I am a fan of the Buffalo Bills, first and foremost. I will always root for them; and someday, in the words of the late, great Bills fan Tim Russert, “They will win the damn Super Bowl”.
In the meantime, though, I’ve had to find some other team to pull for in the playoffs, once Buffalo is out. I gravitated, grudgingly at first, towards the New England Patriots. Over time, I’ve come to have a strong affection for them as a result.
Most Bills fans will say this is treason. They have beaten us like a drum ever since Belichick got there. We have suffered humiliating blowouts and agonizing last-second losses at their hands. How can I root for them, even a little?
The fact is, the Patriots are the team we all would want our team to be. They are the premier organization in the sport. Hate them if you want, but if Belichick and Brady came to your favorite team, would you be anything other than thrilled?
I think this tends to happen with dynasties. My Mom’s favorite team is the Steelers, but she still fondly remembers the Green Bay Packer teams that were dominant in her youth. You get used to seeing these dynastic teams so much that they become pleasantly familiar. I associate good football with the Patriot brand.
It started out that I would pull for the Patriots in the playoffs, and over the years it developed that I pretty much root for them all the time except when they play the Bills, or when a Patriots victory would result in the Bills missing the playoffs, since the Bills almost always need help to make the playoffs by early November.
The other reason I like New England is I felt bad for them when they lost to the Giants. I’ve never liked the Giants. (Possibly due to lingering animosity from their narrow Super Bowl win over the Bills that gets replayed every year.) I wanted the Patriots to go 19-0, and it was sad when they were denied on the freakish and bizarre “helmet catch” play.
I hoped they would win the second time around against New York, but wasn’t surprised when they didn’t. That Patriots team had such a bad defense that they had no business being in the Super Bowl. Even the Bills beat them that year. (Trivia: the Bills have beaten the Patriots exactly three times since I started following football: Once in 2003, once in 2011, and once in 2014. In each year, the Patriots have gone on to reach the Super Bowl.)
All this is background to the story of the 2014 season, which was the most memorable football season I have ever had in my years of following the game.