Growing up in Spokane in the 1970s, with my parents hailing from Framingham, Massachusetts, we always watched the Seahawks and the New England Patriots (usually, we had to wait for the Pats to be on prime-time TV).
Both teams had something in common: They never won. However, this never stopped us from cheering on both teams, complete with cowbells from the TV room couch.
Thus, I have always held both teams in high esteem (regardless of their records at the time).
When Drew Bledsoe, a former Washington State quarterback, took over as signal-caller of the Patriots, there was an immediate hometown connection, and the fascination with the Patriots was cemented.
Fast-forward to the year 2001 – the NFL season started with the awful events of September 11.
The country was in shock and throughout the season patriotism was shown everywhere. The nation had united in a way that I’d never experienced before.
By Feb. 3, 2002, the Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl and the country rallied around the red, white and blue of the New England logo.
But there was no way the Patriots could beat the heavily favored Rams – then known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” – and certainly not with their second-string quarterback, one who was drafted 199th overall and only saw the field following an injury to Bledsoe earlier in the season.
As it turned out, in what would become standard procedure for the Patriots: With the game tied the young upstart engineered a last-minute, fourth-quarter drive to bring the Patriots into field goal range. A kick by Adam Vinatieri with seven seconds on the clock sealed the deal and the underdog Patriots were the surprising heroes.
Given what had happened to our country, how fitting it was that a team named the Patriots, against all odds, came out ahead, with owner Robert Kraft declaring to the country, “Today we are all Patriots!”
Sixteen years later, how things have changed.
As the Patriots head into their eighth Super Bowl under coach Bill Belichick (10th overall) as five-time champions, the Pats are the despised Goliath as the Eagles, the overlooked underdog, are riding the hot hand of their second-string quarterback.
People love to hate the Patriots because they win too much. The public is tired of seeing the Patriots as the American Football Conference’s representative every year, tired of hearing about Tom Brady as the greatest of all time, and tend to lean back on the tired refrain that they are cheaters.
Much of this disdain can be attributed to the fact that the Patriots have dashed the hopes of so many teams and so many fans, including those of our Seahawks, but it’s still sad for me to see these people look at all the negatives when they are bearing witness to a phenomenon that will most likely never happen again in sports.
Brady is not immortal and his body will give way to time. Belichick can’t coach forever. The time is coming when the haters will get their wish and the Patriots will become just another NFL team.
When the NFL is geared toward parity, with salary caps to keep all teams equal, the Patriots continue to win. They win because they put winning first and they put team first.
Brady is not the highest-paid quarterback as he regularly takes a lower salary to help pay for others – perhaps to have money for a good offensive line.
Another example is to look at what’s happened to Seattle when everyone has their big payday. Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman are all willing to sacrifice to make the team better.
As current New York Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall opined recently, the other NFL teams should be ashamed that they let the Patriots win every year.
Instead of complaining, they should focus on making their teams as great as the Patriots – and the rest of you should sit back and enjoy watching history in the making.
Michael Lynch is moderator of the Spokane Patriots Fans Facebook page.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.