The mind of a New England sports fan

Michael Boylan's picture

I sat in the living room of my cousin Lisa’s apartment last year watching the AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Colts with family members I hadn’t seen in years. We ate this great chicken pot pie and had a few beers, celebrating and hooting and hollering as the Patriots ran up an 18 point lead over Peyton Manning and his boys.

“No way this team blows this lead,” I said, in a moment of what I now realize to be sheer stupidity. I could tell from the ashen expression of my relatives’ faces that I had committed a terrible sin. It was obvious to them that I had been away from the north for far too long. Any self-respecting New England sports fan should know better than to count their chickens before they hatch. As a matter of fact, the Pats did blow the lead and lose the game.

I haven’t spoken to my cousins since.

So, and I’m sure legions of Patriots fans would agree with me on this, 18-0 and in the Super Bowl, while amazing, hasn’t exactly been a picnic in the park.

First of all, eight of their 18 wins came while the Red Sox were on their way to their second World Series of the 21st century (more on that later), so for absolute nut jobs like me, in a way, they didn’t really count. By which I mean, I don’t feel that I enjoyed them as much as I should have. That was when they were really putting a smack-down on teams, too. Oh sure, I watched the games and loved to see my fantasy football team’s scores soar through the roof (thank you Tom Brady and Wes Welker), but I was a little pre-occupied. As great as the Patriots are, I love the Red Sox more.

After the Duck Boat parade, the games got harder - which meant they were harder to take. The Colts game on Nov. 4 was like watching the NFL trying to give the game to Indy - I couldn’t believe the penalties that were being called. Then, four of the next seven wins were by 10 points or less, including two that were by three points and really could have gone the other way.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Being undefeated in the regular season is awesome. It was unbelievable to watch and I have no illusions in saying that it is very unlikely that I will ever see it happen to any team ever again. I also don’t want anyone to think that I am bemoaning the fact that the Patriots didn’t blow out every team in their pursuit of perfection.


since that three point win over Philly, I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Some fans in New England were even openly hoping on the blogs that the Patriots would lose once before the end of the season so that they would be focused in the playoffs. Even I find that crazy - and I wear my Tom Brady jersey, which I haven’t washed all season, for every game.

Here’s another example of the crazy mindset of the New England sports fan. I went to my in-law’s for Christmas and was in Massachusetts when New England beat the Giants to go undefeated in the regular season. The next morning I’m out at a mall with my brother-in-law and we realize that there are all these empty t-shirt racks in the sporting goods store. The 16-0 shirts have all sold out in less than an hour. So, not only do you get people who go out the morning after a win to pick up a shirt signifying a perfect regular season, but you also get the attitude that the dour store clerk had when I asked him about the shirts.

“It’s a jinx,” he said. “A lot of good they’ll be when they’re 16-1.”

That sums up everything I’m talking about. Die-hard New England sports fans will never talk about their team’s possible success - no matter how close they get.

I had a good feeling that the Red Sox would beat the Rockies in the World Series this year, but (and you can ask resident Rockie fan John Thompson) I didn’t breathe one word of smack talk or braggery until it was all over. I can’t believe that I wrote a column on 10 reasons why they would win the World Series. I think my hands were shaking while I typed it. I didn’t even call my best friend until the final out was recorded because, in my mind, they were only one error away from losing game four and then completely falling apart.

In a way, this is terrible. From what I’ve discovered in my 15 years in the South, sports fans are nothing like this down here. Oh sure, they might believe in their crazy superstitions, but they seem to believe in the power of positive thinking, while my brethren up north believe that if you expect the worst, you are either pleasantly surprised by the good results or prepared for the depressing reality of the bad results.

That being said, today when I saw an article on ESPN state that a pigskin prognosticating camel (with a good record, too) picked the Giants to win in the Super Bowl, I shuddered. Despite the fact that the Patriots are 18-0, have arguably the best coach, quarterback and team and seem to always be prepared and downplay their accomplishments in their quest for their one true accomplishment, I worry.

That shoe could drop at any minute - or maybe - some stupid, slightly buzzed fan is watching the game with his family, with the Pats up big, and says, “Guess I’ll go get my 19-0 shirt tomorrow” and the whole thing falls apart.

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