The owner, coach and quarterback of the Patriots have all shown quiet allegiance to Trump. It should leave sports fans in the liberal state of Massachusetts feeling conflicted, but winning is a powerful salve
Fans of American football long ago solved the conundrum of whether you can love the art and disapprove of the artist (Meryl Streeps admonition that the sport is not an art notwithstanding): its rosters, past and present, are filled with men accused (and even convicted) of animal abuse, child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault, and few fans withdraw their allegiance to a team over the conduct of a few players.
So liberal fans of the Massachusetts-based New England Patriots, who play in the Super Bowl this weekend, can and will almost assuredly find it within themselves to overlook the friendships coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft have with President Donald Trump, whose approval rating is only 28% among registered voters in the state.
Of course, Massachusetts is hardly a true-blue state: its current governor is a Republican and, with the eight-year exception of Deval Patrick, a Republican has held the seat since 1991. It even, albeit briefly, elected Republican Scott Brown the one-time nude model who apparently thinks Massachusetts and New Hampshire are interchangeable, even to Massachusetts voters to the so-called Kennedy senate seat in 2010.
Browns brief turn as the junior senator from Massachusetts, though, owes more than a little something to the states sports culture: he was running against then-state attorney general Martha Coakley, who first called Red Sox hero Curt Schilling (who helped break the Babe Ruth World Series drought in 2004 and helped the team to another win in 2007) a Yankees fan there are few greater insults in the state and then defended her campaign tactics by deriding the idea that she ought to be standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?
Coakley lost, and, in her 2012 match-up with Brown, current senator Elizabeth Warren was forced to pass the Red Sox test.
So while some voters are undoubtedly wringing their hands about having to root for the hometown heroes who rooted for Trump, the vast majority of Patriots fans who have already swallowed the dual humiliations of Spygate and Deflategate and care primarily about winning are hardly going to root for the Atlanta Falcons or turn off the television on what is normally the most-watched day of the year.
(Outside the state, which voted heavily in favor of Hillary Clinton last November, the vast majority of people rooting for the Patriots on Sunday voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, which suggests theres a sort of iconic stoner chic aspect to out-of-state fandom that the team has yet to tap.)
And in the noughties, its hard to remember the tough years of Massachusetts sports fandom in the 20th century: the Patriots, like the Red Sox, werent exactly the winningest team in the league. The team didnt even get to the Super Bowl from their founding in 1960 until 1986; they didnt go again until 1997; and they didnt win until their third appearance in 2002. The post-Babe Ruth Sox, by comparison, made it to the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986, but lost every time until they made it back in 2004.
Theres nothing like a little taste of victory to make a championship-starved sports fan stop caring about the niceties like playing by the rules or management helping elect a president you hate with every fiber of your being.
Sure, Tom Brady perhaps wants to Make America Great Again and play with a slightly less-than-fully-inflated football. Sure, Bill Belichick perhaps supports both illegally spying on other teams and a president who thinks we should illegally torturing detainees abroad. Sure, Bob Kraft perhaps supports a little stretching of the rules and of Americas military might in wars not supported by the United Nations. Look, some times you need to break some eggs to make an omelette, and some times you have to support some bad hombres if you want to celebrate another Super Bowl title like you did something to achieve it.
Besides, no one wants to be the Cleveland Browns.