By his own admission, lifelong Patriots fan Dave Smith has become a man “fueled by hate.”
Come Sunday, with the Patriots and Tom Brady both out of contention in the NFL playoffs, Smith’s only source of pleasure will be going negative — rooting against teams whose victories would, in his mind, diminish his beloved.
“Kansas City needs to lose,” he snorted. “That’s obvious.” (A primer on the “obvious” from another sour grapes fan in a moment.)
The San Francisco 49ers must fall, too, he said.
The team’s crime? They have won five Super Bowls (albeit mainly in the 1980s), and a Feb. 13 victory would trigger the unthinkable: They’d have as many championships as the Patriots (and, OK, the Pittsburgh Steelers).
“It would threaten the Patriots’ legacy,” Smith said.
Pity, if just for a moment, the short-suffering Patriots/Brady fans. How their lives have changed. After enjoying dynastic domination of the NFL for nearly two decades, Smith (and his wife and dog) will spend the rest of the postseason wearing their “lucky” Patriots gear not with any hope of (directly) helping their own team, but with the sole goal of trolling enemies.
At this point in the season, New England and/or Brady fans should be happily anticipating a heart-stopping championship game that would of course be won. They should be pricing flights to the Super Bowl’s host city, Los Angeles. And COVID? Who would have time for that with all the party planning?
Instead? Boston is getting a taste of what it felt like to be basically fans of any other team during the Brady‐Belichick era (2001-2019 seasons, R.I.P.) said Trenni Kusnierek, host of “Early Edition” on NBC Sports Boston.
“Now we are the city that can’t get there,” she said, “so you have a choice. You can either adopt another team, or you can hate-watch.”
Hmmm. I wonder which approach Patriots Nation will take.
“I’m rooting against the Rams AND the Chiefs,” Brandon Sobjack wrote in response to a reporter’s question on the Tom Brady Forever 12 Facebook group.
Reached by phone, the engineering technician offered a tutorial:
The case against the LA Rams: Brady is the only person who has won a Super Bowl in his home stadium (last year in Tampa), and with this year’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles, a Rams victory would mean that QB Matthew Stafford would also earn this honor, and — does it even need to be spelled out? — this would lessen Brady.
The case against the Chiefs: While it should be noted that the Internet has “turned” against the Chiefs because of the inappropriate behavior of the fiancee and the younger brother of quarterback Patrick Mahomes (per the New York Post), the hostility of Patriots and Brady fans is more personal.
Before last year’s Super Bowl, there was talk of Mahomes, 26, being the “baby GOAT,” Sobjack said emotionally. “And now that narrative is being stirred up again. But come on! He hasn’t gone anywhere near Brady’s record yet. To say ‘GOAT’ in that context is disrespectful.”
But wait — it gets worse. The “baby GOAT” talk did quiet down after Tampa Bay humbled the Chiefs in the Super Bowl last year. But the “dynasty” word — which rightly belongs only to the Patriots — has swirled around the Chiefs, and Sobjack worries that a Super Bowl win could reignite it.
What drives this kind of thinking? There are two explanations — academic and comedic.
Rick Grieve, professor of psychology at Western Kentucky University: “A lot of sport fans’ behaviors come about because of the human need for affiliation,” he said in an e-mail.
“I see these activities” — hate-watching, trash talking, etc. — “as ways to continue to affiliate with a team and continue to maintain the in-group favoritism.”
Robert Fisher, a professor of marketing at the University of Alberta: “Anything that works against the success or prestige of the groups we are associated with we denigrate or ignore,” he said. “We are trying to preserve our view of the world.”
Tony V, Boston comedian (channeling Patriots fans): “If the Pats don’t win, it’s like an election that’s been rigged.”
With Sunday’s championship games looming, let’s review where we are in the crazy-but-it-also-kinda-makes-sense logic of the Pats/Brady fan:
Kansas City and Los Angeles definitely have to lose. But what about San Francisco? While it is true that a victory would put the team on equal Super Bowl-ring footing with the Pats, season ticket holder Jonas Bromberg says there’s something else to consider.
The 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (née Patriots) is still part of the Patriots “extended family” (his departure during the 2017 season was pure — he was traded) and for this reason, his victory could rightly be considered a win for Patriots Nation.
“There is a conflict within myself,” said Bromberg, a clinical psychologist. “It’s complicated.”
No one interviewed by the Globe was — yet — wasting negative energy on the Cincinnati Bengals. “Their nickname is the ‘Bungles,’” said NBC Sports Boston’s Kusnierek. “How do you hate a team that’s so terrible and from a sad Midwestern city?” (“I can say that,” she added, “I’m from the Midwest.”)
Bottom line: We’re on to Cincinnati.