I’ve heard it so long and so many times I can’t even remember the first embittered fan of another team that said it to me or how long ago that would have been. Those sorts of things happen over the course of 20 years. Two decades of such complete and utter dominance, that it turned the rest of the world against a 6-state region. Us against them. Hate us cuz they ain’t us. Defend the Wall. Do your job. No days off. Still here. The Brady-Belichick era wasn’t so much a weekly drama as it was a civil war amongst the football fans of America. A division, not of north and south, but of Patriots fans and everybody else.
Tom Brady helped make the Patriots the villain. The Black Hat. The Bad Guy. Tony Montana said “You need people like me. You need people like that so you can point your fingers and say, that’s the bad guy.” Some wouldn’t relish the role, but after 40 years of losing and anonymity, New England fans were happy with any identity and if it ticked off the other 44 states in the Union, so be it.
“That’s not necessarily true, but it’ll never mean more than this.” That’s my response to those who believed the Patriots would turn back into a pumpkin as soon as TB12 left Foxboro. We may. Maybe our next quarterback will be the second coming of Tony Eason and we’ll spend a couple decades seeing how the Lions live. Or maybe, and probably more likely, we’ll add a solid quarterback and live a contented life going to the playoffs every few years and try just to win the division. Like Henry Hill said about egg noodles and ketchup, life is more boring when you’re just another shmuck.
Life will feel different because we’re no longer chasing something bigger than this one season. Every other team is trying to win THIS season, THIS Super Bowl. With every ring, win, touchdown, pass and yard, we were watching history with Tom Brady in New England. More wins, more touchdowns, more yards, every single play meant something and now it feels like we’re hitting reset.
Flags fly forever, we’ll always be the home most thought of when Tom Brady’s name gets mentioned. Nobody thinks of Johnny Unitas as a Chargers, and nobody remembers Joe Namath as a Ram. But in the here and now, each game is only each game. Another Super Bowl win would be great, but it wouldn’t feel anything like the other six. It wouldn’t be Brady’s.
“So say goodnight to the bad guy. Cuz you’ll never see another bad guy like me again.”