Last night, I was reminded why I love sports almost as much as anything on this Earth. No, I'm not a fan of the New England Patriots, but given the region I reside in, I got to spend the evening with a group of people who do - And I don't mean a group of people who jumped on the bandwagon after they found success; I'm talking about a group of people who were called foolish for wasting so much of their time cheering for a franchise that would forever be unsuccessful, dysfunctional, and an afterthought in their own home town just 20 years ago.
My grandfather was the biggest baseball fan I ever knew. I got my love and obsession of the sport from him. However, the gene skipped a generation in our family, because while my parents both enjoy baseball, they've always been fans of the New England Patriots first and foremost. I got my stubbornness of rooting for a team that continuously loses and plays second fiddle in their own town to a sport from another season from them.
You see, not all that long ago, the Patriots were one of the biggest afterthoughts of the NFL. In one particularly grim seven year period stretching from the 1989 to 1995 seasons, the club went a disastrous 35-77; good for a dreadful .313 winning percentage. Those are the New England teams I remember growing up. A typical autumn Sunday afternoon in our household 20 years ago would consist of me playing with my toy trucks while my parents screamed at the little 19 inch TV set for three hours, passionately cheering on a team, and for that matter a franchise that the masses generally agreed had no chance of ever going anywhere.
The region didn't seem to care much either. Most folks here who called themselves sports fans were predominately concerned about whether or not the Red Sox were going to win a championship before they died. The Patriots were nothing more than an off season distraction. A franchise who did nothing but pile up losing seasons, and had only one unlikely run to a conference championship before getting waxed on the sport's biggest stage in the mid 1980's.
If you've ever seen the sitcom Cheers, set in Boston in the 80's and 90's, it's quite easy to tell what the pecking order of Boston sports looked like at this time. The show makes numerous references to the Red Sox, Bruins, and even Celtics in select episodes (the Celtics were probably a little under represented), but you wouldn't even know the Patriots existed.
Even in the early 2000's when the Patriots started winning Superbowls and making routine playoff runs in January, Boston sports radio was dominated by Red Sox off season happenings, especially when they got involved in an arms race with the Yankees to pry Alex Rodriguez out of Texas.
I bring this up today because I see my current fandom of the Rockies in my parents' fandom of the Patriots 20 years ago, and if you're reading this blog in the dead of winter, well then you're in that club too. We love a team that piles up losing seasons, and has only one run at a pennant before getting waxed on the sport's biggest stage. Others question your loyalty to the team, and perhaps you yourself have done the same from time to time, but I'm here to tell you today to keep your passion, no matter how horrible things get.
This isn't a piece to say that the Rockies will ever enjoy the success the Patriots have over the last 15 years. Those types of runs only happen to the select few. Instead, the point of this piece, and yes I do have one, is about a simple decision I made about where to watch last night's game.
I was invited to multiple Superbowl parties. One at my uncle's house, which is where my parents were going, and another, more age appropriate invitation, where pretty much every person is in their twenties. Despite what social norms would tell you, I didn't go to the latter gathering.
One destination was filled with people who cheered for the Patriots because they grew up when it was easy to be a fan of the team, and the other included people who loved the team when it wasn't cool to do that. If New England happened to win, I wanted a glimpse at the reactions of those who loved the team most. I wanted to see what we dream about as Rockies' fans happening to somebody else. A reaction that can only be felt by those who love a team regardless of record.
When Malcolm Butler intercepted that ball in the closing seconds of the game, there was a palpable sense of extreme jubilation in my parents' faces that can't be put into words - And at that moment, I too was overcome with emotion. In one sense, I was thrilled for the people I love, but in another sense, I was given the best gaze I could possibly get into the emotion I may have someday if the Rockies ever win the World Series.
For those of you out there who bleed purple, I'm here to tell you that it's an emotion worth pursuing, even if you have to wait decades to be rewarded.
I'm not a Patriots fan, but their win last night helped remind me of why I root for the Rockies. It doesn't matter how long I have to wait, I want to experience the emotion I saw last night. It was simply glorious.