“A Patriots fan? Don’t you know you live in New York?”
“Patriots? But Red Sox fans root for them.”
“The Yankees AND the Patriots? You must be the world’s biggest front-runner.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the responses above, or some derivative thereof. Honestly, I’ve probably linked you to this blog because you asked me how I could be a fan of the Yankees and the Patriots during some important game one of the two teams is playing and I’m too into the game to rewrite the answer for the thousandth time I’m my life. So for one final, declarative time, here’s the story of a quarterback named Brady…. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Anyway, here’s the story of how and why I’m a diehard fan of the New York Yankees and the New England Patriots.
Like almost all stories about kids and baseball, my Yankees fandom starts with my father. Dad was a diehard Yankees fan since he came to the US from Cuba in the late 50’s, and it was pretty much indoctrinated in me from birth to be one myself. My earliest baseball memories are of the Yankees being terrible (I was born in 1988, for those keeping score) but that really didn’t matter at that age. As time went on and the Yankees became the late nineties dynasty I was as locked in diehard as a fan can get. I listened to talk radio, watched every inning of NYY baseball I could.
Throughout my teens and early twenties, the Yankees remained a constant in my life and the constant in my relationship with my father. We talked the team all the time, and went to plenty of games, punctuated by a mini-ticket plan during the 2008 season, the final one at the original Yankee Stadium. Our last game together was Game 3 of the 2010 ALDS, and watching the Yankees sweep the Twins out of the Playoffs that night is something I’ll onto forever. My dad and I continued to talk baseball all the time, right up to his death in August of 2014. From then on, the Yankees have been my strongest connection to him. I cried the first time I stepped into Yankee Stadium after he passed, and chose to spend Father’s Day 2015 there in order to be close to him. Beyond any on-field success the team has had or will have, that connection will always keep my dyed in pinstripes forever.
My football fandom also has a connection to my dad, albeit a less direct one. We used to watch the NFL Films Super Bowl Highlight Videos that ESPN would air daily, especially around the NFL Playoffs. To this day, I think I can still recite most of the 70’s and 80’s episodes line for line. My dad didn’t have a football team though, as the only team he really cared about were the Yankees. That left me open to choose my own NFL Franchise to root for, and I did so somewhere in 1993 or 1994 when I fell in love with the Drew Bledsoe-led New England Patriots. As a kid, I loved the pass-happy offense and the Pats uniforms (especially the royal blue, giant flying Elvis versions that lasted from 1995-1999).
However, my Patriots fandom was a bit under the radar. Since I obviously wasn’t old enough to go to restaurants or bars, I could only follow the Pats by watching other games and following their scores and always anxiously awaited the Pats annual games with the Jets and relatively rare (back then) nationally broadcast New England. I also didn’t own any Pats gear, as back then in the pre-Internet world it was a lot harder to get paraphernalia for non-local teams back then, especially for an also-ran team like the Pats. And make no mistake, the Patriots were an also-ran of the highest order. Sure they’d been to two Super Bowls (getting creamed by the Bears in Super Bowl XX before I was born, and again by the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI when I was nine) but outside of those years the team was mediocre at best most years. Obviously that changed when the Brady/Belichick era began in earnest in 2001. In fact, I often tell a 100% true anecdote that I went from being mocked for being liking a crap team to being a front-runner literally overnight.
The explosion of the Patriots as a national team, combined with my aging into adulthood have made it much easier to be a Pats fan in New York. Between availability in stores and online shopping, I have a veritable war-chest of New England gear to wear to bars and restaurants to watch any Pats games not broadcast in NYC. Meanwhile Twitter and social media have allowed me to connect to other Pats fans and Boston media the same way I always have with the Yankees.
The TL;DR version of above is this: I’ve been a Yankees fan since birth, I’ve been a Patriots fan for over 20 years, and I don’t really care what anyone thinks of that. That said, I do want to bring this back full-circle to the questions I listed above and a couple of others I get often, with a few of my thoughts on them.
“How can you root for the Patriots when you’re from New York?”
-This one mystifies me honestly. I’ve never really understood the concept of rooting for a team because they’re from where I’m from. I don’t root for the Knicks or Rangers, nor did I root for the Mets in the World Series this past year. I root for my teams because they’re my teams, not because of where they’re from.
“But the Yankees have a rivalry with Boston.”
-No, the Yankees have a rivalry with the Boston Red Sox. Last time I checked, the Yankees and Patriots play two completely different sports.
“Doesn’t it bother you that the Patriots winning makes Red Sox fans happy?”
-I always laugh at this one. Firstly because no, I don’t define my enjoyment of something by worrying if someone else may be enjoying it. Secondly, it’s weird specifically coming from New York sports fans since NYC has two teams in EVERY major sport. I’m sure there are Jets and Giants fans who like the Yankees, or Rangers and Islanders fans who like the Mets, or etc. do they ever get asked that question? I’m sure the answer is no.
“The Yankees AND Patriots? YOU’RE A FRONT-RUNNER.”
-I generally don’t care about being called a front-runner. I know I’ve been VERY lucky to get nine titles (and counting) out of the two sports franchises I root for. That said, I’ve been rooting for the Yankees since before I can remember coherent thought and the Patriots for roughly 22 of my 27 years on Earth. At different times over that period, both teams have achieved greatness, been terrible, and everything in between. So quite frankly no, I’m not a front-runner on any level.