Growing up in New England as a football fan had its ups and downs. Mostly downs through the years until a glimmer of hope came in the 90’s when the Patriots signed Drew Bledsoe making him a one hundred-million-dollar man. He brought us to a super bowl, but unfortunately it didn’t end well. In 2000, The Patriots had a 6th. sense so to speak, to draft a quarterback in the 6th. round using their 199th. pick in a player from Michigan named Tom Brady. He became their 4th. string in the depth chart and for some reason the new coach, Bill Belichick, had the sense to hang on to him to eventually, at the right time, become the number 2 Quarterback in 2001. When Drew Bledsoe fell to injury, that unknown Michigan Wolverine stepped up. It was an up and down first few games for Tom Brady, but in the end, helped lead the team from being a 14-point underdog against the Rams, (who were known as the Greatest show on turf at the time with a Hall of Fame Quarterback named Kurt Warner through the 1999, 2000 and 2001 seasons winning the big game in 1999 and expected to win in 2001), to coming from behind to pull off a miracle victory in Super bowl XXXVI. Was it a fluke? As it turned out… hardly. With Bill Belichick as the head coach, now choosing to stick with Tom Brady over Drew Bledsoe, having 6 more Super Bowl appearances that would garner the Patriots 4 more Lombardi trophies for a total of 5 for New England with all of them at the hands of what’s being called the greatest coach/QB tandem in NFL the history.
With all the teams in the NFL, no team can get away with being on top for very long stretches of seasons without fans from other teams coming up with excuses as to why that team is better than others. Like Green bay, Pittsburg, San Francisco, Dallas and now New England. All these teams found ways to be good and stay good for several years while many others had no success and some, one and done. The real fan talks about what their team did wrong and what should be done to fix it. Bandwagoners can only find excuses as to what the other team did illegally to get an advantage, or that the referees were somehow involved in the outcome of the game and who should win. Yes, I am from New England and I’m sure there is some bias here, but as a real NFL fan through the good and bad times, I can give credit where it’s due regardless of the team and how I feel about them. A real fan knows the facts that surrounded the “spy-gate” and “deflate-gate” scandals and can realize they were not the huge issues that sports networks and some others made it out to be. As far as cheating in concerned, the Patriots have a much smaller record than most other teams. In fact, their record of any disciplinary actions due to breaking the rules fall within the top 5 teams with the least number of incidents involving questionable practices. In general, all sports teams and individuals over time, since the inception of sports in our daily lives have done things to gain the edge over their opponents. In many ways by legal means, while other ways… not so much. Like the time Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin attempted to trip Baltimore Ravens Jacoby Jones while returning a kickoff. He made it 73 yards from the end zone when it could have possibly gone all the way for a touchdown if not for the interference. I talk to many in the sports world and I can spot the bandwagoners very easily compared with the real fans. Especially now that I live in the Seattle area. Most fans here seem to be mostly bandwagoners now, which is a far cry from when I first came to Seattle in 1992 when the Seahawks went 2-14 on the season and the Monday night game I went to see against the Denver Broncos had the stadium packed and the fans celebrating as if they just won the Super bowl rather than it being that they just won only their 2nd. And final game of that season. What happened to those fans? Many of the fans these days give me such a hard time about the accusations against the Patriots, finding excuses as to why the Patriots beat them in SB XLIX and never giving any credit for their accomplishments. It was all about the “bad” call made by coach Pete Carroll and not the great play in the end zone by an unknown cornerback named Malcolm Butler. Or that the Patriots are cheaters and that’s why they won the game without giving any examples as to what they could have done that illegally gained them enough of an edge to win the game. When asked, they simply say, “They are cheaters” with no knowledge of anything to back up the claim.
Then some news hits the Seattle sports world with shock waves of grievance when it was announced that Seattle Seahawks former defensive tackle #96 Cortez Kennedy, a 2012 inductee to the NFL Hall of Fame, one of the greatest Seahawk and NFL players of all time in general, suddenly passed away. I had a hard time finding a single person who would share the grief-stricken sentiments with me until I talked to my brother, who also is from New England and now lives in Seattle. All the Seahawks fans I first talked with about it could only say… ” Who?” This came as a big surprise to me. To me and to the rest of any real fan base and for pretty much any team in the NFL. Not knowing who Cortez Kennedy is would be the same as not knowing who Steve Largent is. Not only was Kennedy an 8-time pro bowler, but his entire 11 year NFL career was solely with the Seahawks. How can anyone call themselves a real diehard Seahawks fan and not know who Cortez Kennedy is? Unless you are a young fan to the NFL, there is no real excuse other than, you are a bandwagoner. Even some real young fans know who he is and what he meant to the city of Seattle. When you can have a conversation with a 10-year-old about the greatness of Cortez Kennedy, you know he grew up in a house raised by real Seahawks fans. Then have a conversation with someone in their 50’s who does nothing but bash the Patriots about winning the Super bowl who doesn’t have a clue who Kennedy is, and you know you are in the presence of a real bandwagoner.
Before Super bowl XLIX, I had many heated conversations with Seahawks fans about who would win. Some were great, typical back and forth banter, while others were down right vile and as offensive as they could be. It even went so far as to have “friends” take me off their friends list on social media sites for the simple reason that I am a Patriots fan. For one thing, I was born and raised in Massachusetts with my entire family as Boston/New England sports fans, so being a Patriots fan was inevitable. Even so, I don’t, nor would I ever apologize for being a Patriots fan. I am very proud to be a Patriots fan and I enjoy wearing my Pat’s attire wherever I go. By simply wearing my Patriots hats or shirts, I find it a great way to interact with other NFL fans and can easily spot the real from the bandwagoner. The real fans usually throw a jab, which is expected and usually turns to fun banter, but then moves on to compliment the team and their success under the leadership of Bill Belichick with Tom Brady at the helm. The bandwagoners can’t pass up the opportunity to throw jabs, but these jabs don’t end with laughs and fun followed by compliments. They usually move into pure hate for the team and insults towards me for being a Patriots fan.
Looking at the Super bowl following the 2016 NFL season, I don’t think anyone will forget that game any time soon, or rather ever, especially if you are Matt Ryan and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons. However, when the Patriots were down but seeming to begin a push to come from behind, there were Falcons on the sidelines commenting that “it is Tom Brady” showing the respect they have for him for all his accomplishments. I don’t care who you are, the success the Patriots have had over the last 16 years, post salary cap to boot, could not possibly continue if it was some fluke or even if they did cheat at any time throughout. Think about it. Since 2001, the Patriots have been to 7 out of 16 Super bowls. It almost comes out to them going every other year. That is insane. The two losses were hard, even being to the same team. Every team has their Lex Luther team and the Giants are the Lex to the Patriots. That doesn’t take anything away from the Giants success and two Super bowl victories over that Patriots by any means. They continued on after the two losses, to gain two more victories with a good chance, on paper so far, to go back and snag another after the 2017 season. In fact, they are favored to repeat based on off season acquisitions and new contract negotiations. Whether they repeat or not, it’s hard to argue about the New England Dynasty and where they will land in sports history. This is all accomplished post salary cap era as well, where it was supposed to be designed to not have stacked teams like the Steelers and 49ers did during their reign of success.
It’s obvious I am using the Seahawks and Patriots to make my point about real vs. bandwagon fans, but this goes on in every sports areas, however, it’s more prominent in some areas compared to others. I was definitely one of the lucky ones to grow up in such a strong professional sports area with so many championships. Although it took the Red Sox 86 years to accomplish another World series title in 2004, they brought two more to Boston after that in 2007 and 2013. And with the early Bruins and Celtics, how could anyone complain? Well, real fans, that’s how. Real fans will always complain, bandwagoners will just rant and rave, moan and groan while finding excuses for their team’s downfalls by blaming other organizations. Real fans start looking at the rosters, coaches, management etc. and begin to look at their own teams to see what is wrong and what can be done to fix it. Being from Chicago, LA, SF, Dallas, Pittsburgh and a few other multi championship towns are fortunate areas to be from as a sports fan. Especially the recent Cubs of Chicago who finally won a world series after waiting 108 years. If Boston thought they had a long wait, talk to a Cubs fan.
Fans from the sports towns like the 49ers of San Francisco, Steelers of Pittsburgh and Cowboys of Dallas in most cases, know what Patriot fans are going through. There are definitely exceptions, but in general, they know. The Steelers of the 70’s with Bradshaw, Swan, Harris etc. as well as the incredible “Steel Curtain” with the likes of Mean Joe Green and company are blamed for the start of steroids in the NFL. Some say an asterisk should be next to their titles just as they do with the Patriots. Are there any merits to those claims? Personally, I don’t feel that at all. Not because I am a Patriots fan, but because I am an NFL fan. There was no team that could have possibly gone through the Steel Curtain on a consistent basis during that period and there is a record number of players from that same time period that have gone on to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. Can there be arguments made that some may not have been as good if not for steroid use? Sure, but the bottom line is if these players had no talent, there are not enough steroids around to give someone talent. Either you have talent or you don’t. Sure it can enhance some talents in the area of endurance and strength, but if you can’t throw, catch, run with a ball or watch a ball while watching the player you are designated to cover at the same time, it doesn’t matter how strong you are or how fast you can run.
So, the main point here is simple. Are you a real NFL fan or are you just a bandwagoner? There is nothing wrong with being a bandwagoner in some ways. There are definitely those who can only get into their team and get excited when they are winning. Many will even admit this with no shame and it’s nothing really to be ashamed about if you’re willing to admit and accept it, but most won’t and like to pretend to be fans while frustrating everyone around them with know it all ignorance. Personally, as a lifelong fan of Boston area sports, no real fan is a bandwagoner. If you want to support the team when they are doing good, you should have been there when they needed you the most. Sure, it’s frustrating, but as a real fan, it’s part of the excitement to get involved as if you actually have some influence that can help your team win. Obviously being a Boston fan, we have the privilege to be part of the greatest rivalry in sports history. The classic Red Sox / Yankees rivalry. Here it gets a bit complicated. This rivalry can get downright dirty. The language shared between these two fan bases geared towards getting the lowest you can possibly go in order to shred the opposing fans better than they can shred you. However, unlike the newly developed rivalry with the Seahawks / Patriots, in the end, New York and Boston fans know when to show respect and when to carry on. With this rivalry, it’s fun, and in a strange way, respectful even at its worst. When “friends” un-friend me on social media just because I am a Red Sox fan, that borders on pathetic, but in reality, it’s sad. This is a game, not some life or death situation that affects our lives.
When I meet a Yankee fan, in most cases, it’s a fun exchange and I have become friends with some people because of it. When a player with the stature of those like Jeter and Ortiz, both teams honor those as if they were part of their own respective organizations. That my friends, is what real true sports fans are and should be in every city in every situation.
Now it’s time to search inside yourself and ask these simple questions. Do you dislike a particular player from a rival team that is an obvious star, and treat it like that player is not that good, or do you dislike them because they are that good and don’t play for your team? The obvious one is the Tom Brady debates. For any fan from any team to claim Brady isn’t that good after looking at his stats and records, then you may be a bandwagoner. Sounds like something from Jeff Foxworthy but it fits. There are some who claim Peyton Manning wasn’t that good. But 10-1 those are fans from teams that rival the Bronco’s and/or the Colts. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this. If you think you’re a real fan as opposed to a bandwagoner, start to do some personal research on matters that you feel are things that upset you. Things such as the biggest issue these days. The controversy surrounding the Patriots. Read from as many sources as possible including the facts involving “spy-gate” and “deflate-gate”. What you’ll find is technicalities in spy-gate that show the Patriots didn’t even break an official rule and they did what every other team has done, just at a different time, and that rule they supposedly broke to start the whole cheaters controversy wasn’t even in the rule books as an official rule until the following year. As for deflate-gate, if you were to read the Wells report, you’ll find no real evidence that any rules were broken and that the phone incident with Brady and throwing it away should never have come into the conversation in the first place since Brady had been informed that his phone wasn’t needed by Wells himself before he destroyed it and the fact that he destroyed it is nothing more than what he does with every old phone. Like many celebrities, phones can contain delicate, private info they don’t want others to gain access to and sell to some news or entertainment magazine so their private lives can be splashed all over the place. It makes sense and it wasn’t something he just decided to start doing. It’s something he’s always done in the past and had no reason to change once he was told that his phone wasn’t needed anymore for the investigation. After his phone was gone, it was then plastered all over as if it was done in an attempt to hide something.
This just shows what information can be gained by being a real fan and educating yourself while also realizing that this is only a game that is intended to be fun to watch and follow. If it consumes you with hatred towards someone or some teams as a whole, then you should think about leaving the band, jumping off the wagon all together and just take a train instead to the loony bin for help.