US VS. THEM
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’ Trump Mentality
If the NFL dynasty’s bizarre “underdog” narrative sounds familiar, it should.
No one believes in the New England Patriots, apparently. Tom Brady, the team’s vaguely inhuman quarterback, insisted as much last weekend after his team won yet another playoff game. Speaking about today’s matchup with Kansas City, Brady told reporters that everyone believes that he is going to lose.
“It’ll be a good game. They are a good team. We played them earlier this year,” he said. “I know everyone thinks we suck... and can’t win any games. We’ll see. It’ll be fun.”
Receiver Julian Edelman posted a hype video to twitter this week, featuring clips of the Chiefs’ myriad successes stacked up against media lamentations for the washed Patriots and topped off with BET AGAINST US nestled in a Patriots logo. (He then sold the logo on a shirt—NFL careers don’t last forever, people.)
Bill Belichick, the team’s overstuffed gremlin of a coach, has even told reporters that, after his lifetime of extraordinary successes, he still gets nervous before games.
“Yeah, every week. They all count in this league,” he offered Friday morning, two days before he will coach in his 41st career postseason game. “Just let me know the ones that don’t matter, I’ll make sure I don’t get excited for those. Nervous? Sure. You want to go out there and do well. There’s an anxiety.”
I understand that you might read all this and feel your eyes roll out of your head. These robots have demolished so many teams over the years, does this weekend’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs really demand that they build these underdog mind palaces to succeed?
Weirdly, yes. This anxiousness, this kind of enormous self-pressure chip-on-your-shoulder bullshit is endemic throughout sports. Believing that you’re constantly on the cusp of losing is the poisonous fear that drives these guys to success, year after year. Belichick is already rich enough for several lifetimes. If he was a normal person like you or me he would retreat to a cabin somewhere, breathe in the mountain air, give money to Republicans and fuck until his heart exploded. Instead, here he is, bringing that energy and that paranoia and that perverse need to succeed to his enormously tedious job day after day, season after season, Super Bowl after Super Bowl, always feeling like he is on the edge of disaster, scrambling to do everything he can to claim football victories he probably thinks he gets to take with him to the afterlife.
Walking around totally convinced you’re on the precipice of disaster and imposing that belief on your followers sucks, but it works—especially in football, where everyone is constantly scared of getting waived and trying to make sure they satisfy the whims of the coach. Bill is in that locker room every damn day making sure that everyone knows that if they don’t work hard and “do their job,” they will lose, and they will bring shame on themselves, and the NFL will absolutely pass them by, leaving them bleeding in a gutter while Pat Mahomes or Russell Wilson or even known titty-kisser Mitch Trubisky take what they want.
Paranoia and entitlement driving an entire movement to victory, year after year. It’s honestly no wonder that Belichick, Brady and Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft are friends and political allies of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. That’s the playbook, right there: exploiting and feeding white entitlement to, uh, everything going their way all the time; standing in front of millions of people and letting them know that marginal changes in culture are signs that they are, in fact, losing, day after day—losing imaginary demographic wars to people who speak Spanish, losing their children to rap or gender non-conformity or whatever their Facebook feed is telling them to be antsy about at the moment, losing their money to government programs that help unworthy, lazy, entitled people they don’t even know.
The messed-up thing is, just like on a gridiron, this shit works. Keeping white suburbanites frothy and paranoid, millions of Julian Edelmans all screaming BET AGAINST ME as they punch a ballot for a politician they are totally convinced will keep bathrooms safe from trans predators, has kept Republicans in national power to some degree or another for decades, ever since Reagan dethroned Jimmy Carter after he correctly called out the malaise of the culture. Trump is just a particularly lazy and crass manifestation of the same garbage Koch Brothers-fueled goons have been peddling for decades: you’re losing, look at this crap on TV, I am the truth, Do Your Job and vote for us to take back the world from Pat Mahomes, even though he doesn’t own it in the first place.