I grew up 15 minutes from Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. Since I can remember, my giddiness on those Sunday afternoons was unmatched; fans from all over New England descended on Foxboro like a cult gathering. The highways around the stadium would be jam packed with cars; anyone and everyone knew not to get on the roads the day of a home game at Gillette. Since I could form my first memory, the Patriots were champions. It all started in 2001, then 2003, 2004, 2015, and now 2017. With five Super Bowl titles and countless AFC championship appearances, we were, and consistently have been the best.
My friends and I would play football at recess every day. I would be Randy Moss, the all-star wide receiver, my best friend Joe got to be Tom Brady, and everyone else would pick a player on the team to emulate according to the position they played. We were infatuated with all things Patriots. We collected everything from jerseys, hats, and memorabilia to our virtual players in Madden career mode.
Even though my dreams of running routes as a Patriots wide receiver in Gillette Stadium faded as I grew older, I never lost that Sunday gameday feeling. From the exuding confidence that dripped off of everything that Tom Brady touched, to the steely, arrogant countenance of Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots were the first sports team I truly loved.
As I packed for college, I made sure to bring my replica Patriots helmet, a present that my little brother had given to me for my 15th birthday. On the day that I left, I enthusiastically donned my Patriots t-shirt — a symbol to remind me that I would never forget my New England roots, no matter how much the allure of Philadelphia sports twisted at my heart.
During one of my very first days here, I remember having some friends over in my room. I had proudly set up my helmet on the top of my desk, where everyone walking into Willets 125 could see it. When my roommate Henry Han ’20 moved in, I remember distinctly him scoffing at the helmet.
“Dude, I can’t even describe how much I hate the Patriots. You guys suck.”
Although it was friendly banter, the comment really got me thinking. I had really lived in a Patriots bubble my entire life; my home friends, my family, my teachers, quite literally everyone I had any meaningful interactions with growing up had worshipped Brady and Co. Swarthmore was my first real experience meeting people who had genuine disdain for all things Patriots. I distinctly remember pondering the question, “Why do they hate us?”
I spoke with Max Rogow ’20, a lifelong Steelers fan and Pittsburgh native in hopes of getting an answer to this question.
“I hate the Patriots. For one, they always beat us! It’s hard to combine ethics and sports, but the Patriots definitely do some questionable things… I think of when they picked up Michael Floyd after he was arrested for a DUI, or LeGarrette Blount after his marijuana incident, or Deflategate, and really all the cheating scandals,” he said
To be perfectly honest, I never found the Michael Floyd, nor the LeGarrette Blount acquisitions to be all that bad. Bill Belichick was known for giving troubled stars second chances; everyone from Randy Moss to Chad Ochocinco. As a Patriots fan, I had never really seen how much people questioned the team’s ethics and morality until I got to Swarthmore.
Frank Sammartino ‘20, a Washington football fan and a D.C native echoed some of those sentiments.
“I hate Bill Belichick, I hate Tom Brady, but I damn respect him,” he said. “For me, their fans are why I hate them so much … they win and they let you know! They’re the New York Yankees of football,” he said.
Growing up in Patriots country has had a massive effect on how I perceive the occasionally questionable ethics that the Patriots sometimes engage in. From Spygate, to Deflategate, I had always thought the football gods had aligned against us, rather than ever assigning any blame to the Patriots organization. And honestly, I love Patriots fans! We hate to lose, and we’ll fault everything from the referees, to Roger Goodell if we do. Nonetheless, as the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a good loser. Those are losers.” I like to believe that while we might be bad losers, it’s the competitive attitude of Patriots fans that separates us from everyone else.
The 2016-17 season has concluded, and the Patriots have come out on top again. They are Super Bowl champions for the fifth time in my lifetime. Five times. I’m incredibly lucky to have grown up in the renaissance of Patriots football. My seventy year old high school science teacher likes to joke that, “There used to be a time where we could sneak into Patriots games. No one would even care because they were so bad!” Season tickets now, have an average waiting list time of around 50 years.
The greatest thing about the Patriots is that the trio of Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady will always find a way to win. After a four game suspension to start the year, Brady came out guns blazing and proved to the world why he will go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. I will always cherish my childhood, where winning was ingrained in my DNA by the greatest combination of owner, coach, and quarterback that I believe the NFL has ever seen. The experience of being a Patriots fan outside of New England has been eye-opening. Swarthmore has taught me that you either love the Patriots or hate them; and if you’re from outside of New England, you probably hate them!