Defending My Fandom

November 22, 2015 0

It’s Sunday morning and I’m writing. That doesn’t happen often or not as often as it should. Here’s my usual Sunday Routine: wake up, put on my Brady Jersey, brush my teeth, etc. You see? Movement #1 out of bed on a Sunday morning is driven by my fandom.

Like 49% of Americans, I’m an NFL fan, which means my Sunday’s, from September to February, are in some way influenced by football. (Yeah, my team usually goes to February.)

I am one of those fans. One of those ridiculous people who takes their love for a team to a whole other level: I wear a jersey, earrings and toboggan; if I’m at home branded pants, slippers and a blanket are included. I have rituals and my OCDs are in full swing. Not to mention the many Patriots signage hanging around my apartment and the soon and inevitable return of my Patriots Christmas Tree, which did help get us to the Super Bowl last year, I know it did.

I’m not always proud of my fandom. I take it too far. I know I do. In fact, I once confided to some of my friends that “sometimes I kind of feel like Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook.” And not one of them disputed that comment.

My fandom has been such a fixture in my life for so long. It’s truly part of my self-identity. No matter what’s going on in my life, I know I am a New England Patriots fan and I can rely on that stability.

Perhaps stability has a lot to do with it. I was around fourteen when I really became an NFL fan. My family and friends were much into football and I enjoyed the game, but had never taken too much interest at a professional level. But everyone looked so passionate about their team and I wanted that feeling. I wanted a steady thing in my life to be passionate about. And fifteen years later, I am thankful for that. Taking an interest in sports has helped me both personally and professionally.

So on that night, sitting in my sisters living room with my two best girlfriends, when I said, “Okay, I pick them,” I really had no idea who I was picking or who “them” would soon become. I’d never seen that grumpy looking guy on the sideline, dressed like a hobo, in my life, but I liked his style. Nor had I any idea who the pretty boy quarterback was, nobody knew who he was yet. There was no rhyme or reason to my choice. I’d never been to New England, I still haven’t. They just happened to be playing on the TV that day.

Since that day, my fandom has been a stable factor in my life: I’ve lived in 6 different states; I’ve had countless apartments and dorm rooms; I have a Brady jersey that was ruined by stomach acids after a super bowl gone wrong; I have pictures; I have memories; I have witnessed the butt-fumble first hand; I have been a New England Patriots fan. I have grown and so many of my stories have the Patriots stitched into the background. They have given me stability during an inconsistent life.

And that’s just the beginning of what my fandom has given or taught me. I moved away from home when I was eighteen. For ten years I’ve lived away from the majority of my family and away from the community I grew up with. In each city, I’ve had to start over and build new communities around me.

Georgia was easy. One week in, I started Grad School – art school, at that – it’s not hard to find your people when everyone around you is aspiring to become a Certified Film Geek.

New York was tougher though. There are so many people in New York, but you so rarely communicate with them. And sometimes, because there are so many people, it’s hard to find the ones that best fit you. Like anything else in life, you have to spend time weeding through the shit.  But one of my favorite New York attributes is that there’s something for everything.

And by that: if you’re into learning how to do magic tricks, while pole dancing and singing opera there’s a spot in New York where  a group of people are gathering to practice just that.

There is a place for everyone; you just have to find it. One of my favorite places I discovered upon arriving in New York was Rose Hill Tavern, a bar devoted to the New England Patriots.  I’d always heard New York had a bar for everything and they really do. I have since found a Kentucky bar, many whiskey bars, and even 1920s themed speakeasies. Like I said, there’s something for everything.

What’s best about the Patriots bar, though, is knowing that it’s a place where a group of people who have at least one major similarity come to gather. And in a city that can be so disconnected, it’s nice to have a place to go where you can find that sense of community.

You get to feel the highs and lows; you develop bonds; you swap stories about the moments that most influenced you; you list the guests at your fantasy dinner parties; most importantly, you make friends and over the link of a common interest, a link as trivial as football.

Watching the Super Bowl at the Patriots bar was my favorite Super Bowl memory to date. The win was not ours. It belonged to the team. In reality, nothing we did altered the game in any way, shape or form. But we cheered, we booed, we cursed the refs, and we cringed together during the final seconds. We were packed in like sardines, but not one of us cared – because whether this was going to be the high of our football highs or still not as bad as 2007 lows – it didn’t matter because we were experiencing it together, as a community.

And yes, there are many lows to be being a Patriots fan. People always assume it’s easy because they’ve been a consistently winning team for the past fifteen years, but no team has been wrapped up in nearly as many scandals, murder trials and conspiracy theories as the New England Patriots during those same fifteen years. Just as soon as the dust settles on one thing, they’re back in the headlines for something else. You’re a fan of arguably the best team, yet you’re always arguing to defend them. And not everything is easy to defend.

I’m rarely proud of the things I see and read. And I have heard volatile rants from commentators and other fans about how the team I love has ruined the integrity of the game. It sucks to hear these things and it sucks even more to consider the truth. As a fan, I know I wear blinders and as a New England Patriots fan I set double standards. But that’s what you do when you love something.

I am a loud, outspoken, obnoxious and unapologetic fan. I know this about myself. I’m unapologetic because the Patriots have taught me to be unapologetic. They’ve certainly taught me to never get too attached, because people and players will come and go and no one is worth that big of a contract. But the most important lesson I’ve learned from the Patriots is that there are always things that I “could’ve executed better.” Every situation and every experience in life, presents opportunity for personal growth. Each day, I reflect back and pinpoint the things I could’ve done better and then a new goal is created for tomorrow.

And I appreciate the New England Patriots for more than just the lessons my fandom has taught me. I appreciate that while the earlier generations witnessed Montana, DiMaggio, Jordan, or any of the other iconic athletes full careers; I get to say I watched nearly every game of Tom Brady’s professional career. It’s been a hell of a ride. And in that regard, I’m even grateful I got to watch so many of Peyton Manning’s. No matter how they’re viewed ten or twenty years down the road, they’ve been two of the most consistent and methodical quarterbacks to watch. I’m grateful for having experienced it.

And I am gracious toward the New England Patriots. Why should I be gracious to a team who has no idea that I even exist? It’s the same way I am gracious to Francis Ford Coppola for making The Godfather or to Fitzgerald for writing The Great Gatsby or for every rock ballad ever sang. These things have brought joy into my life and given me a safe go-to when I needed comfort. They’re memories, pieces and details of who I am.

Much like myself, there’s a lot of things the New England Patriots could’ve “executed better.” I hate envisioning a tarnished image of everything the team I have loved has accomplished. But you learn from your past. You move forward. Everyone and everything is a work in progress.

Most importantly, the New England Patriots have taught me to always look ahead, but not too far ahead, just to the next stepping stone. Everything should be taken in stride. So in that manner: On to Buffalo.

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