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25 November 2014

Tough Love: Being a New England Patriots fan

*Most of you know that I am currently pursuing a degree in Writing. This is an essay that I had to write for my class. It is about my love for the New England Patriots. I hope you enjoy* 

The glass sliding doors opened up and I pushed my caution tape yellow shopping cart into the farmer’s market.  I pulled my sunglasses off and as my eyes were adjusting to the dimness of the building, I noticed several people moving in front me, including a tall black gentleman with salt and pepper hair off to my left. He was having a conversation, but stopped in the middle of his sentence to step in my direction.  I was sure that I didn't know this man and I feared what was about to happen. And then he said it.

“Oh you can’t come in here with that shirt on!”

I then realized that he was expressing his disdain for my attire. It was Saturday and I usually wear the same thing when I run errands: jeans/tights, t-shirt and sneakers. This day I happen to have on my navy blue long sleeve New England Patriots shirt. I am well aware that the Falcons rule the town, but the Patriots are not their rivals. I was beginning to get tired of these confrontations.  You see this was number 4,080 on an even longer list.

As the gentleman got closer to me, I laughed at him and shouted back in his direction as I headed toward the produce section.

“Yes I will and I can!”

I have been a fan of football since I was a small child. My father was a military man who loved the Washington Redskins and had all girls. When his Marine buddies would come over to watch the game, I was allowed to sit in the room and learn the game. My education consisted of player’s positions and the actual plays that the teams performed. I was probably the only female kindergartner with an NFL ruler. And I could tell you the names of the teams based on the helmets alone. I was hooked from that day on.

I always wanted to play football, but it was not a girls sport. And I realized how delicate other girls were and how much they hated football in the fifth grade. A friendly game of touch or flag football (my memory fails me) went south when I planned a trick play. I fooled my teacher (the quarterback) into throwing the ball my way. Once I had the pigskin in my clutches, I ran in the other direction screaming “interception”.  My teacher called the play dead and told me in no uncertain terms were we doing “that”.  I was disappointed, but in my dash for greatness and a touchdown; I hurt a player. I didn't recall knocking her down nor did I remember stepping on her after she fell, but that was the story that she told. The result: my first football injury. Well I wasn't injured; however I broke her collar bone.

My love of football followed me through high school and in college. I was good friends with the entire defensive line at James Madison University from 1991 to 1995. But I never really had a professional team to connect with. My family was Redskins and Cowboys fans and I didn't like either team.  Virginia is one of the few states without any professional sports teams. The Washington D.C. or North Carolina teams would be the closest to support, but I wanted to choose on my own.

Many question how a girl born and raised in southeastern Virginia could love a team in a town that she has never visited. My good friends always assumed that I had a crush on a player and that led me to utter complete devotion. Actually it was on a whim that I chose to support the team in New England.  I recall a Sunday afternoon with my good guy friends watching a Patriots game on TV. All the guys said the Patriots were going to lose and I have always loved an underdog.

The team looked very shabby the first two quarters of the game. Even though it appeared that they were going to lose and badly, I sat there and cheered them on. Obviously my cheers were magical because they marched right to victory. I am not sure if the game was an upset and cannot even recall who they were playing that day. But I decided to support that awful New England Patriots team moving forward. A love affair was born.

For all the love that I have for the New England Patriots, the rest of the world has nothing but hate and contempt for the three time Super Bowl Champions. I have heard them referred to as the Evil Empire of football (their counterpart being the New York Yankees). Again I accept all of the hate and anger with open arms. Most of the fans that complain support teams who have never won a Super Bowl, except for New York Giants fans.  I hate the Giants and the Giants fans don’t care for me. Despite them getting lucky and defeating the Patriots in the Super Bowl twice, they still are just envious of our continued triumphs. I think that all the others are just jealous because Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick have figured out the key to football success.

I read on the internet last week that the New England Patriots are the most hated football franchise in America.  My friends relish in every one of their losses and don’t hesitate to rub my face in the defeat. I don’t walk around bragging on my quarterback, the so very handsome Tom Brady. I don’t mock teams that have felt the wrath in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium. I am very humble with my love for the Patriots. But that love gets me nothing but grief.

I am not arrogant when it comes to the Patriots, but I have been harassed on several occasions. I was once friends with a gentleman who happened to be a Baltimore Ravens fan. When Billy Cundiff missed a field goal that would have sent the Ravens into the Super Bowl, I received threatening Facebook messages from my gentleman friend.  He didn’t contact me because I mocked the Ravens loss to the Patriots. He contacted me solely because I was a supporter of the New England Patriots and I assumed that his threat was supposed to change my mind about the team I had supported for a decade. I am not a fair weather fan; I am a fan for life.

After that incident, I blocked my gentleman friend and moved forward with my football relationship. The next year when the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Patriots in the AFC Championship, this gentleman sought me out again to taunt me about the loss. I never thought of myself as an obsessed fan, but this guy was fixated on me and my Patriots. Maybe an internet restraining order should have been placed on this particular guy. Rather than go through all of that hassle, I just reported him to Facebook for harassment and eliminated all of his information from my contacts. Sometimes the being a Patriots fan gets fierce.

I know that I am on foreign sole and will always be the odd man out in Atlanta, but on the rarest occasion I get some Patriots support when out in the city. Last week as I made my nightly Walmart run, I was approached in the frozen food aisle by an elderly lady.  She was short in stature and moving slowly toward me as I picked up a box of Double Caramel Magnum Ice Cream Bars.  As she got closer, I assumed that she needed my assistance grabbing something on a higher shelf.  Instead, she touched my elbow smiled and spoke.

“You are wearing a great sweatshirt young lady.”

I glanced down at my chest and noticed the words New England Patriots. I smiled back at the woman and nodded my head.  I realized I was not alone in my love for the team.
So as I prepare for the upcoming season by watching the combine and the draft, I also have to prepare mentally for the attacks on my person. Football itself is a physical sport, but being a fan is all about the mental. How much shit talking can you take before lashing out? I certainly have withstood as much as possible. This season will be no different. I have been supporting the Patriots for more than 15 years and nothing about that is going to change anytime soon.

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