Dear New England Patriots Fan,
I am writing to you today to let you know that I respect your team, but that we need to talk. I would call you, but I am sure that in your outrage you have done as your Jesus has done and destroyed your cell phone. That’s ok. I get it. I am also a sports fan. However, part of the problem is that you, Patriots fan, are contributing to part of the ongoing and exhausting situation with your favorite team’s quarterback, Tom Brady. How, you ask? Mostly it is because you blindly follow and insulate your favorite player. Brady feels that he can hold hostage the NFL (by suing the NFL because he refuses to take his punishment for doing something bad) and, at least partly, the enjoyment of getting ready for the season for the rest of us who do not share his acolytes’ affection for his team. He feels this way because despite what seem to be clear facts – Brady was involved with the air being let out of footballs before a playoff game, Brady is lying about the fact that his destruction of his cell phone is coincidental, and Brady is lying, or just totally oblivious, to the fact that he did something wrong when he states “I did nothing wrong” – the average Patriots fan seems to believe he is infallible as a person and a football player. And to me, that is the biggest problem. There is a line that has been crossed between appreciating Brady as a great football player and thinking that Brady is also, by default, a great person. He might be a decent person. I don’t know him personally, of course. But we all know he is lying, don’t we? It’s ok to defend the person less but still appreciate the player, Patriots Fan.
Look, I know he is a great quarterback. He has won four Super Bowls. He has consistently been at the top levels of the game. I appreciate his skill. Again, though, I do not know him personally. And frankly, you don’t either. It appears to the rest of us NFL fans that you think you do, but you don’t. Sorry. Maybe you have seen a game at Gillette Stadium and you think that means you have shared a moment with the guy. Maybe you have actually met him. Maybe you have something behind a shatter-proof glass that he actually touched and made his mark on. You know, like a Shroud of Brady. But because you shared time with him and touched the hem of his garment possibly does not mean you know him so you should stop defending him like you do. Defend him as a player. Say he is the greatest quarterback ever. But not as a person. He deserves to be punished in some way for his involvement with deflating footballs and his lying about not doing anything wrong.
Let’s say you have a child. The child knows you have told him he cannot have a cookie. The child, has taken a cookie when you were not looking and taken a photo of the yummy cookie and sent the photo to a friend. The friend posts the photo on Facebook. You did not see the child eat the cookie, but you can see cookie crumbs and there are fewer cookies. In fact, you just checked two and half hours before and there were more cookies. The plate was more inflated with cookies. So, you go to the child and say, “It seems as if you took a cookie.” And the child responds, “You have no proof I took the cookie. I did nothing wrong.” “Let me see your phone because it appears there is proof of you taking the cookie. Your friend posted the photo on Facebook that you sent him of the cookie,” you say. “The child responds, “No. You can’t see my phone. But ask me about this in several days, please. I will have a new phone by that time. Plus, I want to set a precedent here so that my brothers and sisters aren’t held accountable for possibly stealing a cookie too. ” So, you have two choices, Patriots fan. One, you could say to the child, “The circumstantial evidence that you stole the cookie is so overwhelming that I am going to punish you as deserved, but because it seems you are lying as well, the punishment is going to be worse. However, if you want to talk later and explain what happened maybe I can think about lessening the punishment.” That would be fair, right? But it seems as if with Brady you have chosen option two: “My child never breaks the rules! In fact, even though it appears a cookie was taken- maybe it was! – there was no firm rule against stealing in the first place! And there certainly were no set guidelines towards a punishment if in fact a cookie was ever stolen! Sure, I know that no one ever thought about a set punishment for something that had never happened before, but that’s not my child’s fault! He’s innocent!” So, of course, the child goes on undisciplined and feels free to lie and cheat and you become simply a bad Patriots Parent.
The difference between options one and two, of course, is option one was chosen by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and option two is the general feeling of you, Patriots Fan. Trust me, I know as a sports fan it is difficult to draw a line between being a fan of the player versus the person. But in reality, the person should always be able to be respected more. There is life beyond football, and being a blind follower of someone who does a disservice to their profession by suing their company for handing out a measured punishment for wrongdoing is just wrong in itself. Love the player, Patriots Fan, but hold back that same amount of appreciation of the human being because you do not owe that human being – nor do they always deserve – that equal amount of respect.
I feel like I should point out, Patriots Fan, that your love of Brady has a rebound in your extreme dislike of Peyton Manning. I have never quite understood the amount of vitriol you have towards Manning. I know he has been a great quarterback himself in the same conference as your favorite team and that makes him a rival, but he seems to not do anything correctly. In fact, shouldn’t you really turn your dislike towards Peyton’s brother, Eli? He’s the one when the game counts, the Super Bowl, that you can’t beat. One way or another, the Manning family gets you. But I digress from Eli. When it comes to Peyton, however, you say he chokes. You said he choked in the Super Bowl versus the Seattle Seahawks. I am not sure you saw that game, but the reason Peyton’s team lost was not his fault. The fact that you think it was Peyton’s fault makes me wonder if you truly understand how football works. But Peyton, from his acts as a human being, appears to be a decent person. Again, I don’t know him. So I am not a true judge, but this is a guy who gives so much to charity and does so much charitable work – did you hear he just set up a charity to help the families of service people who died in the recent awful shooting spree in Chattanooga? – might be worth a little respect. Don’t like him as a player. Make fun of him as a player. But there is life outside of football. Maybe, Patriots Fan, once you understand that, you can find a place in your heart to look at the human being that encompasses the athlete for both his fallacies and his goodness and find that what a player does on the field is not always their real worth as a person.