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Love of the New England Patriots comes from deep in my family: James Miller

Posted 2/20/19

Six rings.

With the New England Patriots’ low-score win against the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, Tom Brady establishes beyond any reasonable or rash doubt that he is the GOAT — hooves, …

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Love of the New England Patriots comes from deep in my family: James Miller

James Miller’s daughter Louanne and his dog Rory enjoy the Super Bowl.
James Miller’s daughter Louanne and his dog Rory enjoy the Super Bowl.
Submitted photo
Posted

Six rings.

With the New England Patriots’ low-score win against the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, Tom Brady establishes beyond any reasonable or rash doubt that he is the GOAT — hooves, horns and all.

No quarterback can claim as many Super Bowl victories (Otto Graham’s seven championships between the All-America Football Conference and NFL notwithstanding). No quarterback can even claim Brady’s uncanny instinctual ability to utilize every player of his team, green or seasoned, particularly when the heat of winning is on.

The 28-3 come-from-behind victory against the Atlanta Falcons to secure the team’s fifth ring. The minute-and-a-half drive down the field to tie the recent AFC Championship against the Kansas City Chiefs, sending the game into overtime.

These are the kind of achievements performed by a scrappy young athlete eager to show off his ambition and guile. Not a league veteran who’s been in the game for 15-plus years.

Brady’s apotheosis into Thanos-like supremacy, with the rest of the team following the rarefied course to become his functional Black Order, has been an unqualified delight for Foxboro fans over the course of two decades. The latest victory is the cherry on top of a storied career. And, for this fan, it was all the sweeter for a special reason.

Some explanation is in order. I was born and raised in Middletown. So, why am I not an obnoxious Terrible Towel-waver or a trashy-but-lovable Eagles backer? It would have made things easier growing up had I chosen my loyalty based on Pennsylvania’s demarcated fandoms.

(Some quick quibbles: Mike Tomlin has needed to remove his cross necklace since 2013 when he two-stepped with the Devil and nearly tripped Jacoby Jones; words, also, do not suffice in describing the beastliness of a fan base who pelted Santa Claus with snowballs.)

By pledging allegiance to either of Pennsylvania’s finest, I wouldn’t have gotten so many blank looks in middle school when I announced, not without a self-assured smirk, that I was cheering on the Patriots against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Instead, I had to explain my football fidelity sprang from a common source: a parent.

My mother hailed from Vermont. Thus, she cheered on the Patriots. And, as is the trend in childhood, I cheered on the Patriots by extension. My mother was a mild woman. But, on any given Sunday, she transformed. The slight, graying woman whose idea of a thrilling time was reading an anthology of Dean Koontz suddenly became a rabid, fire-breathing super fan, the kind that would make any Buffalo Bills tailgater blush in dark crimson.

“Interception, interception, fumble, fumble, fumble!” she chanted during every defensive play, violently pitching her recliner. Every offensive play, no matter the field position, no matter the yards needed to convert, no matter the score, was of world-historic importance, a foray in an epic battle between good and evil with both sides sitting precariously upon a fragile fulcrum.

When the effort failed, Gen. Bill Belichick’s army coming up short on yards, the skirmish would, of course, repeat with little memory of the previous bungled attempt. In football, everything matters until the next play.

Watching football with her was exhausting. But, like most children, I unknowingly imitate her as an adult, experiencing every game as a life-and-death struggle, much to my wife’s displeasure.

Which brings me to the ancestral continuity component of this past Super Bowl. It was the first my daughter was able to witness. At 4 months old, she’ll have no recollection of the game, other than, perhaps, a whining splash of tears after my profane outburst when Brady’s first pass of the night was intercepted.

Even so, her first Super Bowl will be one in which her future favorite team will have reached the end (maybe?) of an unparalleled run. My mother, after whom my daughter is named, is still enjoying games from the other side of heaven. I can’t imagine a greater happiness to her than her granddaughter watching the Patriots triumph once more.

There is more than one way to win at life. Passing on a sports tradition down the family line is not just transcendent gift, but a victory over a random and meaningless universe. Like the tuck rule or a baby’s giggle, it’s a sign that a benevolent God smiles over us, cheering for us in the ultimate game.

But, for now, a bejeweled ring for Tom Brady’s second hand is the best earthly win we could hope for in my family.

James E. Miller, a native of Middletown, lives in northern Virginia with his wife and daughter. He is the author of the novel “To Win And To Lose.”