My earliest football memory was made sitting in my Uncle’s basement watching the San Francisco49ers play the Dallas Cowboys. My uncle’s basement smelt like cigarettes, had an extremely slanted pool table, and was the place I played my very first video game (what else but Mario). But all of that are things for another article later on… except for the smoking thing… that would be weird. Anyway, I watched football there.
My older brother Zach is a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys. He was born inTexasso he has a reasonable excuse I suppose. Zach was naturally cheering for Dallas, and (in no small part because of this) I cheered for the 49ers. Me and my brother didn’t get along super well back in the day. Cause we were brothers. And cause I (4 years the younger) was annoying. Really really annoying. Anyway though, Zach and I (who get along great nowadays thank you very much) once again found ourselves on opposite sides of a heated rivalry. The game itself is blurry in my memory. Maybe I fell asleep, or stopped paying attention, or accidentally O.D.’d on pepper; I don’t know. (My uncle had one of those “grind your own pepper” pepper shakers and I found the thing utterly mesmerizing.) My potential pepper abuse aside I DO remember at one point deciding that Steve Young was just about the coolest thing ever.
The 49ers and Cowboys of the early 90’s (this was the early 90’s by the way) read like a laundry list of hall of famers. Most notably being Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Emmitt Smith, and Troy Aikmen. Why I settled on Steve Young I will never really know but he immediately became my favorite player. The 49ers lost that game to the Cowboys but I was utterly undeterred in my boyhood fandom of number 8. For years I followed the exploits of Steve Young as he built up a massive set of stats that would later make him a member of the football Hall of Fame. Young was my NFL hero! That said I never really paid all that much attention to the rest of the 49ers team and certainly not to the rest of football. When the 49ers were on I would watch. That was about it.
It should be noted in here that my dad is a big fan of the New England Patriots. My dad grew up inNew England, and while the Boston Red Sox will always be my families’ team the Patriots are certainly on the list. I can’t imagine the guff my father must have taken for raising a Cowboy’s fan (somewhat forgivable and easily explained given Zach’s birthplace) and a 49ers fan (somewhat forgivable and easily explained given my utter insanity). Dad never really overly pressured us though. Now mind you if we hadn’t been Red Sox fans my dad would have probably stopped feeding us but hey, you’ve got to have standards.
In 1999 Steve Young retired. And I was lost. A purposeless husk of a football fan to the point where I stopped following football at all. Once again, it wasn’t really that I was a huge fan of the game just a huge fan of Steve Young. Steve Young was awesome. Football was okay. Without Steve Young I saw very little point in football.
Fast forward 2 years to 2001, skipping over that whole Y2K thing. Y2K was VERY disappointing to me. Here’s the thing, they were predicting that all the worlds computers would break down, and nuclear holocaust would wipe out the whole planet; turning us all into crawly mutant people. How cool would that have been? My tiny 14 year old self thought Y2K was the best idea ever. No more school or civilization AND potential super powers?! Sign me up for that.
Unfortunately though I was lied to and did not become Spiderman. After that disappointment wore off I continued to not pay any attention to football. Then… a quarterback named Tom Brady got put into a game for the New England Patriots. Brady was our backup quarterback that season, playing behind our starter Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe got injured two games into the season though and was replaced by Brady who went on to lead the Patriots to an incredible Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams. It was awesome!
Now you can call me a fair-whether fan all you want but bear in mind that my other sports passion (the Red Sox) were on their 84th season without a championship! Did the fact that the Patriots won the super bowl make me a Patriots fan? Absolutely! But the real story for me was Tom Brady. A guy that no one expected to do well, that no one expected to play period, suddenly rising up and pulling off a miracle. Honestly, it was a lot like what Steve Young did when he replaced Joe Montana with the 49ers. Brady drew me back to football because he was the guy no one saw coming. The underdog. And who doesn’t love an underdog?
Over the years Brady has gone from under dog to alpha dog. He’s been injured (utterly ruining what should have been an amazing season) and he’s been dating and un-dating more super models then I care to keep track of. Honestly he’s really not even my favorite Patriot anymore (that honor now going to wide receiver Wes Welker). I’m also far more of a fan of the team then any one player. Maybe it’s that now I feel like I’m rooting with my dad and family, or maybe it’s just that I actually give a care but who knows. I do know though that without Tom Brady there’s no way I become a Patriots fan. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be a football fan at all. I wouldn’t know the joy of watching Wes Welker get totally missed by all the big burly defenders cause he’s about six inches smaller then them. I would have never watched Teddi Bruschi steam roll over a running back just as the running back was starting to feel good about himself. And I would have never understood the raw joy of yelling “LAW FIRM!!” every time Brady hands the ball to Ben-Jarvis Green Ellis (if you don’t get the nickname just think about it for a sec… it’ll come).
Tom Brady may have made me a Patriots fan but I AM a patriots fan, not just a Tom Brady fan like I was a Steve Young fan. I will never be as dedicated to football as I am to baseball, but the prospect of another year of football starting up soon sits just fine with me!