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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Redefining Redemption

Undoubtedly, the devastating knee injury suffered by Tom Brady will have a significant impact on the New England Patriots’ 2008 season. The moment Bernard Pollard crashed into the local demi-god’s left leg, the near-certain Super Bowl contenders turned into a greater mystery than Bill Belichick’s injury report.

It’s not just the offense that will be affected by the loss of the star quarterback. The trickle-down effect from losing the reigning NFL MVP will be felt by the defense, special teams unit, and the general morale of the team as they charge onward through the AFC East. However, the biggest question regarding this season isn’t about Matt Cassel or Bill Belichick’s game plan. The great unknown in ACL-Gate is how the fans will react for the rest of the season.

It’s amazing how a fan base’s perception of a season can ride on a single ligament. That’s the case in Foxboro, as Patriots fans’ emotions have ranged from despair to speechless shock to senseless anger (towards Pollard, who, in addition to Brady’s injury, has been blamed for poverty, famine, and the spread of AIDS).

This situation presents two unique opportunities for Patriot’s fans. First, they are now underdogs, in some sense of the word. True, they still have Randy Moss, Richard Seymour and Belichick. So they’re not the Raiders. But they do have a little something to prove now; that the offensive arsenal and team success was a direct result of Tom Brady, first and foremost. They were 2.5 point underdogs against the Jets, who without Brett Favre limped to a 4-12 finish in 2007.

This is the first time New England has been expected to claim the NFL title since an unheralded career backup named Tom Brady helped the 2001 Patriots defeat ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ in Super Bowl XXXVI. True fans that remember that title remember it fondly, and most would consider it their favorite (because it was the first, and because the Rams were so heavily favored). Being a fan of an underdog champion is a feeling topped by nearly nothing, and now Pats fans have a chance to feel that again.

The second opportunity for Pats fans is more of a challenge. There have been accusations by many that the pride of the Patriots that pack Gillette Stadium for every home game are the not the most stellar of fans.

Fox Sports recently ranked the Patriots fans as the 4th worst in pro football, citing low crowd noise, general arrogance, and bandwagon jumping. While you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, the noise factor is true. I’ve worked at Gillette the past seven Patriot regular-season home games; the crowd only seems to get animated on 3rd-and-long opportunities for the opponents, when a three-and-out is already imminent. The crowd seemed apathetic in Week 1 even before Brady went down, as though the Super Bowl hangover in their head ached every time the stadium almost got loud.

The alleged arrogance is somewhat understandable. After all, this franchise has accomplished winning 21 regular season games in a row, and, if not for a Helmet-Catch-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, would have four Super Bowl rings in this decade. And with championships come bandwagon fans. Red Sox Nation seems to have annexed many other lands following their two recent titles, while the Celtics 17th championship have brought “lifelong” fans out of the woodwork (the same “fans” that think Danny Ainge’s career highlight was a stint as a third baseman with the Toronto Blue Jays). So you can’t fault the Patriots for having a sudden influx of fans roaming Gillette’s concourses in Stephen Gostkowski and Wes Welker jerseys (because only a true fan would get a kicker or slot receiver’s jersey, right?)

In any event, that arrogance might come down a notch, as Patriots fans begin to feel a new emotion: fear of losing. And the bandwagon fans will weed themselves out of Gillette, because there’s not much sense in their minds in paying $100-plus for a ticket to watch a team that might actually lose. They’ll be off buying signed Maurice Jones-Drew bobble heads and swearing allegiance to the Jaguars, reassigning a loyalty broken more times than Fred Taylor.

So Gillette will be all yours, true Patriots fans. Keep your eyes on the field, and pay attention, for God/Tom’s sake. This season could legitimately rest on the fans shoulders, for the players will feed off of positive energy and may unite in the face of adversity.

This is your chance to stand up for your Patriots, and for your voice to be heard. And if your voice happened to be heard on a 3rd-and-short in particular, Tedy Bruschi and a certain aging defense would greatly appreciate it.