We are Them. They are Us.

The past two weeks in the American sports world have been consumed with talk of DeflateGate: the finding by the NFL that 11 of 12 offensive footballs belonging to the New England Patriots were under inflated for their AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Despite the fact that the Colts would have lost the game if the Patriots were playing with a golf ball, it’s never good to see your home team under the cloud of suspicion.

I would much rather cheer for a team that doesn’t “play angles,” and Bill Belichick is known as a coach who excels at it. Playing angles is usually called “gamesmanship” in sports, and the lines are blurry. Who is eligible and who is not? How much time should the defense have to react? What is fair when you’re playing against a guy who is frequently thinking ten steps ahead of you and will push the envelope of legality every single time?

My position through the last few weeks of controversy has been this: Yes, I think there was some behavior here worth questioning. Yes, I still think the Patriots were the better team. But mostly, this is a huge story because people love to hate the Patriots.

Here’s what longtime New England fans have a hard time realizing:

We are them. And they are us.

We were raised to root for hapless teams who lost the game in the most heartbreaking way possible. And now they don’t. Now they win a lot of the time, and perhaps the most dominating of the franchises is the one in the league that celebrates itself for its parity.

More than anything, we were raised to HATE THE YANKEES.

I mean, it made me a little nauseous to go find that image up there on the website. Blech.

The Yankees are the worst. They just are. They just win all the time and wear all their World Series rings and their fans have annoying accents.

Now go back and substitute “Patriots” for “Yankees” and “SuperBowl” for “World Series.”

Do you see it? A little bit?

We are them. They are us.

I feel that if Yankees and Patriots fans, raised to hate one another, could grasp this truth, that world peace could be achieved in our time.

But let’s face it, it’ll probably just end up like this:

5 thoughts on “We are Them. They are Us.

  1. Great perspective, Kelly.

    The only thing I’d add: There is lots of space between the teams (and the players) who “play angles” and the hapless ones that lose heartbreaker after heartbreaker. A hard-fought, honest loss is no shame. But if the losses pile up on account of not having the imagination to build winning teams and devise winning game plans within the letter and spirit of the rules, or a repeated lack of competence in performance, that is not something to root for. A loyal fan may, of course, still root for a likeable loser, but a truly loyal fan will long to see the hapless team add competence to its “honor.” For incompetence, especially long-standing or repeated incompetence, is dishonorable.

    (Says the Orioles fan whose team has only recently shrugged off fifteen years of gross incompetence.)

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    • My husband David agrees, David. He is a Cubs fan. We’re still waiting for his turn.

      (I think they’re off to a good start with the new manager who bought a round of drinks for the reporters.)

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  2. Sadly, Kelly, you are correct. Among my earliest recollections are that Johnny Pesky held the ball in 1946, and Red Sox fans hate the Yankees because they always win. When the Yankees finally lost and finished in tenth place 26.5 games out of first place in 1966 – last in the American League – I had the standings posted in my dorm room all year long. Evil had finally been defeated!

    I don’t recall any suspicions that they cheated. They had more money than their competitors, which could pay for the best talent. That never seemed fair, but no one called it cheating.

    Still, somethings never die. My office wall still has the NY Daily News headline “HELL FREEZES OVER” when in 2001 the Yankees concluded the biggest collapse in baseball history at the hands of the Red Sox. Victories like those taste sweet for a lifetime.

    So world peace would be nice, but it can “wait ’til next year”.

    This is a great piece.

    Love you much,
    Dad

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  3. Pingback: We are Them. They are Us. (Part Two) | kellkell

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