As it happens, those are people who had never given a second thought to Patriots fans prior to 2001...and that actually would make them, in a sense, "fair-weather haters".
I ask you this, fair-weather Patraters: Did you hate the Patriots fans back when Steve Grogan was running the offense on the field in Foxborough Stadium? No...you didn't. Because, not only have you never heard of Steve Grogan, you don't even know what Foxborough (also incorrectly spelled as "Foxboro") Stadium is. Mosi Tatupu--whom you've also never heard of--will gladly see you out the door.
At ten o'clock a.m. (PST) on Sunday, I will be seated front and center before my television set, surrounded by friends loved ones--all of them tried and true fans of the NFL team from Foxborough ("Foxboro" to the poseurs)--and I will be rooting for my New England Patriots with every last ounce of my sportsfan soul.
And if they don't lose to the Chiefs, which they probably won't, I'll be rooting for them to lose the next game...and, perhaps, the one after that.
I will do this because I truly love my Patriots, and I therefore realize that their media-drowned quest for a "perfect" season last year--and the ridiculous, jinx-tastic pressure that came with it--was what kept them from achieving a championship season.
Any NFL fan who would rather see his team have a perfect regular season (which, for the record, the Patriots did last year) than win the Super Bowl is the absolute antithesis of a genuine fan.
Which would mean that he's a New York Giants fan.
Which would mean that he's all about the Jets, now, because they have Brett Favre.
In either case, he calls himself a "New York" fan while rooting for a team that plays in New Jersey...which makes him a sad, sad shell of a person.