Michael Hurley, CBS Boston.
BOSTON (CBS) – For a long, long, long time, Patriots fans have been this good. You’re going through a period of emotional upheaval right now.
All America no doubt sends you its warmest greetings.
Of course, no one really feels sorry for Patriots fans in the 21st century. In the 20th century the city had to undergo not one, but two dynastic races. No team has ever dominated for two decades like Bill Belichick’s Patriots, who have brought the region a lifetime of joy, memories, historic films, memorabilia and – most importantly – Lombardi trophies.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. And with Tom Brady leading the Patriots every year in the conference title game, this era will begin in 2020. Understandably, Belichick hesitated as he approached his 40s, and Brady was unwavering in his ability to rewrite what is possible for older men who play a particular sport.
And here we go. The Patriots lost 7-9 and are in desperate need of a major upgrade this season. They’ve gone from NFL class to an unwanted commercial destination for the pathetic Lions quarterback. And Brady is always where he is this time of year: at the Super Bowl game.
That’s a lot for a fan, even though he celebrated more wins and success in 2001-18 than any football fan can afford in a lifetime. In a region where the bar is always set on winning the next championship, the glamour of past glories doesn’t help ease the pain of a failed season.
So when twelve triplets take the field in Tampa and a hundred million viewers attend the biggest football game ever, there must be mixed feelings among those in the Northeast who have already gazed at the spectacle nine times.
There’s a general curiosity around the country about how Patriots fans feel about everything that’s going on. There is no short and simple answer to this question. It is best to go directly to the people.
HE LEFT THE TEAM
Of course, there aren’t two clear sides to Patriots fans and their feelings about Brady. Everyone seems to have a point of view, which is not at all surprising, so closely tied to emotion.
Still, overall, there are those who remain ardent fans of Tom Brady, and those who don’t really like him at this point.
My wife and I have a saying that says we talk business, and that includes sports, said Andy Johnson, who has attended at least 400 Patriots games and says he has attended no fewer than 10 since the team moved to Foxborough. And the spell: If you’re on the team, you’re on the team. And if you’re off the team, you’re off the team. Tom’s off the team, you know? And that’s why I don’t… I’m not for him or against him. But he’s playing for someone else.
While an exact percentage of this sentiment is impossible, Johnson is far from the only one.
Here’s the deal: He’s gone, said Roberta Grady, who grew up in Rhode Island and attended her first Patriots game in the 1970s.
Of course, it took me a while to reach this level of acceptance of reality.
I wouldn’t say I’m sad. I was sad from the beginning, I was sad when he announced his departure, Grady said. And it was like the stages of mourning, you know? First you’re sad, then you’re angry, and now I’m… Uh… he’s gone. Get over it.
For some Patriots fans, this development took a decisive turn after the season opened, and Brady’s praise reached a level that made the Tompa Bay experience too frustrating to bear.
Honestly, I probably would have been neutral from the start, but there’s been too much loyalty from Patriots fans to two teams all season, said my WBZ colleague Matt Schooley, who I may have harassed all year because of his brittle emotional state on the subject, so I had to speak up for the story. Then I decided, probably halfway through, that I would do the opposite and cheer him on, only because the Patriots fans were starting to get on my nerves.
In the past, Shuli was known to have a TB12…. T-shirt and a TB12 hat… …with a giant TB12 water jug. All of this has been sitting around gathering dust since March and may never come out of the warehouses.
I kind of liked not having to pretend… Tom Brady, he’s a great guy and everything. But you don’t have to accept that everything is great, Shuli said. Tom Brady’s experience is not always flawless. So it was nice, pretty nice to not have to drive all the way.
Schooley added that Brady’s expected failure during the Patriots’ underdog season has generated additional interest in him, and that when he retires he’ll be my man again.
Others were less embarrassed by the local fans supporting Brady than by the pain of the divorce.
As a fan, you end up taking it a little personally because you’re making an investment – an emotional investment – and the cold, hard reality is that it’s a job for these guys, Johnson said. When it’s time to move on, they move on. But when it comes to the emotional part, it’s a little frustrating, I think.
Ms. Grady said she has supported the Saints and Packers in recent weeks.
I supported the other guys, she said, explaining that it was frustrating to see Brady’s success in Tampa as an indictment of Bill Belichick. It makes me want to scream, because here’s the thing: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are lucky to have each other.
This was a common theme among Patriots fans when discussing Brady’s situation, but we’ll get to that later. So far, it’s pretty clear that a significant number of Patriots fans, despite a long history of success, had no problems with Brady last year.
JUST A LITTLE APPRECIATION FOR THE MAN YOU’RE DEALING WITH.
And then there’s the other side of the alley. And the headliner on that page is Jim Murray.
Anyone who has listened to or watched sports radio this season knows that Tom Brady has remained perhaps the most talked about topic despite his departure from the region. And on this front, nobody bigger than Big Jim was behind Brady in the 98.5 Fielger and Massarotti Sports Center program.
From his on-air bites to his Creamsicle/TB12-inspired wardrobe with the Bucs, Murray has certainly worked hard to remain loyal to a quarterback who has brought him unimaginable happiness as a fan for nearly 20 years. And if you thought his account of an awkward shot at someone with an opposing view was just a radio joke, you’re wrong.
They’re so crazy, Murray says of his best friends, that he regularly harasses the group’s texting chain. It makes me want to be …. to be. It’s about them and callers like Danny at Quincy to get some appreciation for the guy you [fuck] [fuck] [fuck]. Can’t you back him up on that?
It’s a direct message, but one that’s not uncommon among many Patriots fans.
I’m a zero percent Bucks fan. I am a 100% Tom Brady fan. I’d love to see him get another trophy, said Tony Loconte, who walked down the aisle for Jay-Z’s PSA (Brady’s opening number at Gillette Stadium) at his wedding. And I don’t understand why this is so important to me. Honestly. I love this guy. I mean, I idolized him. So I always tell my wife I have three kids. I am married. That makes four points. And my ten best moments, the other six being Tom Brady’s Super Bowl victory.
LoConte – who circulates her fandom with her Twitter nickname @BradyDisciple – doesn’t think Patriots fans should have negative feelings toward Brady.
I think you’re a bad loser if you don’t cheer for [Brady in the Super Bowl]. I feel like you’ve lost your mind, he said. I don’t even know how to judge someone who can’t have 20 good years and then be like this: Ugh, fuck that guy, he’s gone.
Tom McNaughton, a Patriots season ticket holder since 1992, also had no problems this season, albeit with some significant limitations.
I told my wife about it the other day, because she suggested buying some Brady Bucks T-shirts and I was like this: It’s really not possible: No, no, we have a lot of Brady T-shirts in this house, McNaughton said. So I’m not a Bucks fan. I don’t want it to be distorted. I’m a Patriots fan. And if, God willing, they were to play the Buccaneers on Sunday – I would want them to play – I would support the Patriots and encourage Tom Brady to lose. But because that’s not the scenario that happened, I love everything that Brady did for this organization – especially this organization that was fourth out of four [in the Boston sports hierarchy] for so long – he was a big part of it and obviously a huge part of it. So I support him 100%.
McNaughton gave his son the name Brady, which is not necessarily related to Tom Brady, but is also not necessarily related to Tom Brady. So it was obvious to cheer on Brady this season in Tampa, even if it didn’t seem quite right.
I can feel it. … It’s kind of weird because I feel like I’m supporting the Bucs. But really, I’m just encouraging him. So it seems a little strange to me. But, I wish he had done it for us, I feel like an ex-girlfriend, but I also feel like because we are 20 years old, he wasn’t in the prime of his life and we lost him like when Roger Clemens ran across the border for extra money. It’s something else entirely.
added Mr. McNaughton: It’s a little controversial. I wish it could happen with the Patriots. And then I also think, and I think many Patriots fans think this way, that it’s the greatest of all time. And winning his seventh Super Bowl helps the cause, and it feels like he’s defending something from what he did with the Patriots.
For Murray, his devotion to Brady has a lot to do with the experience of living this generation’s version of Bill Russell or Larry Bird.
He’s everything I’ve ever wanted to cheer on in professional athletics. The most important thing is the memory of lost times and how this place was Loserville, Murray said. I didn’t expect either of these teams to win. And is the osmosis between his presence here and everything that’s happened in the last 20 years to blame for this? No. I mean, he’s with the Patriots, but there’s something weird about it, and it started with the 2001 championship. And I never thought, as a fan growing up here, that I would ever have the pleasure of seeing someone like that. …I never thought I would have the honor, however insignificant, of cheering for someone like that.
Murray admitted that his love for Brady took a hit from the New England QB last season and called Brady a weirdo because of the whole Gwyneth Paltrow affair. But seeing him succeed this year at 43 has rekindled old feelings.
I just try to focus on who he is as a player and who he is as a professional athlete, and that always makes me happy. And the fact that he was able to do what he did this year with that pathetic franchise…. The way he played, the way this team looks, the fact that it’s in the Super Bowl, [my love for Brady] is at 10 again, Murray said.
McNaughton understands Patriots fans who can’t bring themselves to cheer on Brady in Tampa, but he has no problem with that.
It’s just hard for me to encourage him, Mr. McNaughton said. I’m very happy for him. And I think every Patriots fan should be.
What’s important to Patriots fans who supported Brady this year is that if he and the Bucks lose the Super Bowl, it would mean back-to-back championships for the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. Considering no team has won a Super Bowl in a row since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004, this is a potentially historic accomplishment that will certainly be of great interest to many New Englanders.
These people are a mess. … If you couldn’t support [Brady] this year, then I guess you have to look at it that way, because now it’s up to the Chiefs to decide, Murray said. It’s already started. For example, [Mahomes] is a child of GOAT, and if you don’t like to hear things like that, I think the decision is made for you. Because if you guys stay neutral or get behind the Chiefs a little, you’ll get the national sports media to talk about the Kansas City Chiefs as a new dynasty. This won’t detract from what the Patriots have accomplished over the past 20 years, but it will begin to bring a little balm to the heart. So, what are you going to do? I think the decision is yours, Brady and the Bucs.
Johnson, who was not on the Brady train this year, certainly considered this scenario.
I like Mahomes, I like watching him play. I like Andy Reid, Johnson said. If I were backing Tampa, I’d say my interest is in making sure the chiefs don’t win two in a row.
LoConte, who has followed Brady’s move a lot, is a little concerned about the implications of Mahomes’ victory in a second Super Bowl at age 25.
Mahomes is on track to overtake Brady right now with the team he has and how good he is, LoConte said. So I’d be happy if Brady put a little more buffer between them.
Like everything about how Patriots fans feel about the game, not everyone thinks the same.
Watching Mahomes is too fascinating to necessarily be against him just because he’s so good, Shuli said.
BRADY VS. BILL
If there was at least one thing all the pollsters (except Murray) had in common, it was that Brady’s successful 2021 season and Bill Belichick’s unsuccessful season in Foxborough were the deciding factors in the Brady vs. Bill debate. A contradiction to this general premise was rejected.
I want both sides to emerge victorious, Loconte said. I’m not going to get into the Brady vs Belichick thing where it’s like Brady wins the game, he’s 1-0 against the Patriots. I’m not going to interfere. I wanted Brady to throw for 600 yards every game, but I wanted them to lose because the coach is so incompetent…. I can’t count because I think it was smart for both sides.
What I hate is the argument about his looks, Johnson said. I think Brady is the best player of all time, and the reason is because Belichick was his coach. And I think Belichick is the best coach in this game, partly because Brady was his player. And it works hand in hand, and I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game.
I know you’re talking about Brady here and not necessarily Bill Belichick, but I get the impression they’re intertwined, McNaughton said. I think people sometimes pit them against each other, and I disagree. It seems to me that the answer to the question of who was more important, Belichick or Brady, has been a subterfuge for the last 20 years. It’s both. And that’s why I won’t share it. I support Belichick the same way I support Brady.
I cannot – I cannot – support another column, another radio program, another broadcast in any form. Who’s the best, Bill Belichick or Tom Brady? I can’t do that. I can’t, Grady said. Did Belichick become one of the best coaches of all time, even without Brady? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Will Brady have the greatest potential without the Patriots organization, including Belichick?
Murray was the only one who seemed to appreciate the Belichick vs Brady aspect of the season, comparing it to the plot of a band breaking up like Guns N’ Roses.
I find this dynamic interesting, Mr. Murray said. And while I don’t feel good about Belichick right now and I think he has a lot to prove in the offseason, I don’t hate him. I love Tom more than I love him right now.
Interestingly, the two loyal Brady fans don’t feel the same way when they see the affable Rob Gronkowski working hand-in-hand with Brady in Tampa.
I’ll tell you what, I think Gronck, frankly, has more complicated feelings than Brady, McNaughton said. I loved him too, but he retired, and he got drunk, and then he went to Tampa the next time. I think it’s a very different scenario.
I have a hard time supporting Gronkowski, Lokonte said. I think it’s great that Gronkowski gives interviews and all, but it was always the case that the way he did it was very different than Brady’s way. Actually, I feel like he acted like he was retiring and knew Brady would leave, and that was the plan all along. I mean, if Brady had gone to the Chargers, Gronkowski would probably be with the Chargers right now.
When it comes to emotions, we can all try to rationalize our feelings with logical and convincing thoughts. But at this stage, it’s not always so easy to recognize and share these feelings.
So when the moment of the LV Super Bowl finally arrives and Brady takes the field in his Bucs jersey and stands on the sidelines for the national anthem at Tampa Stadium, with 100 million viewers glued to their television sets, the emotions are sure to be complicated.
Oh, I was a psychopath. I was crazy during those few games, Murray said. It’s the most emotional sports investment since the Bruins’ seventh game against the Blues. …To get it done again, there was a stunt last month. It really is.
Patriots fans won’t be as nervous and tense watching the film anymore, but they’ll still be cheering Brady on to win.
I really would like him to wear a Patriots helmet, but I support him, McNaughton said. I want the Pirates to win for many reasons, but he’s the main one. I’m not super-confrontational about it. I live in reality, and the reality is that he no longer plays for the Patriots. But I’m glad, I’m glad for him personally.
And while it’s clear that everyone will be watching the game, not everyone will be listening.
If I turn it down and don’t listen to the advertisers, I can handle it. Because they’re going to make a big deal out of it, Mr. Johnson said. I’ll probably applaud whoever’s behind me. I want it to be an interesting football game.
Grady is jealous of the sobriety of Sunday’s game.
I think I’m gonna make it. I think I’m gonna make it. I think there will be a few Patriot fans crying in their beer. I won’t be one of them. I’m fine, Grady said. Honestly, I think this year, after experiencing – along with the rest of the world – the worst year I can imagine, seeing Tom Brady play for the other team is the least of my problems.
For those who fought to see Brady fail, it won’t be the end of the world to see him win.
Frankly, I’m a little… Honestly, I don’t know. I think, honestly, the last few weeks I’ve been more inclined to think that if he wins, beats the Chiefs and all that, that would be an insane achievement, of course, Schooley said. So I think when he does that, it should be like, wow, that’s pretty crazy that he managed that. Acceptance, I would say.
You can find Michael Hurley on Twitter @michaelFhurley.
frequently asked questions
How much will Tom Brady win if he wins the Super Bowl?
In total, Brady has won $1.75 million this season and he could even win $2.25 million if he wins the Super Bowl (to encourage him, he must play 75% of the snaps in every game).
Can Brady win another Super Bowl?
Why did Tom Brady really leave the Patriots?
According to a March ESPN report, Brady left because he was tired of dealing with Bill Belichick after 20 years. … In the end, Brady left because he wanted out, as Patriots owner Robert Kraft made clear in March.
2015 super bowl, super bowl 49, drew bledsoe