When it comes to the New England Patriots, you can always count on two things:
1. The team will be very good.
2. The fans will whine.
The “very good,” you know: five Super Bowl rings, the greatest comeback in NFL history, odds-on favorite to win it all again this year. The whine, though: that’s where it gets fun. Patriots fans somehow manage to combine arrogance and victimization into a chowder noxious to anyone outside of the Greater Boston region. They’ve somehow managed to channel all their rage at being called cheaters (over and over again), their frustration at seeing their glorious quarterbacking god suspended for four games (to be fair, they have a point there), their seething fury at Eli Manning’s (and, by association, New York’s) effortless ability to dismantle them, and their understanding that they’ll never be as cool as Cowboys fans or scary as Raiders fans into white-hot fury aimed at one single target: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Yes, everyone in Boston from fans to players clowns on Goodell, sometimes literally, as in the case of the t-shirt defensive coordinator Matt Patricia wore returning from the Super Bowl.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski summed up the Pats-vs.-Goodell scene neatly around the same time: “The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what. They have Tom [Brady]’s back,” he said. “I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxborough if he landed in Boston.”
Not so fast, Gronk! Perhaps there’s hope on the horizon! Perhaps the rage has mellowed the tiniest bit. For, just this week, look who walked through Logan Airport in Boston — walked, mind you, not “ran for his life pursued by a torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob of TAWM-BRADY-IS-GAWD Sullys” — Goodell himself! Here, check it out:
— Joe Giza (@JoeGiza) June 21, 2017
Granted, there very well could’ve been some Patriots fans waiting outside baggage claim with a white, windowless van ready to kidnap Goodell and make him confess to the truth that deflate-gate was really a bunch of trumped-up nonsense. But we’d probably have heard about that by now. So, for the moment at least, Goodell has stepped on Massachusetts soil and left none the worse for it.
He’s scheduled to return to Foxborough to kick off the season. We’re predicting a slightly different reception then. Come the start of 2017, the Patriots as a team will be just what we expect … and so will their fans.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.