And so, the roller coaster ride of being a New England sports fan is still a work in progress. This past week or so is a very good reminder of how fan loyalty is supposed to work, in spite of the constant media pressure. What started out as a small, coincidental story about video taping another team’s defensive signals, turned into a national event, complete with Katie Couric’s mention of it on the CBS News. As New England sports fan, we shouldn’t have been surprised. If a story involves the New England Patriots, or the Boston Red Sox, especially anything detrimental to either franchise, then we expect it to become national news.
In the past several days I have seen more opinions about the major crime of stealing another team’s signals, than I have about who is running for President. I saw more athletes eager to share their opinions, than I saw play in an actual sporting event. I think every former and present coach gave us their philosophy on the subject. I saw more Quarterbacks willing to talk to the press about their thoughts, than I saw talking about their upcoming game. Opinions came from everywhere. School kids, parents, former Patriot players, teachers, actors, and politicians were quick to judge our beloved team. When the NFL Commissioner finally handed down the punishment, again with more opinions from around the world. “The punishment wasn’t tough enough,” “The punishment was way too harsh,” “The only reason they got off so easy was because the owner hangs out with the Commissioner,” and so on, and so on.
Now, let me tell you my opinion of the whole deal. After all, I can’t be left out, can I? Coach Bill Belichick was hit with a half million dollar fine. The team was hit with a $250,000.00 fine, and if that wasn’t enough, the Patriots lost a first round draft pick, something that has never happened in the entire history of the NFL. OK, I thought, a little tough, but let’s get this over with, and take our medicine. Coach Belichick was asked hundreds of times during the week about “Patriotgate,” but refused to talk to the media about it. He wanted to talk about the next game, against a very good team, the San Diego Chargers, but nobody cared about that. They wanted the dirt, every single detail of the entire league “investigation.” The man gets paid to coach a football team, and had to pay a half million dollars out of his own pocket, and lost a great draft pick. Not enough I guess, the media wanted dirt. I wonder how many reporters were actually surprised that he wasn’t going to talk about anything than the next game? Are these the same reporters who have covered the Patriots for years? The same group of media that can’t even get an accurate injury update from our beloved coach? I think not. I’m surprised that I didn’t see anyone from Americas Most Wanted in the crowd of media.
Sunday night arrived, and the actual game was finally here. The fans at Foxboro welcomed their team, and their coach, with open arms. In fact, that was one of the most vocal crowds I’ve ever seen in that stadium. No booing, just cheering for our team, much to the chagrin of the again assembled media. The only booing occurred when the players from the Chargers, many of whom criticized out team at every chance, came onto the field. And then the game began. It was over almost as quick as it started. Was our team prepared by their coach? Did the players get distracted by the events of the week? Could they focus on the task at hand, beating a very good football team? I think the final score of 38-14 answers all of those questions. I guess our team was still “pretty good” after all. No video spying, no cheating, no nothing. Just plain old talent, and pride.
As sports fans in New England, we are quite used to scrutiny. Out of 32 teams, at least 20 probably employed the same video tactics used by the Patriots, if not all 32. Somehow, some way, we got caught. Nobody else, just us. Hmmmmm. Oh well, let’s just move along to the next game. I think we have our forth Super Bowl, this decade, to win. I hope our coach is up to it. Stay tuned, you’ll all soon see the answer. I guess loyalty isn’t a lost cause after all.