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How I became a fan: Blessed with the era of greatness

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NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

My first football memory came on February 3rd, 2002 — a day now more famously known as the start of the greatest dynasty in pro football history. The Patriots, with the out-of-nowhere phenom Tom Brady, took on the juggernaut St. Louis Rams, who were the overwhelming favorites. I was 6 months away from celebrating my 6th birthday, and I was forced to go to bed at halftime, only finding out they won because it was the first thing out of my mouth in the morning. Football had me hooked.

I don’t remember a time when the Patriots were bad. I was incredibly blessed to be born in 1996, just before a season that saw Drew Bledsoe lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl, albeit a loss to the Packers. The closest thing I have ever seen to a bad season was 2008, when a god damn Matt Cassell-led Patriots team finished with the best record for a non-playoff team ever. Even when the Patriots weren’t successful, they’ve done it better than anyone else.

Because I have been so blessed to grow up as a person and a fan in this era, I really don’t have a right to even attempt to talk about any “hard” times as a fan, but I’m going to anyway. The initial run of Super Bowls came when I was 5, 7, and 8 years old. I remember watching each game, but the only reason I can remember any details outside of the final score (and Donavan McNabb puking while his team was trying to mount a comeback) comes from going back and watching them as I get older. The first year I can vividly remember how a game went as I was watching it live was the 2006 meltdown against the Colts in the AFCCG. Not pretty. After that came the game and the catch that will never be referenced by name. I cried for hours when the clock hit zero, went outside and burned a Giants hat and took it to school and dropped it on my Giants fan friends desk the next morning.

After the Brady injury, and the second Giants Super Bowl (one which I have come to accept as I get older that they really didn’t deserve to win in the first place. The Giants were the better team that year), it seemed like the Patriots were destined to always be one of the best teams in the league, but never the best team in the league as Tom Brady wound down his career.

For any non-Patriots fans reading this, I know how it sounds. Boo-hoo, right? The poor Patriots fan had to deal with his team just being historically great and consistently in the conference championship or beyond, what a terrible life as a fan. Even through those years, it was extremely great to be a Patriots fan. The only reason I brought all that up is to provide some context to back up my next statement.

February 1st, 2015—right in the middle of my freshman year of college, a few months from another anniversary with my amazing girlfriend—was the best day of my life. I was absolutely terrified that I was going to have to go through life saying that I got to watch the greatest quarterback to ever do it, but was too young to fully appreciate any of his Super Bowl victories in the moment they happened. Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and “Pass isss...intercepted at the goal line!! By Malcolm Butler!!!” gave me the first real taste of just how amazing it is to be a Patriots fan in this era. 28-3 may have surpassed the interception as the greatest event in Patriots history, but no single play will ever mean more to me than Malcolm Butler doing the near-impossible.

The Patriots have left us completely blessed, and while we as fans have the right to be arrogant about it, I think it does get lost on us sometimes. If they manage to finish off the second 3 championships in 4 years of this era, they will own 13 of the Lombardi Trophies of this millennium. What we have been able to witness as fans is historic, and in all likelihood will never be matched. I’m just incredibly grateful to be a part of it.