There’s something about being from Buffalo, New York. There’s something about being obsessed with a football team that has not made the playoffs since 1999. There’s something about knowing chicken wings only come from one…er, two places. There’s something about a bar with a wall of televisions that refers to more than just our area code. I think our city has a passion, that can border on obnoxious, but comes from unconditional love. I think our city is proud of our roots and what we can give to others. I think our city is coming back from an economic downturn and striving to be a draw again. There’s something else I know about being from Buffalo, New York: I’m pretty sure we all hate the New England Patriots.
See, the Buffalo Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999 and that streak has shared a majority of its time with the emergence of a certain 6th-round pick turned first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Bills have only beat the Patriots twice since 2005 including once this past season. On the other hand, the Patriots have won 4 Super Bowls in 14 seasons including one last Sunday. Also in the last 14 years, the Patriots have appeared in the Super Bowl 6 times, completed a regular season undefeated, and made the playoffs every season but one year. I can understand why we don’t like the Patriots, they kick our butt. Every year. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why we hate the players.
I will not repeat the terms and jokes I have heard about Tom Brady and his sexuality, fashion, and night-time regimens. I’m pretty sure every Patriots player takes food from poor, hungry children in soup kitchens. Should I even mention where Bill Belichick can go?
But why do we hate these players? They are paid to play a sport for a franchise. They are men from a variety of backgrounds and stories. There is something…pure about not like players because they play for a certain franchise. It speaks to fanhood, support for your hometown, and camaraderie in disliking other people. For me, it took a certain amount of naivete to just assume people are bad because I don’t like how their football-related decisions affect my football team. But isn’t it harder to hate players nowadays? I mean, I don’t why you would throw the ball, but is there a cooler story than Malcolm Butler right now?
Malcolm Butler is a nickel corner from the Patriots who made the game-winning play in the Super Bowl this past weekend. He played at a small university and his chances of making the NFL were bleak at best. Heck, on the last pass play before his interception, he was the victim of a catch that would make Newton reconsider the tenets of physics. His rags-to-riches story cuts through the tribal B.S. that can sometimes constitute fandom. He isn’t just some player on those awful Patriots. He is Malcolm Butler. We know too much.
Even the most faithful Patriots fan can’t be too happy about this playoff run. The Patriots have been accused of cheating in the AFC Championship; a game they won handily 38-7. This is not the first time the Patriots have been accused of cheating and the NFL has opened an investigation. Some fans will inevitably bunker down and hold up the Lombardi trophy as a testament to “Us Against The World”. However, I think some fans have to consider how many of their wins can be attributed to cheating. We know too much.
This whole “knowing too much” isn’t just with football. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, recently did a piece for ESPN the Magazine touching on the NBA’s openness to legalizing sports betting in the entire United States. As a naive fan, it blew my mind that a top-tier professional sports league would actually concede to legalizing sports betting. I put this topic to my GoS brethren and Aaron provided a question to my question that was spectacular: Would you rather have $500,000 in cash of $10 million in crack?
The analogy is on point. The amount of money bet on the NBA is double the annual profit of the NBA. If the NBA could tax betting organizations for official NBA Stats & Information, they could make enough money to buy a country. Further, regulation of sports betting could make betting safer for consumers with more transparency throughout the process. This sports betting story is not even considering the new TV contract set to come to fruition in the upcoming years that will push NBA profits to unprecedented heights. So much for naivete.
Does the little boy in me know too much? Probably. Have I lost that sense of wonder with sports? I don’t know. But I know I lost my voice last Sunday. See for some reason, as I watched the Patriots win another Super Bowl, I couldn’t stop myself from yelling, WHO THROWS THE BALL?!