It’s no secret if you know me and Geoff that I’m the bigger football fan in this family. While we’re both Red Sox fans, I’ll generally sit and watch a football game on TV with more interest than I will a baseball game. I enjoy a baseball game live much more than on the TV while I will happily watch football either way. I am also far more likely to talk football smack with friends and coworkers than Geoff is. Unless of course you’re a Yankee fan, then all bets are off.
I remember in my childhood seeing my dad sitting in front of the TV on those random occasions when there was a Michigan game on. Dad was a U. Michigan alum from his undergraduate days and he’s never lost the love of the school, or the football or basketball teams. As I grew up in Eagles/Phillies/76’ers/Flyers territory, Michigan games didn’t come on all that often. But, when they did, he’d watch them, my mom would sigh and go on about whatever she was doing, and I eventually decided to figure out what all the fuss was about and learn about this football thing.
I will tell you this. Despite having spent my formative years in the Philadelphia area, I am NOT an Eagles (Iggles in the local dialect) fan. I grew up with this story floating around in the air all the time. As a kid learning to like football, that was really not OK. Furthermore, when you are growing up in an environment where the fans turns from supportive to disloyal raging lunatics on a moment’s notice? It’s a little scary.
Penn State was also a part of the college football culture. Everywhere I went there were cars with bumper stickers that said, “If God isn’t a Penn State fan then why is the sky blue and white?” Or, “Joe Pa for President.” Better, “Joe Pa for Pope.”
You might say that this rabid hero worship of a fair to middling college football organization that was a part of a state college system that was better at turning out brain damaged athletes than academic stars was part of why I was totally and completely unsurprised when the Penn State child rape scandal happened at the end of last year. Growing up in a place where I can only compare the treatment and attitude toward the Penn State football system as something akin to Beatlemania 24/7, I am completely unsurprised that they, Joe Paterno and the other coaches, were able to do whatever they wanted, get away with whatever they wanted, and know that they were completely above the law.
Philadelphia and the Eastern half of the Pennsylvania are like that. If you’re good, they LOVE you. The moment you’re bad, with the exception of Penn State for some reason, they vilify you. You’re booed off the field. They throw bottles and trash on the diamond. I remember seeing that at a Phillies game as a kid and wondering who it was that threw trash on the home field of their own team? It just didn’t make sense to me. One of my favorite baseball players, to this day, the gentleman third baseman Mike Schmidt was on the field and I just could not comprehend why we, the hometown fans, were throwing bottles and wrappers and trash on the field just because we were losing. It didn’t make any sense to me.
That kind of sours you as a kid to your hometown teams. (Though, to be honest, I still cheer for the Phillies if the Sox are out of contention.) That kind of makes you want to cheer for other teams. I was a Redskins fan for a while. I’ve always been, and still am, a Michigan fan. And, naturally, now that I’ve been in the greater Boston area for almost 2 decades, I’m a Pats and Sox fan.
Which gets me to the point of this post. New England fans are different. We suffer and die with our teams and, while we may get angry when they don’t do what we’d hoped, we’re there, season in and season out. Red Sox fans went almost a century without a World Series win and yet nearly every single game was sold out during that time.
Patriots fans sit through insane New England winters and scream and cheer for a team that is, on the whole, great. Though we, too, have had our issues. And while we love our Tom Brady and we crack jokes along with SNL that he might be divine (see below) we don’t go to burn him in effigy the moment that he throws an interception or gets sacked.
It appears, however, that there are fans out there more like Philly than I had ever realized. Those would be the crazy “Tebowing” Denver fans. I’ve never been a Broncos fan, not since they were in the Superbowl back when I was in elementary school. Tim Tebow and his, erm, followers have done nothing to convince me otherwise. The Patriots sound shellacking of them this past weekend certainly brought a smile to my face even though I wasn’t able to watch the game. Any time a good team soundly beats an over rated one I’m happy. When it’s the Patriots doing the shellacking, so much the better. For an excellent write up of the game, click here.
So when the response to the column linked above is a bunch of religious nutjobs writing to the author with threats of hell and damnation, I am reminded of Penn State students and fans who protested Joe Pa’s firing. I am reminded of rabid Philly fans who pelt Santa with snowballs or who are just generally the worst in sports.
I won’t claim that New England fans are all angels, we’re not. But by in large you won’t see the players or the coaches talking smack about other teams on TV, getting quoted saying nasty things about individual players from opposing teams online, and generally behaving badly in the off-season. You also won’t see us drafting a quarterback who’s just gotten out of prison after running a dog fighting ring, or doing our best to run interference for a quarterback who’s got rape charges pending so he can finish the season. (That would be you, Eagles and Steelers.)
Someone said to me the other day that it’s going to be a Pats-Giants Superbowl. If so, I say bring it. New England is ready for a rematch.