THE NOUVEAU RICHE
For the first 40 years of their existence, the Patriots existed in a netherworld. Geographically set apart in the small hamlet of Foxborough, Mass., with one road leading in and out, they were usually bad on the field and occasionally an embarrassment off it.
One coach — Chuck Fairbanks — tried to leave on the eve of the playoffs, and another — Bill Parcells — negotiated his exit during Super Bowl week. There was a drug scandal, a disgraceful locker-room incident that made national headlines and a revolving door of quarterbacks, one more inept than the next.
Enter Bill Belichick. Ornery and antisocial with the press, the coach is a villain to most of the country — an evil genius in an ill-fitting hoodie. Around here, however, it’s hard to find fault with the man.
Team owner Robert Kraft is a former season-ticket holder who saved the franchise from a move to St. Louis, thus making him practically family. Quarterback Tom Brady is so untouchable, we’re even willing to overlook his occasional modeling forays. Without warning, the Patriots have become the envy of professional football.
Considering their tragicomic history, their success has earned them something of a lifetime pass. That’s not to say that the Pats aren’t scrutinized and debated on a never-ending talk-radio loop or covered by a voracious news media that tries to point fingers even in victory. Perhaps no team is as artfully dissected for the sin of being good, and that makes us defend them even more.
The Patriots kick-started Boston’s sports renaissance and rewired our tortured psyches. It was linebacker Tedy Bruschi who spoke for all of us after a particularly satisfying playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts by saying, “You come to Foxborough, it’s gonna be snowing. It’s gonna be cold. … We still play. And we win.” Deal with it.