Call me a turncoat.
Call me a fair-weather fan.
Hell, call me Ishmael, if you wish. I don’t give a damn.
I am the only person in this country who can legitimately root for virtually any team that plays the New England Patriots.
It’s the benefit of a peripatetic life. Because of the various places I have lived and/or worked I can root for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Detroit Lions, the team previously known as the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings and any or all teams from New York.
I can root for almost any team that isn’t the Patriots, even though I grew up in New England.
My deepest wish this week is for the Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles to send the New England Patriots back to Foxboro, Massachusetts, bruised and battered in defeat. Smelling worse than a dead flounder. A beached whale.
Maybe an Eagles player will run out of bounds and (accidentally, of course) flatten New England Coach Bill Belichick. Eagles fans can talk this way. We are heartless warriors.
My football emotions belie my New England roots, as well they should. I’ve lived more years in Texas than anyplace else. Still, I maintain a sense of regional sports loyalty. I like the Red Sox. Love the Celtics.
But the Patriots? When I was growing up the closest pro football team was the New York Giants and every couple of years they came to my small town in Maine and played an exhibition. That’s all we needed.
Everyone loves a winner, the saying goes, but not me – not when it comes to the Patriots. They win too much.
I grant you the superb quarterback skills of Tom Brady but he’s too pretty and he’s cocky in a quiet, cloying way – which is much worse than being a loudmouth braggart. Brady’s “humble” self-confidence is contrived and disingenuous. He also has an annoying habit of showing off his gorgeous supermodel wife and overhyping his superhuman conditioning routine. Who cares how much water he drinks or how many vegetables he eats to stay young and fit?
My animus for Brady on general principles is so intense that there’s no need to pump it up by talking about Brady’s well-documented penchant for deflating footballs to gain an unfair advantage over his opponents.
So let’s talk about Belichick. The Patriots coach is smug, surly and only seems happy when he’s snarling at a player for daring to make a mistake or a reporter for daring to ask him a question.
A few days after New England defeated Jacksonville to advance to the Super Bowl – again – New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote of his enmity for the Patriots. Basically, he said, the team is the football counterpart of Donald Trump.
He cited proof of the connection:
“During the 2016 campaign, the Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, attested to Trump’s fine character, while the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick, wrote privately to Trump to congratulate him for his perseverance, telling him, “Your leadership is amazing.” Trump demonstrated his gratitude (and humility) by publicly reading the letter at a rally in New Hampshire. There hasn’t been any gushing from Belichick since, but then there hasn’t been any retraction, either. And there has definitely been cause.”
What other evidence do you need that the team is evil?
It’s not difficult for me to cheer for the Philadelphia Eagles, who I have liked going back to the days of the great linebacker Chuck Bednarik. And there’s certainly something to be said for a team that drafted the great Davey O’Brien and made him its starting quarterback right out of TCU.
There is a cardinal rule you have to follow. In order to root for the Eagles, you have to overlook the team’s fans. Basically, they are all drunken thugs.
There was a time in the good old days – say the early 1980s– when the most violent physical contact at Eagles games was perpetrated by fans in the stands.
I took my son to a game at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium and there were so many fights in the crowd we barely saw the game. When the game ended I made him run with me to our car. We left the parking lot at a high rate of speed. It was too dangerous to dawdle.
Philly fandemonium continued even when the Eagles got a new stadium and baseball’s Phillies got a new ballpark after the Vet was torn down in 2004. In 2009, I attended a World Series game with my daughter and a friend of hers, who was harassed by a Phillies fan for wearing a Yankees shirt. The abuse kept up until New York came from behind to trounce the home team and silence the obnoxious fan.
Fans of the current Eagles have stayed true to tradition. They are rotten to the core. After Philadelphia routed Minnesota in the NFC championship game, Eagles fans threw beer cans at a Vikings’ team bus as it left the stadium.
The Feb. 4 Super Bowl will be played in Minneapolis but I’d say it’s safe to assume that the 1,200-mile trip from the City of Brotherly Love will do nothing to diminish the combativeness of Eagles fans. So here’s my suggestion for some post-game fun after the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl: Deflate the tires on the New England team bus and throw beer cans at it while the Patriots arrange alternative transportation.
That, as they say in New England, would make me as happy as a clam.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org