Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Patriots and politics: when your idols are exposed

By Tess Halpern

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks off the field with the most wins as a quarterback after defeating the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

My family has some excessively passionate New England Patriots fans in it and although that might not be surprising to read in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, as New Yorkers, we are rather unique.

Being a New England fan in New York is never easy; the Patriots are a polarizing team and those that don’t love them usually hate them. I’m sure you can imagine what it was like going to school the Monday after the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII in 2007 because the New York Giants scored a last-minute touchdown to end what could’ve been the record-breaking “perfect season.” The Monday after the Patriot’s loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI hurt just as badly, and my friends who are Giants fans still taunt me about those two lost rings.

But being an outspoken fan often means you have to be more devoted than those who root for their home teams, remaining passionate and knowledgeable in order to defend your team at a moment’s notice. No one embraces that mindset better than my mom, who watches every minute of head coach Bill Belichick mumbling through post-game press conferences with rapt attention and asks me weekly if I watched the newest “Inside the Locker Room” video from the Patriot’s website. I wish I was exaggerating, but we even to this day still have a photo of Malcom Butler’s game-winning interception against Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX hanging on our refrigerator.

So when I spoke to my mom last Tuesday, five days before the Patriots would take on the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, I expected her excitement to be palpable as we discussed the latest interview with Martellus Bennett and debated Julian Edelman’s playoff beard.

But instead my mom was somewhat reserved, admitting that she wasn’t happy although she was trying her hardest not to send the Patriots “bad energy.”

The three leaders of the polarizing Patriots organization—Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft—all have strong personal ties to America’s most polarizing man, President Donald Trump. Given Trump’s actions during his first few weeks in office, my mom was having a hard time respecting some of her favorite Patriots.

How could Kraft, the man who coined the trademark phrase, “We are all Patriots,” and Brady, the quarterback who competes every Sunday while wearing a jersey with the same color scheme as our nation’s flag, both support the man who had signed an executive order that was essentially a Muslim ban?

Patriots fans throughout New England and beyond have struggled with the political silence of Brady, Belichick and Kraft. Although they have not outwardly endorsed our President and have publicly claimed to disagree with some of his policies, they have remained friendly with him and have not denounced him or his actions as President thus far. In the eyes of some fans, my mom included, that is just as harmful.

Like my mom, I too have struggled to come to terms with the fact that some of my favorite Patriots remain friendly with the man whose election inspired me to join hundreds of thousands of people in protest just a few weeks ago. I found myself thinking, “But Brady seems like such a nice guy and seems to have such a down-to-Earth life outside of football, and Kraft is known for being exceedingly kind and talking to his players as if they are family! How could these two, along with Belichick (who I admit is a little bit more of a wild-card), support Trump?”

For fans, it has become increasingly difficult to separate the players we idolize from who they are outside of the game. We want to know every detail of their personal lives but once we find something we don’t like or something that doesn’t fit into our preconceived notion of who they “really” are, it becomes difficult to see them in the same idealized way that we once did.

But we don’t know who they really are. All we know is how they perform.

Brady’s political views don’t change the way he can control a snap-count or throw a football, just as Belichick’s views don’t change the way he runs a practice or calls a play. We love and admire these figures for their abilities on the field, and knowing who they voted for shouldn’t change that.

If you have a family member who has a different political view than yourself, do you love them any less for it? You might look at them a little differently, or ponder how someone so close to you could be so different, but family is family and love is love. Politics don’t change that.

Tom Brady is still New England’s cool older brother, Belichick is still our surly but somewhat endearing uncle and I don’t think I’m alone in viewing Kraft as my very own grandpa. Do their political views slightly mar the idealized image that I had of them in my head? Maybe, but I still hope that by the time this is published on Monday, Belichick will have led the Patriots to another Super Bowl victory and Brady will have shook hands with Roger Goodell as he was presented with his fourth Super Bowl MVP trophy.

After all, Sundays aren’t for politics, they’re for football.

Tess Halpern is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

About the Writer
Tess Halpern, Opinion & Editorial Editor
Tess Halpern discusses the struggles retail stores are facing with the boom in e-commerce.
1 Comment

One Response to “Patriots and politics: when your idols are exposed”

  1. Sitting Bull on February 6th, 2017 4:19 pm

    Tess – If sharing common political beliefs is important to preserve your friendships, you have two options. Settle your life in New England, the West Coast or NYC. Or, don’t ask any of your friends their political beliefs. Even if you live in these places, you’ll always be surprised how many people have ideas different than yours. Learn from the latest editorial that was just posted. Forget the hype that the UMASS mindset is the only correct one. It’s the same mindset that started everything from the Crusades to ISIS. Don’t give in to liberal superiority. Believe it or not, you are wrong about a lot of things you currently believe you are correct about. You just haven’t learned it yet. Don’t inject politics into your personal life otherwise you’ll find yourself not only with half the amount of friends you thought you had, but also with a very one-sided view of the world. As for Tom Brady, he’s just a football player. Root for him because he’s good at that. You don’t know him or his politics. He might just be Trump’s golfing buddy once a year. You’d be surprised to learn that some of the best individuals in the world are people who have polar opposite politiical beliefs than yours. Stop judging based on such superficiality.

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