(Photo Courtesy Family)
This Patriots fan, named Jason, celebrated the team’s Super Bowl XLIX victory last February by letting the world know just how good he’s had it. He turned 14 on Friday.
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13 Years Old.
Take that, World.
“Sign Kid,” as he is known to millions of Boston sports fans, was born a week before the New England Patriots beat the Oakland Raiders in the infamous Tuck Rule game on Jan. 15, 2002.
That victory in the divisional playoff during a blizzard is widely viewed as the launching point of both a Patriots dynasty and an unmatched run of professional sports championships for Boston’s four major pro sports teams.
The core fanbase of those teams, which extends from Waterville, Maine in the north and east to Waterbury, Conn., in the south and west, has enjoyed a combustible run of championships, chokes, heartache, and euphoria during Sign Kid’s brief lifetime.
Mainly, it’s been about the rings. Four for the Patriots, three for the Red Sox, and one each for the Bruins and Celtics.
All in less than 14 years.
For many Boston sports fans, the triumph and tragedies of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins overlap into one, entangled, continuous saga.
Babe – Ruth and Parilli. Buckner. Boone. Big Papi. The Big Three. The second Big Three. Brady. Belichick. Bobby Orr. Bill Russell. And Ballgame, Teddy. And that’s just the “B’s.”
The teams and players celebrate and emulate each other.
Tom Brady, complete with a number “5” on his shirt, threw out the first pitch on Opening Day at Fenway Park in 2015. He was accompanied by Bill Belichick, Robert and Jonathan Kraft, and four Lombardi Trophies. Patriots players are fixtures at courtside during Celtics home games. The Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup rolled into to Fenway Park on Father’s Day atop a Duck Boat in a move akin to the Allies re-taking Paris.
Red Sox left-handed starting pitcher David Price addressed the city’s stratospheric expectations after he signed his seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston in December. “This is a place that has winning in their blood, and not just with the Red Sox. Obviously with what the Patriots are doing, the Bruins, Celtics. This is a place that wins, and this is a place that expects to win. That’s what I want to be a part of.”
When he was three weeks old, Sign Kid’s dad woke him up from an early-evening nap with a loud shriek as Adam Vinatieri split the uprights against the Rams to win Super Bowl XXXVI.
(In spite of what you may have read or heard on the ESPN, the Patriots never videotaped St. Louis’ walkthroughs.)
Since then, the Patriots have won three more Super Bowls and become the NFL’s most-successful, most-emulated, and most-hated franchise. The Red Sox ended an 86-year World Series drought in 2004 before adding two more championships. Their 2013 #BostonStrong victory came six months after two brothers killed three spectators at the Boston Marathon, injured more than 260 others, and killed an MIT police officer during the subsequent manhunt.
The Bruins and Celtics, meanwhile, have each captured a title in Sign Kid’s short life. They also fell short in the finals chasing a second.
Sign Kid’s real name is Jason. He lives in the suburbs north of Boston. He plays quarterback on his flag football team, wears No. 12 (of course.), and plays point guard on an AAU basketball team. His dad asked that his last name not be used.
Fans in Kansas City might understand why as they read on.
During Jason’s entire life, Belichick was been coaching the Patriots, and Brady has been the team’s starting QB. (Brady missed the 2008 season with a torn ACL after being taken out at the knees by Bernard Pollard of the Chiefs in the season opener.) As Jason grew, so did the numbers on his sign. It was first unveiled at the Bruins’ Stanley Cup Duck Boat fete in June of 2011.
11 Years Old.
His dynamic sign has been a social media and internet staple at Boston championship Duck Boat parades since, and even earned him air time on local TV. There is no more room for another logo on the sign. There will be design changes if necessary in February.
Jason, for one, has no doubt the Patriots will beat the Chiefs on Saturday in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium. He has them winning 31-20.
“I have high expectations whenever the Patriots play. I expect them to win. My standards for them are like really high,” he told The Star in true Belichickian form. “When they lose, I always have a bit of a disappointment. But I always believe they have a shot at the championship. They’re the team of the decade.”
Such brash and arrogant confidence for a young man, right? Well, as a Patriots’ fan, Jason’s got a 171-53 regular-season record, 12 AFC East championships, four Super Bowl wins and a nearly incomprehensible nine AFC conference title game appearances.
He turned 14 on Friday.
Haters, cynics, the defeated, Brady Truthers, a certain four-letter sports network, corrupted souls at NFL HQ, and fans in New York, across Pennsyltucky, and beyond, often love to credit this success to cheating, the Dark Side, and deflated footballs.
Jason is having none of it.
“I don’t think Tom Brady is a cheater. He’s an honest and wonderful person. He seems pretty smart to me and knows football. I don’t feel like it in my heart he would cheat to get a win. He’s so into the game. I feel like he would always give 110 percent and try as hard as he can to win.”
Kids are so smart these days.
Jason has a few million Patriots fans – not to mention a mountain of evidence contradicting the Wells Report and Judge Berman’s Deflategate ruling – to back his assertions.
And lest you think your franchise is pure, you can always visit YourTeamCheats.Com for a reality check.
Make the assertion that Brady has cheated, or that the Patriots’ championships are tainted, in the right place on Twitter and you will swiftly hear from Patriots Twitter Nation.
David Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) is the founder of Barstool Sports. He sold a majority interest in his on-line entity to a private equity firm just last week. It had a valuation of “$10 to 15 million.”
Portnoy’s has been among the loudest and deepest voice in the “Free Brady” movement. (The Twitter feed of this author held its own.)
Portnoy and three lieutenants traveled to the NFL’s offices on Park Avenue in New York in May to protest Roger Goodell’s handing the Deflategate affair. They were arrested for their efforts.
“Well, Brady didn’t deflate the balls for starters. It was just crybaby teams that got their ass kicked trying to get revenge the only way they can,” Portnoy told The Star.
New Englanders have long carried a boulder on their shoulder, going back to that April morning back in 1775 when a group of small “p” patriots gave a metaphorical middle-finger to the British Empire.
That middle finger has been raised – and largely pointed at New York – ever since.
“We’ve always heard about the Yankees and their 26 championships” said Jason’s dad, Stephen. “For me it’s always been like not getting the credit where credit is due. We’ve had a lot of blue-collar teams. Not the glitzy, the Showtime, Magic Johnson teams. It’s always been like Larry Bird, or the 2004 Red Sox (known as The Idiots), blue-collar, muscle-it-out, ugly-win, teams. But with the Patriots, it’s been beautiful. To take one glory player – a sixth round draft pick – with the cast of folks who aren’t super stars. They manufacture success from a team perspective rather than an individual perspective.”
Expectations with the Patriots have soared since Jason’s birth. Back in the day, it was a big deal when the team made the playoffs, simply finished above .500, or managed to keep the same coach from one season to the next.
“When I was growing up, to have a season when they’d just about make the playoffs, would be good,” added Stephen, who is 55.
Portnoy – known as El Presidente to his site’s millions of Stoolies – has also been around long enough to see the Patriots finish 2-14.
“The pre Parcells/Belichick Pats were the worst team in the league. A joke,” Portnoy said. “Now we’re the premier team in sports. It’s really similar to the attitude of Boston Sports fans in general. We were lovable losers. The ‘Curse.’ Now we’re the bully that sticks people in lockers. It took a while to accept it, but now people hate us. We’re the best. We know we’re the best. Everybody wants to take what we got. It’s us against the world.”
Boston’s genetic and defiant “Us Against The World” attitude, an underlying fixture in any Boston-based movie featuring Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, or Ben Affleck, was best reflected following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. It was succinctly articulated when Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz christened Boston as “our f–king city” before a game against the Royals on April 20, 2013.
That feeling was injected with a trainload of HGH after was reported in the early moments of January 19, 2015, that the NFL was investigating allegations of the Patriots purposefully using deflated footballs in last season’s AFC title rout of the AFC Finalist Colts.
“Ever since Deflategate, there’s a high degree of sensitivity on that subject,” Stephen said.
Portnoy adds that the timing of the “Decade-Plus Of Dominance” has added to the envy and scorn directed at the New England fanbase. “It extends beyond football. Every Boston sports team started winning at once. We went from lovable losers to Title Town As far as the Pats, clearly people hate them because they win so much. Everything the Pats do is magnified.”
Those “pre-Parcells/Belichick” Patriots were the cosmic opposites of today’s franchise.
Those Patriots almost moved to St. Louis and Hartford during the 1990s. They played their “home” games in Harvard Stadium, Fenway Park, Nickerson Field, Alumni Stadium, and, once, even in Alabama. Their old home stadium in Foxboro was so poorly constructed fans would get soaked during rain storms – while beneath the stands.
There was the 3-0 snow plow (actually a snow sweeper) victory over Miami in 1982, the cocaine-fueled 1985 AFC champs, the ugly sexual harassment of a female reporter in the locker room scandal of 1990, and the time the game wouldn’t start until they could suit-up a former player who was in the stands. He made the tackle on the opening kickoff.
All of that pre-dates the Tuck Rule game, Spygate, Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction, and Deflategate.
Engineer Peter Guglietta goes back to the 1960s AFL Boston Patriots of (Babe) Parilli. He offered this primer on why the Patriots have connected with New Englanders beyond the four rings.
“It’s about a common bond and identity with a team whose values and work ethic are tightly knit into the real New England character, not that Beacon Hill snobbery that a lot of America always associates with Boston,” Guglietta said. “‘Do Your Job,’ Brady’s rise to the top from low expectations beginnings, Belichick’s dedication to never resting on your laurels. Like many others who are the real fabric of New England, that identity is what makes us a unique breed. You work hard, take pride in what you do, and take your success as a result of the hard work, not like you were entitled to it. ”
Guglietta vividly remembers the days of the Laughingstock Patriots.
“People just expected this team to be underachievers … it was like you just knew something stupid or low-rent to be the rule of the day,” he said. “We never thought we had a right to compete with the rest of the league. Kraft changed that, Belichick and Brady changed that.”
“My father always reminds me how lucky I am because of when I was born. And all these crazy championships happened,” Jason added. “Tom Brady is the greatest player ever. And he will be forever.”
Nine titles in his first 13 years.
Who are you to argue?
– Written for the for the Kansas City Star