Maybe you've noticed a phenomenon happening in the New England sports scene since Spygate back in September. Maybe you didn't notice it until ESPN the magazine and Sports Illustrated (not to mention all the sports television channels) started referring to the Patriots as Villains of the NFL. Or maybe when they started to compare New England teams (mainly the Pats and the Red Sox) to the Yankees' evil empire. Maybe you haven't noticed at all because it's been pretty quiet.
The phenomenon? The non-diehard fans are quietly jumping off of the New England sports band wagon.
To which I say, "Don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you".
I really could not be happier. Have you tried to get tickets for a Sox or Patriots game in the past few years? Impossible, totally impossible, unless you have connections. Which I don't.
It's not uncommon for the casual fan to jump on a particular team's bandwagon. People love the underdog, don't they? But they especially love it when the underdog, the really likable team, starts winning. When the Sox won the 2004 World Series it was easy to see from every other game played in every other city in North America in the 2005 season that they had generated a larger fan base. The sea of Red Sox hats and t-shirts were everywhere. In Toronto. In Florida. All of the American League people hopped aboard the bandwagon because the 2004 team was so damn likable. When the Pats won their first Super Bowl in 2002, as the underdogs, the every man, the guys you just had to love as they left entered the stadium as a team instead of being called individually, the same thing had already happened.
Because people love the underdog.
But when the underdog starts winning more often, when they win a Super Bowl not just in the '01 season but in the '03 and '04 seasons (and quite possibly in '08 but we won't talk of that for risk of jinxing something), and when they not only win but demolish their competition and break all sorts of records... Well that's just no fun for the casual fan. The team isn't as enjoyable to like. And the casual fan starts jumping off like rats from a sinking ship even if this ship is not sinking. Imagine if the team just sucked? The traffic jam generated from all those casual fans throwing themselves off the bandwagon would be worse than trying to leave Boston before a holiday weekend. With a snowstorm in progress.
Buh-bye. Please don't forget to take your commemorative plastic beer cup when you leave.
The real Pats fan (and for that matter, the Red Sox fan) loves that their team is on top right now. A real Pats fan remembers the lean years of the late 80's-early 90's, when it seemed we couldn't buy a win, and sees this dynasty as a gift from the football gods. A real Pats fan watches Brady throw to Moss (or Welker or Stallworth or Gaffney) for a touchdown and wants to see it again and again. A real Pats fan wants to enjoy our good fortune and roll around in it, naked, like Demi Moore on a bed of money. A real Pats fan sees the score run up against our opponents and wants to yell at the television, if I can borrow one of Bill Simmons the Sports Guy's - originally the BOSTON Sports Guy - favorite quotes from The Karate Kid, "Get him a body bag! Yeah!"
Only a true fan could route for the villain. Not that we see our team as the bad guys, we just don't care that much that the rest of the country does. You don't like our team? We can live with that because we love them. And if, God forbid, they don't win the Super Bowl (*crossing myself to ward off jinxes*) or if next season they don't play as great as they did this year we'll still love them.
Because a true fan doesn't just love their team when they're winning, they love them when they're losing. But when they're crushing the competition into the ground we love them even more.
16 and oh, baby! Yeah!