Hi, my name is Chelsea and I am a New England Patriots fan. I say it like that because ever since becoming a Patriots fan, I’ve had to admit it to people like it’s some sort of disease. Of course, I understand why. Boston fans are widely considered to be “the worst” – Patriot fans in particular. We’re loud, obnoxious, and entitled (just count how many #nothumble brags I manage to sneak into this article) with just enough championships on our side to make us unbearable to those fans that never seem to catch a break. You want to hate us but with an average of four Sunday night games a season it’s hard to argue that we don’t make for some great nights of football.
It’s also not a secret that I love football, and wear my #patsnation pride pretty loudly — especially considering I’m from a place that literally has two NFL teams I could gladly represent as my “home” team — but the heart wants what the heart wants. To answer your question, yes I’m a Tom Brady fan. Being that I’ve been a Patriots fan for almost 10 seasons now, I’m no stranger to the never ending occasional fill-in-the blankgate that surrounds my four time Superbowl winning team (you didn’t think I was going to go a whole paragraph without mentioning it, did you?), but this whole “deflategate” thing is almost too much to handle on multiple levels.
The Colts vs. Patriots playoff game in January was not a game I was of course vehemently into, but not paying any sort of special attention to. Living in Denver, I was as shocked as the rest of the country that we would be deprived of yet another Manning, Brady playoff game, and was merely having fun rubbing Bronco fans noses in the whole unfortunate mess. The fact that we went on to destroy the Colts 45- 7 was icing on the cake. We were going to the Superbowl, and nothing could ruin that, or so we thought. As if we had just gone to death con 5, the investigation of deflated balls during the Colts game was all anyone could talk about. I haphazardly shrugged off the speculation, believing without a doubt that Tom Brady was not involved. I laughed and pointed to jealousy as the reason everyone was blowing this out of proportion and continued reveling in enjoyment a season that at week 4 had commentators doubting Brady’s staying power, calling for a lights out on the wild ride that has been the Patriots past 13 years.
I had spent most the season straddling a defensive, “Brady’s not done yet, we still have a few great season left,” and bittersweet acceptance. “Obviously he’ll retire soon, I’m just glad we’ll still have Bellichick.” So getting to the Superbowl, in many ways, weirdly felt like the underdog moment us Patriot fans hadn’t felt in a long time. But as the weeks between the deflatgate game the Superbowl went on, it was hard not to feel like it was New England fans against everyone else. The stinger in it all was that we would have won the game regardless — a talking point that was used defensively, but really only made the whole situation seem worse when you thought about it.
As it became more clear what happened, ball boys and the like, I felt myself become more angry when people brought it up. Obviously this had been a few bad seeds that had to taint an otherwise amazing season. Why wouldn’t everyone just shut up about it? I was tired of talking football with friends and having the conversation ultimately wind up with me an exasperated mess. It always came down to me personally having to vouch for the entire New England franchise and justify how I could consider myself a fan of the sport if I condoned cheating.
I want to say for the record that, of course, I don’t condone cheating. I respect the sport because of its intensity, commitment, and the drive focus it takes to play a game at the professional level. My love for football is something that ties me to a grandmother that died too young and a father I barely know, and has in moments where I was the only woman in the room, given me unforeseen allies and instant friends. Football is a proud part of who I am and is the most gender-bending stereotype about me, so when people ask me if I can justify the actions of a team I root for in the sport that I love it kind of throws me for a loop. Which is why, when reports started to surface that the investigation had found it, “probable” that #TB12 was involved in the issues surrounding deflating the balls before the AFC Championship game I felt as if someone had told me Santa Claus wasn’t real.
I actually felt physically sick for day. I didn’t want to talk about it and had trouble keeping a smile on my face when friends teased me because what could I say – I had no defense. I wasn’t just going to stop liking the Patriots, nor was I going to disown any Brady jerseys. I owned (a collection depleted heavily after the Hernandez fiasco). I just had to figure out a way to make sense of it all in my head while remaining the same type of fan I had been before. I believed that the truth would come out and no matter what I wasn’t going to pretend it didn’t happen while also not jumping ship on my team.
I believe that Tom Brady knew about deflating the balls the way middle management mangers know about corporate espionage – not surprised that it’s happening, but the order was above his pay grade and the people responsible, below it. I believe that not only because I want to, but because for thirteen seasons Tom Brady has been a hero to Boston fans, a role model for thousand of young boys and the proud father of two of them. He was a long shot and a nobody that turned into one of the greatest football players we will ever get to see and I have to believe that he respects the game too much to have cheated in game where he threw for 226 yards, completing 23 of 35 passes on a frigid cold night in Foxbourough like the straight up baller that he is.
For this reason alone, I may be in the minority of Pats fans that believe a four game suspension seems fair, if only because of how soft the first four games of the season are for reigning Superbowl champs (and another one…). Of course, Rodger Goodell made sure the suspension didn’t interfere with a very coincidental Sunday night rematch between those Indianapolis Colts and readmitted Tom Brady because, well, advertisers. Until then, Jimmy Grappolo may just be the new era in Patriots football, proving this whole thing could have been the plan the whole time.