The self-loathing involved in loving the Patriots

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 4, 2017 9:26 PM

1985. That was the year one of the worst teams in football (so sayeth The Bleacher Report’s Doug Baker), actually made it to the Super Bowl. It was my first year in California. I was living in San Diego, with my boyfriend, the one would eventually become my first husband, and we were invited to a Super Bowl party. We had made some friends, none of them close; none of them the kind that would prove to be lasting. It was the year of the Super Bowl Shuffle, William “the Refrigerator” Perry, and the 46 defense. The Chicago Bears went 15 and 1 that year. In the Super Bowl they met the New England Patriots who were aging and not very good. Steve Grogan was under center. He remains one of the few names some people still remember from the team. He threw one touchdown pass to the other somewhat memorable name, Irving Fryar. The rather lopsided score was 46 – 10.

I was a Patriots fan, having spent my high school and college years in the land of jumbled consonants and flattened vowels. The land of Kennedy, John Adams, and Jed Bartlet, the fictional president who would come much later. I remained a Pats fan through the many dark years that followed. When the oughts finally arrived, a new era seemed to arrive with them. It was as if having double zeros and the start of a new century gave my hapless team a chance at re-birth, and what emerged has been fairly successful. Starting especially with the 2001 season, when a then second-string quarterback took the team to the Super Bowl, it has been a ride we New Englanders enjoy to the point of distraction. 

I remember watching the Patriots take the field in 2002 in their silver, red and blue as a team rather than with traditional single player introductions. I was so proud. This was after the horror of September 11, 2001 and seeing a team named the Patriots take the field as one seemed symbolic. We were all patriots, Americans, one. New England went on to win 20-17. The dynasty was born. 

Tomorrow the Patriots will take the field again, their seventh with Tom Brady under center. And I have mixed feelings. 

Most people not living in or from New England hate the Patriots. They think they’re cheaters, they think they’re arrogant. They hate Brady and his super model wife. They hate coach hoodie. As Jack Hamilton, a writer for Slate magazine, wrote yesterday in his article How to Pull for the Patriots in the Age of Trump, “hating the Patriots is perhaps the last truly bipartisan pastime in America.”

Therein lie my mixed feelings. I have loved my team for a long time, through the very bad and through the exceptionally good, but this year, the fact that Tom Brady had a Make America Great Again hat in his locker bugs me. The fact that Belichick wrote a letter to the man who fancies himself king bugs me. The fact that Robert Kraft considers the toddler a friend bugs me – less than the Brady thing bugs me but it still bugs. Like most New Englanders, I am not a fan of the current occupant of the White House. Every state in New England voted for Hillary Clinton; Massachusetts, where the Patriots live and play, was the only state in the country where every single county was blue. It’s hard to support the team when they support the travesty that has overtaken our once great country. And actually, that’s not fair. Not all of the players support the toddler. Martellus Bennett, the star tight end in his first year with the Pats who has become a fan favorite, has already said that if the Pats win today he won’t be making the ceremonial trip to the White House. Brady didn’t go to the White House in 2015 when they beat the Seahawks. It bugged me but I managed to excuse it. It doesn’t look so good now. 

Hamilton wrote: “So not only is there a high probability that the typical Trump supporter hates the Patriots, there are an awful lot of Patriots supporters who hate Trump, too.” Count me as one, though I prefer the word “loathe.” It’s more guttural. 

So what’s a Pats fan to do when the men at the helm of the beloved team appear to support a man I loathe? A man so utterly contemptable and cruel? Honestly, I don’t know. I realize that this is only a game, but it’s such a symbol, so symptomatic of a bigger issue. Democracy versus authoritarianism. The Patriots, like all teams in football, have an authoritarian bent. Belichick is king. What he says is law, in the locker room and on the field. The players fall in line or they get kicked to Cleveland. It has worked for 17 years. 

But now, here I am. Today we’re going to a party. In Arizona, the Toddler in Chief isn’t as universally reviled as he is in Massachusetts and New England. But the Pats are reviled for all of the reasons stated above. Since I’ve lived here, I have proudly worn my Patriots attire in public and I’ve taken a lot of guff about it. Today I’ll pull my #12 NFL jersey over my head but I won’t have the same joy. I love my team and I hate myself for it. 

As Hamilton’s article said: “… rooting for the Patriots feels like rooting for the Joker in a Christopher Nolan Batman film—they’re psychotically single-minded, amoral, gallingly narcissistic, purveyors of opportunistic, meticulous chaos. 

To me it feels a little like this:

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A good day for democracy

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 3, 2015 10:16 PM

There are days when I shake my head at some of the stupid things that go on in the name of democracy. I read the other day about a man who, in 1996, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility for the parole because he tried to sell marijuana to the cartel or something. Nothing violent, no children involved. He received a harsher sentence than some murderers and rapists. I was appalled.

The three strikes laws that swept through the country in the 1990s imposed mandatory jail sentences, like life in prison for third offenses. The offense could have been as ridiculous as stealing a pack of gum. Wanna chew? Go to prison for the life. Why not also pull all his teeth? Maybe chop off his hands so he can no longer steal? That’s something I call s-t-o-o-p-i-d.

Democracy is a messy process. It’s about fairness, about choosing, about having a say in the way the country is run. It’s about laws that aren’t arbitrarily imposed by government fiat, but rather by people who elect people to make the laws. It’s not a perfect process but it’s infinitely better than dictatorships. I am partial to it even when I find myself banging my head on the desk screaming at no one: What the hell is wrong with this country?

Today, I am proud to say that while a lot remains wrong – the state of policing, the Republican party, lack of outrage at lack of education, climate change, animal cruelty – and stupid – there are some things that are right.

Regular readers know of my general disgust with organized religion. I find it is used far to often to espouse hatred, bias and bigotry, going against everything I always thought religion was supposed to be about. Turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor and all that jazz. I find it particularly appalling when religion is used to justify same. Perhaps that’s why I read today’s news of the Kentucky county clerk receiving jail time and smiled. It’s not that I want people to go to jail, but this is out of hand.

The woman, Kim Davis, is an elected official. She has refused to issue marriage licenses, first to gay people and now to all people on the basis of her religious objections. Four gay couples filed suit. She went to court, and lost. She appealed and lost. She went to the Supreme Court and lost. Through it all, she continued to deny issuing licenses. Today she went to court again and the judge held her in contempt. He could have just issued a fine. In fact, the people who brought the law suit didn’t want her jailed. But the judge was disgusted and put her in jail, indefinitely. At least until she decides to do her job.

She should have been held in contempt. She should have been jailed. She is an elected official. She is in public office. As much as many people would like to change it, there is still the little matter of separation of church and state. Her issuing marriage licenses does not infringe on her religion. If she had to do it on Sunday, maybe. But not Monday thru Friday. She is not entitled to put what she deems “god’s authority” over the law of the land. She is free to believe what she wants; she is not free to only enforce the laws she deems religiously OK. If she doesn’t want to issue marriage licenses, she is also free to resign. Democracy worked in this case and I was pleased.

Then there is the case of Tom Brady. Oh, come on. You knew I had to go there; I’m a New England fan and have been since college. I supported them even in the infamous massacre of 1985 when the Super Bowl shuffle shuffled them right off the field. I supported them through Steve Grogan and Doug Flutie, through Drew Bledsoe. I know that most of the world hates the Patriots and thinks Tom Brady should have been tarred and feathered on the basis that “it was more probable than not that [he] was at least generally aware” of some footballs being a little underinflated. And there was only one or two that were a little underinflated, not the 11 that was initially reported but never corrected. And let’s be honest here. It was air. It is not in the same league as taking steroids, or killing someone. It is so insignificant that it warrants a $25,000 in the rulebook. Not four games, not a team fine or loss of draft picks. The whole thing was ridiculous.

I said to Kevin today that it’s been interesting to watch the internets go from total condemnation based on perception to realizing that maybe, just maybe, Roger Goodell overstepped. That maybe, just maybe this whole thing has been a major power play and ego trip for the commish. The definition of s-t-o-o-p-i-d.

The NFL filed the suit in New York thinking it would get a favorable outcome. It didn’t. Democracy won. Bill Belichick, the infamously sourpuss coach of the Patriots, started a meme last year: “do your job.”

Kim Davis: Do your job.
Roger Goodell: Do your job.
Don’t abuse your job.

All in all, it was a good day for democracy, though I guess it depends on who you ask.

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A culture of destruction

by Lorin Michel Sunday, January 25, 2015 9:53 PM

In the 21st century, because of the constant bombardment of 24-hour cable news and social media sites, of Internet news and more explicitly, Internet commentary, it has become perfectly acceptable to destroy first and ask questions later.

Something happens and our first instinct as a people is to find someone to blame. I can understand that. I believe it’s human nature. But there is also never any thought given to what is being done to people in the name of revenge.  We destroy and cast judgment. We convict people in the court of public opinion. There is no waiting on the facts. We are righteous. We have a keyboard and we’re not afraid to use it to ruin someone just because we can. It doesn’t matter if evidence comes in to eventually exonerate someone. By then, the damage has been done.

Last year, the US rescued soldier Bowe Bergdahl who had been held captive in Afghanistan for five years. People painted him as a traitor, saying he didn’t deserve to be rescued; saying he had deserted his post and had joined the Taliban. Never mind about leave-no-man-behind, the bedrock principle of the military since about the beginning of time. Someone said something at sometime and the media took it and ran with it. Turns out, he wasn’t a traitor. But the damage was done.

The several people originally implicated in the Boston marathon bombing, like Sunil Tripathi, and the “Saudi man,” a 20-year-old man injured in the explosion, were denounced as terrorists. Their names and faces appeared all over the news and social media. People threatened them. They were later proven to have never really been suspects. But the damage was done.

In our current culture, it is permissible to tar and feather someone or a bunch of someones based on absolutely no factual evidence whatsoever. Everyone gloms on and the damage is done.

Several days ago, I didn’t know how to feel about what is being called “Deflate-gate.” I know how to feel now. I’m pissed. This has reached a fever pitch and it seems like much ado about not very much.

The whole country has convicted the patriots and Tom Brady based on little to no evidence. The supposedly 11 deflated footballs, found to be 2 pounds – 2 pounds – under the approved pressure was proof that they had cheated. Never mind that 2 pounds of PSI weighs about the same as a single dollar bill and might be difficult to decipher. Belichick held a press conference, and because he said that his quarterback would know and say more later, the meme became that Coach Hoodie had thrown the Golden Boy under the bus. There was obviously something very rotten in the borough of the Fox.

When Brady held his own press conference later in the day, he was sufficiently contrite. But he didn’t admit wrong-doing. He didn’t look the right way. He didn’t say the right thing. He didn’t stand there and say “I did it.” So he was obviously and completely guilty. Guilty I tell you. String ‘im up.

This whole ridiculous scenario reached a fever pitch by Friday. Don’t get me wrong: If it is found that they intentionally deflated footballs, fine. Level punishment. A fine, a draft pick. Whatever. But these people who are calling for them to be thrown out of the Super Bowl, for them to be suspended, fired. For there to forever be a scarlet letter on their blue jerseys, well, it strikes me a bit as pearl clutching and bring me my smelling salts.

But. Rules!

Give me a break. There are plenty of rules that are broken on the field of play every time there is a game.

Holding. Rule 12, article 4, article 6.

Roughing the passer. Rule 12, article 9.

Roughing the kicker. Rule 12, article 10.

Illegal block to the back, face mask, pass interference, unsportsmanlike conduct. All in Rule 12, which is the set of NFL rules that governs conduct on the field.

They are rules. They are broken all the time. No one screams for anyone to be suspended or to forfeit the game. There are penalties, if someone is caught, and they are enforced.

Read them all here: http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/image/rulebook/pdfs/15_2013_Player_Conduct.pdf 

Here is the entire book: http://www.nfl.com/rulebook

This is serious but Brady didn’t beat his wife, he didn’t beat his kids, he wasn’t cruel to his dog. So far there is no concrete evidence of anything other than footballs were found to be deflated. How that happened has not yet been ascertained, and according to Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk, there was only 1 ball that was 2 pounds of pressure under. The others were maybe a pound. And there is still no evidence that it was done deliberately. But let’s lynch them, let’s tar and feather them. Let’s ban them from the sport forever.

Why do we feel such a need to destroy? Why do we hate so much? It makes me sad; it makes me furious.

Last summer, Kevin and I were on the motorcycle and stopped at a light. I had on a Brady t-shirt. A car pulled up next to us. The window came down in the back. There was a little boy, maybe 2 or 3 at the most, in a car seat. He was saying something to us that I couldn’t quite hear. His dad rolled down his window and proceeded to tell me that the little boy hated Tom Brady. The little boy. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say. Why do people feel they have the right to ridicule another person? Why would a parent teach a child that it’s OK to say something nasty to a perfect stranger because that stranger thinks differently?

I’m pissed.

What’s to celebrate? There are, here and there, the beginnings of sanity, those who are saying something similar. See Mike Florio on PFT, or Pete King on ESPN’s MMQB. Let’s see what happened and then let’s level an appropriate fine if wrong-doing is found to have taken place. Key words: Appropriate fine.

But can we all, please, collectively, chill the f$^% out?

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I have come to terms with the fact that I will never look like Gisele Bündchen

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 31, 2014 5:44 PM

It’s the last day of 2014 and you know what that means. Tomorrow is Lorin’s annual and official de-Christmasing. But as I have this last day to muse and mull, I thought I would share a little something that has gradually occurred to me. I am no longer 35. Yesterday was my birthday, and I haven’t been 35 in actually quite some time. But I use 35 as a metaphor. When I was 35, I was at my physical best. I was tall and thin, still running so I was in great shape. I could slip into my old 501 jeans and have them look spectacular.

I haven’t been able to wear those jeans in a while now though they still hang in my closet because I remain hopeful. I have aspirations.

But I will never be 35 again. I am now safely in my 50s and I am actually very OK with that. I am beginning what many have come to term the more ideal second phase of life. This isn’t to say or even imply that the first phase was un-ideal. In fact, quite the opposite. The first phase saw me get an education and embark on a career that I loved and miraculously still do. It allowed me to appreciate my family. It gave me the opportunity to make real, true, and lasting friends. It gave me my first husband to show me exactly what I didn’t want in a marriage, and thus gave me my favorite husband, Kevin who in turn gave me Justin. And Maguire. And now Cooper. The first phase was the time of my life where I began.

The second phase is the time when I enjoy. Justin is out of school and making his own living. We are now at the time in the parents-child relationship when he actually likes talking to us. When there is no agenda, just love, laughter and joy. It was a long time coming. I’m glad it’s here.

It’s a time when we have reinvented ourselves, picked up our lives and moved to a new city with a new culture, where we can spend time rediscovering things that we like. Art galleries. Restaurants. Sitting by outside fireplaces listening to nothing but music. Watching a house get built on a hill. Meeting new people. Engaging with those our own age. Being unapologetic for it and embracing this second phase as opportunity. Opportunity to live differently and possibility to change because we can. And did.

It’s a time to also realize that 50 is the new best age. We don’t look like we did at 35. We have more lines. Things sag that didn’t used to. Things don’t fit the way they once did. Hair is thinner, for both men and women. But it’s all OK. Because it’s real and true and honest and life.

I titled this post “I have come to terms with the fact that I will never look like Gisele Bündchen.” The fact is, I bet Gisele Bündchen, also known as Mrs. Tom Brady and the highest earning super model in the world, probably doesn’t always look like her magazine-self either. She’s pretty; makeup and hair and clothing and Photoshop make her stunningly gorgeous. But she’s 32. I wonder how she’ll look and feel at 53.

I was perusing the internet earlier, just bouncing around as I often do between projects. It’s how I cleanse my creative palette. I came across something entitled “GQs Sexiest Women of 2014.” Naturally I clicked. I’ll tell you about it so you don’t have to look yourself. It was filled with what men seem to think women actually look like. Most of them were women probably in their early 20s who had lithe, ridiculously hairless bodies that they showcased readily, squirming in the sand, writhing on satin sheets, all sex and foreplay. There were only a few whose names I even recognized, like Lizzy Caplan, Rashida Jones, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the latter of whom is also 53. She will never look like Gisele either and I suspect she, too, is just fine with that. It’s called acceptance, and reality. And being OK with who you are, without Photoshop.

As we wrap up 2014, I hope that some of you, too, have decided that this next phase of life will be one of wonder and fun, love and laughter, and yes, beauty. And that when you look in the mirror, you’re OK with the person looking back because that person is truly worth celebrating, this day, this night and always.

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