Lo, there was a time when The Cheese Fry was an unapologetic New England Patriot fan.
What wasn't to like in the early 2000s as the Patriots won their first Superbowl in 2001 in the shadow of 9/11 on the arm of an unknown quarterback (Tom Brady) and the leg of a clutch kicker (Adam Vinatieri)? Unbeknownst to those of us watching, that victory sowed the seeds for a powerful NFL dynasty. New England won two more Superbowls in 2003 and 2004, a streak unprecedented in this new era of NFL free agency. Before the Patriots began their roll, analysts liked to say the days of the Steelers/49ers/Cowboys dominance were over. Indeed, the Dallas Cowboys were systematically dismantled in the mid-1990s as its Superbowl teams were raided by free agent defections. Maintaining a good team year in and year out was virtually impossible; player turnover was just too high. So they all said. But the Patriots kept finding a way.
Verily, in the early- to mid-2000s it was fun to root for the Patriots. Why?
1. Tom Brady was as mild-mannered a recluse as Peyton Manning was an extroverted media darling, making Brady seem refreshingly no-nonsense and all-business. He didn't appear in stupid TV commercials like Manning. Instead, Brady spent his time winning Superbowls.
2. The Patriots had no real history of winning, so this was an entirely new experience for them (and for the viewers at home). Remember, as late as 2002 or so, the Patriots were still sort of playing the role of underdogs. They weren't a glittery, premier franchise like Green Bay or Dallas or New York.
3. Coach Bill Belichick was known for being some kind of coaching android, able to dissect an opposing team like a thorasic surgeon to expose vulnerable weaknesses. You wished he coached for your team.
4. There was also something very blue collar about the Patriots: players didn't earn big contracts in New England; in fact, they took pay cuts to stay. Those who dared to ask for more money, like CB Ty Law or WR Deion Branch found themselves shown the door.
And so it has come to pass, that almost midway through the 2007 NFL season, the Patriots look unstoppable. Adding a new corps of capable receivers in he 2007 off-season has at last given Brady a fleet of able targets. And he's good enough to use them - give him enough time and he'll find the open man. Especially if there's five men trying to get open. This team is like a franchise Terminator, sent from the future to win another Superbowl.
But enough is enough.
The Cheese Fry is off the Patriots bandwagon. And we're trying to find a way to break its axles and slash, no, steal its tires. Why?
1. The cheating scandal. This is where it all started to come apart. Belichick's staff was caught videotaping Jets defensive signals at a game earlier this season. Supposedly, this practice - though expressly forbidden by the NFL - is somewhat common. But it was the Patriots who got caught. Naturally, people started to wonder how long they'd been doing this and what sort of edge it provided. What role did this kind of cheating have on those three Lombardi trophies? Such speculation angered Patriots players and coaches to no end. Which brings us to...
2. Belichick is kind of an asshole. When questioned about the scandal by reporters, Bill Belichick stubbornly refused to comment. And he refused to comment with a smugly unashamed tone to his voice that made The Cheese Fry want great harm to come to him. This was a major scandal and Belichick was acting like his staff was just caught out past curfew. You'd think a coach would want to say something about what had happened, how he understood it might tarnish the whole team, how he regretted it, how he wished it hadn't happened, how he wanted to reassure fans he ran a clean outfit of the utmost integrity. Just some lame PR babble would have sufficed. But instead, he only wanted to talk about the next game. He's oh so above it all.
3. Running up the scores. Here's where things get interesting. Apparently, those who dared to besmudge the great invincible powers of the Patriots Dynasty were beneath contempt. Players, especially LB Tedy Bruschi, huffed and puffed about how awful it was to suggest their Superbowls were somehow tainted by the cheating scandal. This rage may be getting vented on the football field. The Patriots seem to be a mission to punish other teams and Make a Point. In the waning minutes of the Cowboys game, backup RB Kyle Eckel runs in a touchdown with 20 seconds to go, making the final score 48-27. And today, up 45-0 on the Redskins, the Patriots are still trying to score. And so they do with backup QB Matt Cassell scrambling for the endzone as if the fate of the game hung in the balance. This isn't the BCS, Belichick, and you're not LSU. Yes, it's a fine line between running up the score and ensuring victory in a league where every team can win on "any given Sunday." But like pornography, we know it when we see it. And today, we saw it. Utterly classless. Even in the waning minutes of the game, with the score 52-7, the Patriots were running pass plays. Luckily, NFL teams have a long memory - hopefully there will come a day when Belichick gets a taste of his own medicine. Wonder if he'll have a comment about that.
4. Tom Brady is kind of a louse. We'll keep this simple: when you get a girl pregnant and then leave her and the baby, you lose points. You lose additional points when you leave impregnated Hot Actress to hook up with Hot Model. Very dickish. Say it ain't so, Tom.
5. Dynasties are no fun. At this point, no one seems capable of stopping New England. Maybe Indianapolis, maybe Pittsburgh. Everyone else is playing for sloppy seconds. One wonders why we don't just call the whole thing off, hand them the Superbowl trophy now, and give us some free time to go read a book or take up pottery. Some talk of the good old days when the Steelers ruled the 70s, the 49ers the 80s, the Cowboys the 90s. But those dynasties weren't like this Patriot juggernaut. The Cheese Fry enjoyed cheering the Cowboys to three Superbowls in the 1990s (it's fun to have a winning hometown team), but the road to those Superbowls were tough. Every game was a question mark. Emmit Smith once played with a dislocated shoulder in a final regular season game to make sure the Cowboys beat the Giants to win the NFC East. These 2007 Patriots, by contrast, are cakewalking. There's no dislocated Patriot shoulder in the immediate future for anyone, it seems. Unless you live in Boston, it ain't fun.
6. False humility is almost worse than justifiable arrogance. Following the Washington stomping, WR Wes Welker gave a post-game interview in which he actually said Washington has a good defense. Is he serious? He's referring to the defense that just gave up 52 points, right? Who the hell does he think he's kidding? Such phony sentiments somehow make all of this even more infuriating. Yes, we'd be mad if Welker said "Clearly, their defense really sucked and we enjoyed riding them like $10 whores," but at least it would seem honest.
7. Belichick's ridiculous sideline hoodie. This was a charming idiosyncracy back in 2001. Now it's just pathetic.
And so, we say unto you, that The Cheese Fry is irrevocably revoking its support of the New England Patriots. We ask you to do the same. Perhaps together, our hatred and anger can give Tom Brady a sprained elbow or at least allow Randy Moss to become the irrational jackass locker-room cancer we all know he can be.
This team must be stopped if mankind is to survive.