Welcome to the refreshed Pats Pulpit! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post (fewer than 800 words). Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, which means that I’m a Boston Sports Fan by birthright. Boston Sports Fans don’t have to follow every team in the region, but they will naturally care about every team. When I was growing up, I remember going to games at Fenway, bouncing a tennis ball off a wall in order to make a kick save like Byron Dafoe, and launching three pointers as Antoine Walker and Dana Barros on my Dreamcast.
I don’t think I had an immediate natural connection to football. I remember having a Brett Favre poster on my wall because that’s what you did in 1995. I also remember the Patriots facing Favre in the Super Bowl and having a pennant on my wall to celebrate Super Bowl XXXI, but I don’t remember the game itself. Football was the last of the four major Boston sports to cross my mind.
Honestly, I think my relationship with football started with Backyard Football, the computer game. I would play as a custom team (“The Rockets”, of course, with red and blue as the uniform colors), and you could choose a quarterback from Favre and Steve Young to Randall Cunningham and John Elway to Dan Marino and Drew Bledsoe to lead your five-on-five contest. But my favorite part of the game was the custom plays.
I was able to design routes or blocking patterns for my two receivers, running back, and lineman, and it opened up a world of strategy that I hadn’t known before. It was chess, it was ballet, it was Pablo Sanchez using his speed to torch the defense.
This game debuted as the Patriots were firing Pete Carroll and hiring Bill Belichick, changing the course of the franchise. Drew Bledsoe was a player I never used in the game (he was a statue in the pocket in the game!), but was a player I was able to identify with as I started to watch real games on a weekly basis.
Then 2001 happened, Bledsoe was injured, Tom Brady was born, and the Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years. Boston Sports Fans rejoiced after a 15-year “drought.”
I remember watching those Super Bowls with my neighbors. I remember the confusion of the Patriots falling to the Broncos in 2005, forcing the realization that the Patriots weren’t perfect. I remember Reche Caldwell’s drop in the AFC Championship Game, I remember the Patriots falling to the New York Giants to go 18-1, and I remember watching Brady tear his ACL in my college common room during my freshman year at Boston College and having to walk away from the television because there’s no way Matt Cassel wouldn’t be a total disaster.
But my fandom of the Patriots took to new heights the following year as Brady struggled to return from his injury. I wanted to know how Brady compared to other quarterbacks returning from a similar injury, and I wanted to know how long it would take for him to be better. I couldn’t find what I wanted to read.
And so after five weeks of the 2009 season, with Brady failing to break 300 passing yards four games in a row, I found Pats Pulpit. I wrote a FanPost suggesting that the Patriots should acquire then-Rams RB Steven Jackson (just a few years too early on that one!) to take pressure off of Brady and give the young defense some breathing room.
You see, the Patriots had so many draft picks and the Rams were rebuilding, so why couldn’t the two sides reach an agreement? Jackson went on to average 1,552 yards from scrimmage from 2009-12.
The Patriots proceeded to defeat the Tennessee Titans 59-0 the next week as Laurence Maroney and BenJarvus Green-Ellis combined for 190 yards on 23 carries (8.26 yards per carry). Even with the running back position seemingly set, I was hooked on the analysis and team-building of football.
While the most rewarding time of the football calendar might be January and February, my favorite time of the football season is March and April, when free agency and the draft set the foundation for the future. Heading into the 2010 NFL Draft, my first while writing about the team, I called Devin McCourty “a perfect Patriot” and TE Rob Gronkowski “the best fit in the entire draft.” I predicted the team would draft LB Brandon Spikes, P Zoltan Mesko, and QB Zac Robinson.
I loved the research behind why each player could be a fit for the Patriots strategy, how Bill Belichick would maneuver the draft board to add his players, and the marriage of advanced analytics with old fashioned scouting.
When the Patriots traded away Richard Seymour for a 2011 first round draft pick, it took me some time to understand Belichick’s vision for the team. When the 2011 draft came about, I was still attending business school and realized what the Patriots had done.
Belichick had a pair of first round picks. He used the earlier pick to add a talented prospect. He traded the second selection for a second round pick and a future first round pick. He had traded Seymour for the opportunity to get a bonus second round pick for a long as the value made sense. It was this strategy that made me realize that Belichick was on a whole different level from other team managers.
Over the years, I’ve written over 6,000 articles, covered three Super Bowls, attended this latest one in person, and I’ve seen how the the football world has slowly caught up to where Belichick was back in 2009 when he traded Seymour. Belichick has already moved on from the draft to find other inefficiencies worth exploiting as teams follow in his wake.
I was a Boston Sports Fan by birth. I followed the Patriots because of Drew Bledsoe, the unsung savior of the franchise (and I’ve been able to talk with him through his job. Great guy, great wine. #HumbleBrag).
But my fandom grew with my appreciation of the Patriots advanced approach of incorporating data and financial techniques into their team-building.
Why are you a fan? How did your fandom develop?
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