There’s something inexplicably cool about watching sports with a group of people – especially when your team is the New England Patriots.
Sports is the great equalizer. Throughout history it has hastened the blending of different races due to the mutual appreciation of athletic talent; it brings people of totally different backgrounds and belief system together, even if only for a little while; it transcends the things we viciously squabble about on a daily basis on Facebook and news site comment boards with people we’ll never meet.
A sampling of people at the bar and restaurant section of Dave’s Bar and Grill on Sunday afternoon/early evening on Sunday afternoon would reveal both staunch Trump supporters and those who pray for his impeachment. There would be devout Catholics and atheists; and those who think icing the kicker is actually a smart tactic and those who find it to be silly and something that backfires more often than not.
However for three hours, none of those identifiers matter. What matters is the jersey you’re sporting, and which game you first remember watching. What was the most brutal defeat you can recall? The most joyous moment of elation following a period of dread as you watched – passively and helplessly – as 22 gargantuan men brutally fight for ground on a large lawn, one yard at a time.
It was why, when Cranston Mayor Allan Fung happened to wander into the bar during the second half with his wife Barbara Ann Fenton, the night didn’t suddenly change into a political event. The game took precedence. Even as staff from the Beacon took advantage of the time to bend Fung’s ear for his take on the new FY19 state budget, Fung’s eyes never left the TV for more than a few seconds.
Ask those who know him well, and they’ll tell you about how Fung’s parents kept a Polaroid of him as a kid smiling and wearing a Patriots jersey. He only showed up to Dave’s because his original location to watch – Arooga’s – seemed to be steering the Pats down a road of bad cosmic juju. Say whatever you’d like about his candidacy for governor, but don’t let anyone doubt that Allan Fung is a true-blooded Patriots fan.
However one thing we, for some reason, just cannot seem to learn from sports is the concept of sportsmanship and teamwork. For three hours, among common fanbases, the little differences melt away. Once the celebration is over, however, we go back to decrying those differences and finding reasons to be upset with one another – despite the fact that a Pat Patriot flag might be waving outside both residences.
Tom Brady would never have sniffed one championship, let alone be one victory away from his sixth Super Bowl ring, if he didn’t fully embrace the mantra of teamwork. The 2001-04 teams won because of a stout defense and Tom’s coolness under pressure, as well as his development into a true passing quarterback. They won the two most recent due to a total team buy-in, with no one individual carrying the entire weight of the team’s success (maybe outside of Brady).
To most, answering the question posed earlier about the most heartbreaking isn’t exactly a head scratcher. The team was one win away from doing the impossible – a perfect 19-0 season in 2007/08. But they didn’t finish, and the seasons following crumbled as well as it was revealed the team had some serious chemistry issues fissuring the unit from the inside. The teams that failed to embrace teamwork also failed.
We live in New England, and that means two things. One, we are living in the most incomparably lucky time in sports history for any fan base. Never in sports history has a geographic area experienced such all-encompassing dominance in so many areas of professional sports as New England has experienced the last two decades (going all the way back to the Patriots defeat in the 1996 Super Bowl).
And second? We should understand the value of teamwork better than anybody. We should understand how crucial it is to work together towards common goals rather than splitting apart based on our tiny incongruities. Instead of arguing, we need to be discussing. Instead of reactionary insulting, we need to try to listen and come to a better understanding together, whether we agree in the end or not.
If we ever hope to create a prosperous American dynasty comparable to the Patriots, but for real, it will only develop after we learn how to play together like a team.