Pictou Advocate sports

Why I’ve been a Patriots fan

Sports

Okay, I’m biased.

When it comes to that physically tough sport involving quarterbacks, wide receivers and linebackers, I’ve been a Patriots fan for a decade longer than the franchise has had a membership in the National Football League.

My early interest in the team began way back in 1960 when the club — then the Boston Patriots — became a part of the fledgling American Football League. When the NFL and AFL merged 10 years later, I had a brand new NFL outfit to support.

Prior to that, my NFL allegiance had been with the Green Bay Packers, a very exciting franchise under coaching legend Vince Lombardi. That was when Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor helped to collect five championships in seven years. But they’re another story.

So why the Patriots?

In part, it was a geographical thing. I always loved the city of Boston — and all of New England, for that matter — more than any other American location I’ve been in. That’s never changed.

Besides Beantown, I’ve attended games — football, baseball, basketball, hockey — in such other U.S. cities as New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Cincinnati and Seattle. But Boston has forever remained my favourite.

Oh yes, I’ve been a Toronto Maple Leafs fanatic since early childhood, and a Toronto Blue Jays devotee since they were granted admission to the American League in the 1970s. And, if Toronto had ever been granted NFL membership, I’d be cheering for them just as much.

But, as this season’s Super Bowl party gets closer, I’m once more on the Patriots bandwagon as they prepare to meet the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta. I’m again riding along with 66-year-old coach Bill Belichick and his main man Tom Brady, the most successful coach-quarterback tandem the gridiron universe has ever had.

Who do I think will win Sunday night? Bet you can’t guess.

I’m really up for this Super Bowl matchup after spending a glorious eight hours in front of the flat screen watching the two conference championships a couple of Sundays ago. They were, in my opinion, the very best back-to-back title matches — both requiring overtime — that I’ve witnessed through all the Super Bowl years.

The Patriots and Rams will have a hard time duplicating the intense drama of the conference finals. Those two games were something else.

The doubleheader confirmed two significant things — why we watch sports, why we love sports.

It was a crazy day.

I don’t recall two conference finals on the same day being so close, so exciting and, in the end, both being decided in overtime. It was unique, too, that both home teams lost.

Fans in Kansas City and New Orleans are among the loudest in the league. They were so hyped, so confident, that it was a huge surprise to see both stadiums falling silent at the end. When it happens in overtime the frustrations are just that much more severe. As one talking head said afterwards, you could hear the hearts breaking in both cities.

In reflection, there were so many unexpected developments in both games, especially that wild and wonderful fourth quarter of the AFC showdown.

It was spell-binding, to put it another way. Five lead changes alone would have made it one of the most exciting title games ever. As well, the number of points scored in the fourth quarter made it tremendously exciting. I watched those 15 minutes of drama hanging onto the edge of my seat.

There’s one thing I really don’t agree with, however. When it comes to the NFL rules regarding overtime, I hate the fact a team can actually win the day’s activities with the opponents unable to get their offence on the field even once.

Brady, the 41-year-old magician, showed why he’s so very, very special. After the Patriots won the toss, he took command and quickly marched the Patriots into another Super Bowl. It was over, just like that.

Most quarterbacks that have reached their 40s — like most players at that age — are normally at home in front of the fire, comfortably in their favourite chairs.

Yet there was Brady turning in another magnificent performance. You can’t help but consider him the very best quarterback ever. He’s definitely my choice.

His most outstanding achievement that evening had to be the fact he led the club to three straight touchdowns, two in the fourth period, the other in extra time. Put that in a fictional movie and nobody would believe it.

Despite Brady’s heroics once again, it was difficult not to feel sorry for the Kansas City Chiefs’ highly-heralded signal-caller, the young and promising Patrick Mahomes. You could tell how ready he was to jump into the overtime action — the opportunity he never got.

Mahomes, so calm, so confident, showed football fans why the American media believe he’s the guy who will take over the spotlight when Brady eventually hangs up his gear — if he ever hangs it up. Andy Reid’s Chiefs, it appears, have a great future ahead.

Since the lights went out in Kansas City, the most chatter among the TV bobbing heads has been the non-call late in the New Orleans-Los Angeles game. Had the Rams been called for the alleged infraction — it sure appeared to be an infraction in the replays – the Saints may very well have advanced to this weekend.

There are plenty of officials running around on the field, yet nobody in stripes saw anything wrong with the play, and that’s why the Saints are now home.

One last thought: I’m glad I learned my Roman numerals back in my school days in New Glasgow. That way, if you ask, I can explain that, since the turn of the century, the Patriots have won Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVII, XXXIX, XLIX and LI.

So let’s do it again, Patriots, and add LIII.