Here in New England, we live in a little bit of a sports bubble. When you’re not regularly traveling outside of the area, it’s easy to forget that not everybody has it as good as we do here.
That isn’t to say other people have it bad, but when football season rolls around, those other people don’t routinely utter the words “championship or bust” in reference to their team. But at this point, that’s oftentimes the mindset of a New England Patriots fan.
And everybody else hates us for it.
I went to San Francisco this past weekend to visit one of my brothers, who recently moved out there from the East Coast because of his job. I’d never been to California, and really I hadn’t been outside of New England in a while.
I went to Clemson, S.C., for college, but they didn’t care too much about professional football. The Carolina Panthers were an afterthought. It was all about college football, and since I cared about Clemson as well, I wasn’t in enemy territory. I fit right in. No one minded or questioned my Patriots allegiance.
It wasn’t like that out on the West Coast. They care about professional football, and in the area I went to they cared about their San Francisco 49ers.
When I touched down on Thursday night, it was clear that I had crossed enemy lines. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
My Patriots hat was lost in a swarm of Niners hats. I was looked at like a leper. For a while I couldn’t tell if I was being gawked at because I had on Patriots gear or because I had on any team-affiliated hat that wasn’t a 49ers hat.
I figured out soon afterwards that no one would have cared if I was wearing a Jets hat. Or a Jaguars hat. Or a Titans hat. They cared because I was wearing a Pats hat.
Two days later, on Saturday, I was out on a walk with my brother and his infant son. We were just touring the area. A man came up to us, drawn in by the cute baby in the stroller.
We got talking to football, and he told us that he couldn’t wait for the 49ers-Packers NFC Divisional Playoff game that night. We said it should be a great game, but were from out of town and weren’t Niners fans.
“Where?” he said.
“I’m from Rhode Island, and my brother is from Connecticut,” I replied.
“Patriots fans huh?”
And then he just walked away. That was the end of our conversation.
Keep in mind that the Patriots and 49ers play in different conferences. They rarely play each other (although they did this year, and the 49ers won). It’s not as though there is some sort of rivalry. This guy just was just disgusted by the idea of New England fans.
Everyone just hates the Patriots.
When the 49ers-Packers game was on that night, I went out to dinner with my brother and his wife. We had no problem getting a table, because everybody in the entire state was either inside or at the bar, screaming for the Niners.
The next day, the Patriots played the Texans, and my brother and I were fixated on the television.
Outside, it looked like Moses was leading the neighborhood to the Red Sea.
Neighbors decided that was the perfect time to take a walk, or wash their car, or play in the yard. The Pats were on, everyone knew they were going to win, and nobody wanted to watch it. It looked like an organized boycott, except it wasn’t organized at all. Everyone just happened to have something in common – Patriots hatred.
We’ve become the New York Yankees of the NFL. We love ourselves, and everyone outside of the little bubble universally hates us. Steelers Fans, Giants fans, Chargers fans, Dolphins fans, Falcons fans, Vikings fans…and 49ers fans. Sub any team name in there, and it’s clear.
As I got on the plane a few days later to return home, I started thinking about that. Do other teams just hate the Patriots because they win all the time? Are Patriots fans obnoxious because of the winning? Deep down, what’s the cause of so much animosity? Jealousy?
Then I stopped thinking about it, because I realized it wasn’t important.
Instead, I thought about what I really wanted to do over these next few weeks: watch the Patriots beat Baltimore on Sunday and the 49ers beat Atlanta on the same day. Then, enjoy a Patriots victory over the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
And, when it’s all said and done, I’ll book a flight back to the West Coast, proudly wearing my Pats hat the whole way.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.