In 2008, while attending Syracuse University, I became a Patriots fan. I had not developed an affinity for a team yet, and in my freshman year I was surrounded by two kinds of people: Giants and Patriots enthusiasts. In the midst of an almost perfect season, I chose the latter, partially because the team was doing so well and partially because at the helm was a Bay Area kid. I never looked back.
That first Super Bowl loss wasn't super painful because I was a newbie. A bandwagoner you could say. I hadn't developed a love affair with the team yet. Sure it hurt, but I knew we would be back and I would get to see my team win at some point.
Fast forward to 2012. At this point, I've joined Patriots Nation. Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi and Wes Welker found homes in my closet. I was in my senior year of college, and had stumbled upon a New England sports bar near my apartment. I felt like this was our year. We had lost to Eli before and this was our time for revenge. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out that way. I still haven't seen the final Hail Mary play, where the winning pass slipped through Welker's fingers. At that point I was drunk and emotional, a situation I would find myself in several years after that.
And then, a beacon of hope: the 2014 season. There were some tough losses, but Gronkowski managed to stay healthy, Brady started gelling with the new receiving corps and Edelman broke out. And voila! Super Bowl here we come. Unfortunately, I was only able to be excited about our return to the big game for a few hours before controversy emerged.
Those who know football know that the Patriots are no stranger to controversy. The Tuck Rule and Spygate follow the team around like a plague. They are hated by so many fanbases and have developed a reputation as 'cheaters'. Could this be the year we prove that we can win without any scandals? Apparently not.
Today it was confirmed that 11 of 12 balls used in the blow out AFC Championship win over the Colts were deflated and were 2 pounds lighter than required. It took a Colts linebacker to catch a stray Brady pass to realize this. And again the rants rolled in. Cheaters! Cheaters!
As a Patriots fan, I'm disgusted. I believe in winning fair and square. I believe in wanting to beat the best with your best. Nothing more, nothing less. I wanted this Super Bowl win (if it happens of course) to silence our haters, not fuel them more. I did not want an asterisk next to our Super Bowl win in the record books.
So yes, I will be rooting for the Pats in Super Bowl 49, but if we win it will be bittersweet. We won't ever be able to live down the controversies that surrounded not only this win, but two before it. Our reputation will always be tarnished. There will always be asterisks by our name. I will always wonder if we were successful because we were the best team or because Belichick found a sneaky way to bend the rules and nobody noticed. A win will never be the same, and that's a damn shame.