• End of Innocence: The Story of Patriots Fans


    (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) – As Patriots fans, we can try and hide from it if we'd like and say it's not true. We can tell everyone that will listen that we're just like every other group of fans in the NFL in that we aren't spoiled and don't expect to win each and every week; however, the fact is…we'd be lying. Patriots fans are in fact spoiled, the whole lot of us, and it is Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's fault.

    On Sunday, the Pats beat their arch rivals 29-26 in overtime. They trailed by three with less than two minutes to go before Brady led the offense on the game-tying field goal drive and then another drive in overtime for the go ahead score.

    The defense came up with the big play when it mattered, as Rob Ninkovich forced the walk-off fumble on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to seal the deal. The win moved the team to 4-3 and put them in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. It should have been a good day, yet the game left most people frustrated.

    The team lacks a killer instinct.

    Tom Brady is awful in the 4th quarter.

    The pass defense is abysmal.

    All of the above have some truth to them. The team has been lacking a killer instinct. Losing three games by a total of four points has proved that.

    Tom Brady has struggled in the 4th quarter. He has his lowest completion percentage and quarterback rating of his career in the final frame.

    And do we even need to talk about the pass defense? Thirtieth in the league, and they just allowed the god awful Jets air attack to throw for over 300 yards. There is something terribly broken in the secondary, that is something we can all agree on.

    But still, wasn't yesterday supposed to be fun? Wasn't it supposed to feel good? Did the team really deserve the plethora of boo's that they got throughout the fourth quarter? I can remember back in 2001, when the Pats were given a standing ovation by the Foxborough stadium crowd after a 24-17 loss against the Rams, and now we're booing them during a win? What has changed?

    The answer is quite simple - expectations. Back in '01, Brady was a sixth round pick who burst on the scene, a breath of fresh air with how he managed the game and made plays late. No one knew a thing about him, but we loved how he handled the team. Now? Brady is 35-years-old and a two-time MVP with three Super Bowl rings, and we expect him to win every game. We expect him to make every throw. When he doesn't, it's a failure.

    The same goes with Bill Belichick. When the Pats lose, it's shocking because hey, we've got Bill and they don't.

    After the game yesterday, something struck me. Pats fans have slowly transformed into Yankee fans, and it's unfortunate. For the majority of fans, it's Super Bowl or bust, and anything else will be greeted with discontent. There is no joy in watching the team struggle to win a game against a division rival at home because we've seen them win so much.

    In a way 2007 was the worst thing to happen to this organization. The way the team eviscerated nearly everyone in their path for the majority of that year created an image inside all of our minds of what was supposed to happen. But in reality that image was not real, it was a mirage. No team can play at that level consistently, and it showed as the '07 team began to slow towards the end of the regular season, and eventually lost the Super Bowl that shall not be named.

    But that image, of blow-outs and video game style dominance has lived on. Much like last week in Yankee Stadium when the team was booed off the field following an ALCS loss, this Patriots team is not just playing against their opponent, but they are playing against the ghosts of their past. Yankee fans can still close their eyes and see Derek Jeter winning four World Series in his first five seasons, just as Pats fans will forever have the image of Tom Brady raising the Lombardi Trophy engrained in their minds.

    Now does that mean we'd trade in the success and return to the pre-Brady/Belichick era where winning wasn't expected? Of course not. Being the best organization in your sport is a remarkable thing. But the truth is, while those teams gave fans so much they also took something away from them. They took their sports innocence.

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