The New England Patriots are statistically one of the best teams in the National Football League’s history. They have 19 division titles, nine conference championships, four Super Bowl victories and 24 playoff appearances. They also hold numerous league records, including an undefeated regular season in 2007, most consecutive division titles won, most wins in a ten year period and the longest winning streak in NFL history. This team has definitely solidified themselves as a football dynasty.
Although the Patriots’ records and successes speak for themselves, the Patriots are also backed by an extremely loyal New England fan base, including fans here at Wellesley. Lucy Hurlock ’17, a lifelong Pats fan, explained, “We’re all a little crazy [in Boston]… if there is something that can bring us together, it’s getting behind our city and our sports teams. Even if that means spending hundreds of dollars to sit in the snow and freezing weather to cheer on our team!” Jennifer Fanning ’20 echoed Hurlock’s statements and emphasized how Patriots fandom comes with the territory in Boston. “The reason I’m a Patriots fan is because my entire family consists of Patriots fans. I’ve grown up in Boston for my entire life, and we’re big sports people here, so I’ve basically been surrounded by the Patriots. Being a Patriots fan is kind of my default. It’s like political socialization, but for football. So I’ve always been rooting for the Pats,” she explained.
The Patriots are led by the iconic duo of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Together, these two have led the team to seven of its nine Super Bowl appearances. “Bill Belichick takes players that were underused or even neglected on other teams, such as Sealver Siliga and Matthew Mulligan, and actually coaches them into becoming key players on the Pats’ current roster,” said Patriots fan Arielle Wons ’ 20. While coaching for the Patriots, Belichick has set the current league record for coaching wins at 201 and he is the NFL’s longest tenured active head coach. Belichick’s record-breaking time with the Patriots is accompanied by the success of his star quarterback, Tom Brady. After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, Brady began starting for the Patriots during the 2001 season. He brought the team to a division championship and a playoff bye, while also earning his first Pro-Bowl appearance. Since then, Brady has exploded into an All-Star quarterback, earning 12 Pro-Bowl selections, two league MVP awards and three Super Bowl MVP awards.
The Belichick and Brady combination are extremely recognizable throughout New England and the rest of the National Football League, making them just as easy to hate as to love. “Patriots fans praise the ground that Brady walks on. He is not a great quarterback. He is surrounded by a strong defense and rarely makes clutch plays… New England fans need to relax and realize that their quarterback who they would take a bullet for isn’t extraordinary by any means,” Wendy Nettleton ’17 reasoned. Belichick and Brady have both been linked in scandals over the years, including the infamous “Deflategate,” which fuels their polarizing image within the NFL. “I mean they win a lot, so I imagine it bothers some people. They’re also constantly surrounded by scandals, and they’re painfully white,” explained Aviance Obie ’20 when asked what makes the Patriots so easy to hate. “I do think Belichick is a better coach than Brady is a quarterback but the organization has been so tainted by scandals that they shouldn’t be looked up to,” Nettleton added.
As we approach Super Bowl Sunday this weekend, the Wellesley community will be tuning in along with the rest of the country’s football fans. For some, a Patriots victory will continue to solidify the team’s place in history and delight the dedicated fan base. For others, however, the potential of seeing this polarizing team defeated will keep them glued to the game.