Saturday, February 3, 2018

The GOAT's deep, dark secret

It is almost impossible to live in New England and not have some interaction with a rabid fan of the New England Patriots. From the beginning of football season in September until the playoffs, their stats tend to be water cooler fodder, Uber analysis, and occasionally a softly spoken prayer uttered during church. I think it must be a law that true fans have to use the phrase “we” any time they are discussing their favorite team.

We really wiped the floor with those guys.
We’re in the lead.
We’re going to the Super Bowl.

Really? This “we” stuff is beyond me. I didn’t see you in the team line-up or on the field – not even on the side with a striped shirt and a whistle. Nope, you were home on your sofa or at your local watering hole yelling at the television screen, and the closest you got to investing in the team’s welfare was your Patriots t-shirt, and guess what? Dick’s Sporting Goods reaped the majority of that profit.

My teasing is all in good fun and fandom. I am particularly sensitive to the Patriots’ enthusiastic admirers. The team is, after all, heading to the Super Bowl for the tenth time, which is a phenomenal feat. But... well, nobody’s perfect.

During middle school Second Born participated in cheerleading – the most unlikely activity for her to choose – for one season. She confesses now to not being the coach’s favorite, since she tended to be “too busy” to attend practice half the time, but she did get to board a bus with her team mates for a day at Gillette Stadium. Her dad, being the kind and generous soul that he is, volunteered to chaperone. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

The afternoon was crammed with activity, including an inflatable obstacle course for the visiting cheerleaders and an autograph session with the Patriots, but Second Born only has one clear memory of the day.
Anybody got a pen?

Tom Brady stole someone’s pen.

Yup, everyone has a dark side. All right, maybe not a dark side exactly.

The story goes like this. The New England Patriots appeared during that afternoon to visit with fans who stood least six deep in anticipation of gleaning a treasured autograph. Second Born tried to shove her tiny body through the wall of adults who had somehow forgotten this was for the kids that they had chaperoned, but it was fairly futile. She was, however, able to witness The Moment. Brady had accepted a pen from an excited fan hoping for an autograph, signed one or two footballs that were shoved in his direction – neither of them belonging to the pen owner – and turned and walked off with pen in hand.

“Did he just –?”
“Yeah, he did.”

That’s right, you heard it here first. Tom Brady took possession. Of a pen. You think you know a guy.

What might have prompted this misdemeanor? Did the GOAT simply forget that he hadn’t been holding a pen when he first appeared? Or was he given a directive? Perhaps Belichick gave his team a pep talk ahead of time, much like he does before each game.

“Hey guys, we’re having a great year but you know, this fancy stadium isn’t cheap to maintain. We’ve had to cut back on a few things, like office supplies… see what you can do.”

We’ll never know, I suppose.

This Sunday there will be a whole lot of well-deserved cheering going on for the Patriots. Maybe one of you has a connection to the team – excuse me, I mean our team - and can share my thoughts with them. If you’re reading this, Tom (Brady, that is), I wish you the best of luck Sunday.

Now, about that pen.

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