CJ Kaplan explains why the Patriots Super Bowl victory was so, so sweet.
I swear too much. I’m conscious of this fact and I do my best to soften my sharp tongue, especially in public. I don’t know why my vocabulary is so ridden with four-letter words. Perhaps it’s because I work in an industry where casual cursing is as much a part of daily conversation as verbs, but that’s just an easy excuse. The truth is, swearing is sometimes the only way to express the raw emotion of a certain moment in time. So, it was with particular zeal that I joined the rest of the New England Patriots fans in my section in holding both middle fingers to the sky and screaming “FUUUUUUUCKKKK YOUUUUU!” as the game clock clicked to zero.
Yes, I was there in the cool, Arizona evening when the grand theft football took place. Malcolm Butler’s goal line interception happened right in front of me and served as the catalyst for our thermonuclear explosion of expletives.
Who, or what, were we swearing at? Why did so many of us react this way instead of simply cheering for our team’s thrilling win? How many of you are cursing at me right now for nonchalantly dropping the fact that I was a firsthand witness to one of the greatest Super Bowls ever? (If you weren’t before, I bet you are now.) The answer is both disarmingly simple and surprisingly complex.
At face value, our collective thunderclap of profanity was directed at Lady Luck, who had snatched victory away from the Pats in two previous Super Bowls in heartbreakingly cruel ways. For those of us who still wake up in a cold sweat with the fading vision of New York Giants receiver David Tyree catching a ball against his helmet, the last minute of this game was unfolding in similar nightmarish fashion. Jevon Kearse’s juggling, bobbling, twisting, somersaulting catch had set up Seattle at the New England 5-yard-line where it seemed inevitable that one or two Marshawn Lynch runs would seal the deal for the Seahawks. Instead, Mr. Butler, who may be granted his very own Duck Boat in Tuesday’s Victory Parade, stepped in front of Russell Wilson’s ill-advised pass and gave Seattle fans their own horror movie to replay again and again.
So, the big F-U was, in effect, a big sigh of relief.
But, for anybody who has been following the Patriots since the turn of the century or longer, there were much larger forces at work here. Hell, you only need to have followed the controversy swirling around them for the past two weeks. (I’m not going to rehash the he-said, she-said of Deflate-gate because, as Leslie Nielsen was fond of saying, “That’s not important right now.”) Since the Patriots won the Super Bowl in the 2001-2002 season after two previous unsuccessful attempts, they’ve gone from America’s darlings and the NFL’s model franchise to the most hated team in the world outside of New England. That’s a tough trick to pull off in a universe where the New York Yankees still exist.
Since that day in February fourteen years ago when a teary Bob Kraft uttered the words “Today, we are all Patriots” after the team he owned pulled off an improbable victory over the St. Louis Rams, the Patriots have:
- won three more Super Bowls
- lost two others
- been caught and punished for videotaping opposing teams signals (aka Spygate)
- had a 17-0 season ruined by the aforementioned helmet catch
- been accused of underhandedness by the Baltimore Ravens on three separate occasions
- made mortal enemies of former coaches and players
- had a former tight end go on trial for murder
- had bitter Super Bowl opponents demand that their titles be vacated
- had supposedly unbiased commentators openly root against them
- had their star quarterback’s supermodel wife trash talk their star wide receiver (Even I enjoyed that one.)
- been accused of illegal formations, illegal substitutions and illegal contract negotiations
- been taunted and baited by players on the Seahawks
- been taunted and baited by players who didn’t even make the playoffs
And all this was all before someone on the Indianapolis Colts sideline decided the footballs the Patriots were using felt a little squishy.
To top it all off, in Bill Belichick the Patriots have a coach who treats the media as if they just backed into his car in a Stop & Shop parking lot. His “science lesson” last Saturday on the relationship of air pressure to atmospheric conditions was spat out with such smarm and disdain that he would have been right at home as a condescending British schoolteacher in a Pink Floyd video.
So, for the past two weeks all Patriots fans have gotten from the outside world is one big ration of shit. We’re cheaters. We haven’t won a Super Bowl since Spygate. Tom Brady is overrated. Our championships should all be affixed with asterisks in the record books. Our success is built on a flimsy foundation of rule skirting and code-breaking. Our owner is a two-faced liar who will put up with any nefarious scheme his coach comes up with in order to win. Even Katy Perry took a shot at us.
We didn’t just take the field as the bad guys this Sunday. We might as well have been wearing devil horns and Snidely Whiplash’s moustache. The wave of animosity against the Pats was palpable. I felt it as we walked around outside the stadium in the throngs of Seattle fans who chanted “Sea-“ “-hawks!” back and forth to each other across the streets. I felt it in the apprehensiveness of the wildly outnumbered New England fans we met in the restaurants and bars. I felt it right from the first play of the game as the world threw its collective weight not so much in favor of the Seahawks as against the Patriots.
New England had to win this game. If we didn’t, I truly felt that the team and its fan base would never recover. So, when Tom Brady took a final knee to end the game, we screamed—while the rest of the world had to shut the fuck up.
In the aftermath, only Patriots fans were left to celebrate in the stadium and later in the bars. What few Seahawks fans we did see were left to wallow in their own misery or sometimes given a sympathetic nod or pat on the shoulder. We were the victors and could afford to be magnanimous. However, when we gathered to celebrate the win and toast our team, most of the talk wasn’t about being the best team this year. It was about the Patriot’s legacy. It was about being recognized as one of the best teams ever.
Will this end all the talk about Spygate and Deflate-gate and all the other noise that surrounds this franchise? To quote Bill Murray in Meatballs, “It just doesn’t matter.”
The New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions again!
Photos courtesy of author