I am a New York Jets fan. I don’t know why it happened. My family is from New York and my dad is a huge Giants fan. Even though I was born in Massachusetts, we didn’t watch the Patriots. The Jets were another New York team, green was my favorite color, and, at age six, that was enough to sway my decision.
It wasn’t the best choice. The Jets have been pretty awful my entire life. Except when my team beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the 2011 playoffs.
For nearly two decades, when Brady was playing for the Patriots, I despised him. I didn’t like Bill Belichick or the Patriots. But Brady was the star quarterback of that team, and he just seemed too good to be true.
Brady and the Patriots had an answer for everything. No matter the game or the opponent, the ball would always bounce their way and they would come out victorious. The Jets and Patriots are in the same division, so they play each other a lot. Whenever he faced them, Brady picked apart the Jets defense. Even if the Jets were winning, which didn’t happen often, he’d find a way to turn around and beat them. His excellence was obvious. But I could never enjoy it because I was too busy rooting against his team.
When Brady announced he was leaving the Patriots for Tampa Bay, I was relieved. Since the Buccaneers play in a different conference, I could finally watch football without worrying about him. I never expected to end up rooting for him.
As this season progressed, the Jets were bad, as usual. But so were the Patriots. It felt good to watch Belichick and his team struggle for once. Meanwhile, Brady was still performing at a high level, proving that he truly fueled New England’s success over the years. I put the shift in my reaction down to the fact that I like rooting for players over management.
All those years of Brady-watching came with New England fans constantly reminding me of his superiority. But this season put Pats fans in a different place. It was interesting to watch Brady’s greatness decoupled from his fan base. Now I could watch as a fan of the game.
When I heard myself rooting for Brady over the last few games of the season and during the Super Bowl, I realized I wanted to see history being made.
I’ve been thinking of my grandfather since Brady and the Bucs won the Super Bowl on Sunday. He lived in Tampa for many years and was a Bucs fan to the end. Many of our last phone conversations were spent talking about how bad that team was at the time. He understood what it was like for me to follow the Jets. I wonder what he would have thought about Brady coming to his town of old folks and winning a ring.
I think he’d be happy.