GOAT (still) by
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Prompted By Sports

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Haters gonna hate, but I gotta tell you, it is fun to root for a winning team. Over the last couple of years, I have become quite the Patriots fan, political bedfellows aside.

I grew up in a household with a father who watched football, baseball and golf constantly, then I married a huge sports fan, so I’ve been surrounded by televised sports my whole life. Guess sports crept into my psyche through osmosis.

I always enjoyed going to my high school football and basketball games, but the teams were awful, so that was largely a social event. At Brandeis, we had no real football (for a while we had club football and I attended those games). I loved going to the basketball games. As I confessed to a ball-playing classmate, a well-played game was a little like watching a sporting version of ballet, as the game ebbed and flowed across the court. I briefly dated one of the star players and was friendly with lots of others, such was my attraction to the game. I can still hear the announcer calling the games. That was more than 45 years ago, but he had a distinctive style. I lived with a few of the cheerleaders (at a time when this was distinctly uncool during the great social upheaval of the day). Once, when a petite one was sick, I suited up and sat on the bench in her absence. I was always a rah-rah sort of girl.

The first Boston team I followed closely was the Celtics during their glory years. With work friends, we had a piece of a season ticket, lived right in Boston and walked to the old, non-air conditioned Boston Garden. We loved those days. We were true fans and it was easy to love the genius of Larry Bird and the fabulous players who surrounded him. I remember wearing a tank top and sitting as still as I possibly could, so as not to sweat buckets during a play-off game during the winning 1984 season.  In my seventh month of pregnancy, I cried my eyes out when we lost the championship in 1985. To soothe myself, we went out after the loss for ice cream, ran into a raving Lakers fan who mocked me. I nearly tore his throat out. Chalk it up to hormones…or not. We were there at the opening of the new Garden and the dismal era of slick Rick Pitino. By this point, we had our first child, Dan traveled constantly, getting babysitters was difficult and we had moved to the suburbs. Tickets were very expensive and eventually, our whole group gave them up. Between babies and travel, we stopped watching televised sporting events except Patriots games and golf.

At the beginning of the Patriots franchise’s life, they were a truly awful team. Robert Kraft bought them, brought on some great coaches and built them into a much-hated dynasty. Bill Belichick, with five Super Bowl wins to his credit, will go down as one of the greatest coaches in the sport. And Tom Brady, still going strong at 40, defies any description besides Greatest Of All Time. No, I am not happy with their politics. My stomach turned when I saw the red trucker cap in Brady’s locker. Gisele was smart enough to get Tom to remove it and shut his mouth about anything political. She claims to be environmentally concerned, so she must hate what’s going on right now. I was furious when the Orange Monster read a letter from Belichick at a rally in New Hampshire the night before the election. The famously laconic coach said it had nothing to do with politics; they are just golfing buddies. I’ve been in Bob Kraft’s house. His late wife, Myra, was a Brandeis trustee and hosted a few events for donors there. She wouldn’t have put up with this nonsense either, but Kraft said Trump called him every week after she died and was a true friend. Nice that he cares about his billionaire buddy. Too bad about our country.

Putting the above aside (and sometimes it can be difficult to do that), the Patriots are fun to watch and great champions. The team the rest of the country loves to hate and thinks they cheat. Belichick knows every rule (his father was a great coach at the US Naval Academy) and will push just up to the edge, use every advantage he can get. Yes, I know…first there was Spygate, for which Belichick and the team were duly punished; very harshly at the time, but the other owners sought more which led to: Deflategate. For anyone really paying attention and not pre-determined in your thinking, you know that this season, another team was caught with under-inflated balls and NOTHING happened at all. Other quarterbacks confess that they routinely tamper with balls. This whole crazy mess was Roger Goodell flexing his muscles and, due to the collective bargaining agreement, Tom Brady was powerless to do anything. One very cold day last winter, my car tire pressure warning light came on, as the tires deflated, then were fine once the car warmed up. It happens to car tires and footballs. The whole thing was a sham, pay-back because the rest of the owners wanted blood, plain and simple. Move on. Notice who won the second half of that game with regulation balls.

I’ve been watching the team closely for three seasons now…a great time to tune in with two Super Bowl wins in our column. I’ve learned about the players and positions, OTAs, passing up the seam, protecting the pocket, and other terminology. I always understood the basics of the game. Now I am learning strategy, clock management and other important points. And my husband is tickled (his word).

I have my favorite players (not who you might think). I loved Martellus Bennett this past season. I follow him on Twitter. He’s a hoot. I loved that immediately after the big win, he announced he would not go to the White House, saying, “I am a black man today and will be a black man tomorrow.” ” I also have a wife and daughter”. Bravo, Marty. He wrote a children’s book and goes to hospitals and schools to read to kids. He has already signed with Green Bay (one of our hated competitors), and I will miss him, but he says he’ll still come back to read at Children’s Hospital.

I also like rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. Not only did he play his heart out, he did several interviews on TV and in the Boston Globe about going to college in Georgia, having only 8th grade reading skills, but knew he wanted to do better than glide by on his athletic ability. So he worked hard at his literacy, even joining a women’s book group outside of Athens, GA. The TV show visited him there, with a bunch of middle-aged Southern white women, talking about the book they read that month. Those Georgia women are now Patriots fans too. It was awesome. Now he, too, has written a children’s book, goes to schools, reads to youngsters and works on literacy programs. In addition to being great athletes, these guys are really making a difference in the community. So sometimes, athletes can be more than knuckleheads. And that makes the game even more enjoyable for me to watch.


The above essay was written (and shared on this site) months ago, but the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl. This year they battle against the Eagles, whose owner is from Newton, MA, has a home on Martha’s Vineyard and has a PhD from Brandeis…the world is so small. Martellus Bennett left the Patriots, but came back mid-season, played in a few games, was injured and out for the remainder. Malcolm Mitchell has been out with a pre-season injury the entire season. But Belichick and Brady continue to break records in their 16 seasons together. Love them or hate them, there can no longer be any doubt that they are the best at what they do. They have pulled out many a game in the last few minutes, causing their fans agita and delight, and the rest of the country some respect mixed with hatred and envy. Injuries, including the dreaded concussion have plagued the team this year. And Brady launched his own fitness brand: “TB12” with his guru and trainer, Alex Guerrero, stressing “pliability” instead of muscle building. It has kept him going at the age of 40, but there are rumors that it has caused a rift between him and Belichick. We’ll see what the future holds and how long this franchise can keep going at this incredible pace. I am not a soothe-sayer. Time marches on.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: New England Patriots, Super Bowl, Celtics, Deflategate
Characterizations: well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Betsy, I love this story and I love your selfie in that cute Patriots shirt. I have never understood football, it just seems like a bunch of men jumping on top of each other and trying to hurt each other, but it sounds like you actually appreciate the game. Thanks for all your observations, especially the political ones!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Glad you like the shirt…gift from a friend. I actually do find the games exciting these days, even heart-stopping. The more I learn, the more I like them. Living a few miles from Robert Kraft, I occasionally run into him in the neighborhood. That’s fun too. I was at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser at son Jonathan’s house once. Wonder how that would go down with Trump now.

  2. Not being a sports fan at all, I must admit this isn’t my favorite Betsy Pfau article. But it’s well-written, and explains it all pretty clearly for us athletically-challenged types. One question, though: who is Giselle? By the context, I’m guessing she’s Brady’s wife or girlfriend, but I’m not sure. Also, the sentence that begins, “The team the rest of the country loves to hate them…” I think would make more sense if you took out “them”. Just a thought. Other than that, once again I learned even more about you, Betsy… I honestly didn’t know you were such a sports aficionado! And I love the selfie of you in the Patriots jersey!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Steve, Gisele is Brady’s wife, the Brazilian super-model, Gisele Bundgen, another reason people hate Tom Brady. Not only is he good-looking, and a great athlete but he is married to the highest paid model in the world. And I agree and have gone back and edited the essay – taking out “them”. It was an artifact from an earlier draft. I thought it felt awkward, but kept it in, for some reason. I always liked my school teams, but only lately came to watch the Patriots. As I said, we were Celtics fans about 35 years ago…long ago now.

      • Suzy says:

        I was going to say, you don’t have to know anything about sports to know about supermodel Gisele Bundchen being married to Tom Brady. It’s like supermodel Brooklyn Decker and tennis player Andy Roddick. I guess sports celebrities and supermodels have a lot in common. (Also don’t forget Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.)

  3. John Zussman says:

    I had to look up GOAT—Greatest of All Time. Ha! I see your Brady and raise you Joe Montana. That said, I enjoyed your story and respect your affection for your local teams. I find it fascinating when fans shift from talking about their team in the third person (“THEY were a truly awful team”) to first person (“I cried when WE lost the championship”). We do identify with our heroes, don’t we?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      John, Brady isn’t retired yet…we’ll see who’s in the conversation by the end of his career. But your observation about my shifting pronouns was an interesting one – not on purpose, but that moment of heartbreak was quite personal for me, I was thoroughly invested. Thanks for your close reading.

  4. Gary Faules says:

    I really enjoyed this story and I couldn’t help but smile when I learned you are a Celtic fan. Years ago when I was spending lots of time in Seattle training for the Olympics a good friend of mine was a banker who owned the buildings next to the Kingdome (which was demolished) and had a private entrance which allowed us to enter in a hallway shared by the two locker rooms. Since my friend and his wife were season boxseat ticket holders they knew all of the players personally. One evening while attending a game as we walked down the hallway, my friend and his wife were chatting with some of the Seattle players. Then from behind me I heard “Hello Dave! How ya doing?” yo which my friend Dave replied, “Well hello Larry!” As I turned around I almost fell over looking up at none other than Larry Bird. Dave kidded him about being seen with him ruining his reputation and we all laughed. I couldn’t believe I was standing next to The Larry Bird.

    And John, I promise to share a lovely, humorous and touching story about the time Joe (yes that Joe) invited me to dinner.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks for your comment and YOUR story. Keep ’em coming. Can’t wait to hear about the time you had dinner with Joe! I am a Boston transplant, Detroit by birth, so I appreciate ALL sports stories. While visiting at the Playboy Mansion years ago, we found ourselves sitting next to Kareem Abdul Jabar. Others were playing backgammom, at $20/point (in 1975…way too much for us, even now), so we invited him to play just for fun. He said he didn’t gamble. We said we didn’t either, but he still declined. We also met Jim Brown on that visit. He shook my hand (as I mentioned in my story, I am petite – only 5′ tall, at the time I weighed in at about 90 lbs). My hand disappeared entirely into his. He was enormous!

    • John Zussman says:

      Can’t wait, Gary. I sure hope you accepted the invitation!

      Between the two of you, you certainly know a lot of sports stars. Have you thought of opening an agency? 😉

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        Just passing encounters, John…but make for good stories! Danny Ainge, currently the managing director of the Celtics, but a player during those glory years, was in the same theater when we saw “Hidden Figures” a few months ago (he was in the ticket line behind me…so funny to look up and see someone towering over me). After the show, my husband went to the men’s room and was in there next to him. My husband didn’t speak to him, but someone else there did. Another passing encounter.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Damn, Betsy, you really know (and show) your stuff here! Some real “inside football” with the Pats and their cast of characters. And the same with the Celts, for that matter, right down to the old un-air conditioned Garden and spotting Danny Ainge at a movie theater. I am also glad I am not the only sports fan who finds it impossible to entirely put aside the politics of the individuals involved.
    I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what you will be doing starting at about 6:30 this coming Sunday night. And doubt you will be in the company of many “Iggles” fans, as warm and nurturing as they tend to be.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I see you read The Globe this morning, John! You are correct, I’ll be cheering for the Pats on Sunday night, though I actually know Jeff Lurie a bit from the Vineyard (we’ve been in him home and my husband occasionally plays golf with him – his best friend from high school is our very close college friend who first brought us to the Vineyard some 25 years ago; he’ll be AT the Super Bowl, he was at the play-off game in Philly too, though he lives in LA now). But I have friends who can no longer root for the old home team since the last election. Sad state of affairs.

  6. Suzy says:

    Betsy, does this count as a new story for you? Were you at 95 before and this is your 96th, or were you already at 96? I have given up on trying to catch up with you, which was my goal for a while, but I’m wondering if I should republish my story with an update too. 🙂

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Suzy, I didn’t notice if the counter went up when I reposted this. It no longer appears for the old prompt, so perhaps not. And I already had another story for this prompt anyway (the story about the Boston Marathon, written almost two years ago). With the Patriots in the Super Bowl this weekend, it just felt appropriate to put it out again, but update what happened to the players I mentioned at the end of the story (since they were not factors in this season).

  7. Kit says:

    I wanted to start by saying how impressed I am by how much you know about sports, but I realize that’s sexist. (Nevertheless I am impressed.) And thanks for reminding me about that brief window of time when cheerleaders were un-cool. Being a New Englander, where the Patriots are concerned, I do my best to focus on football and not politics. And I’ll be cheering with you on Sunday. Go Pats!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Sitting on the beach last summer, the guys were very impressed that I was the only one who knew that the Super Bowl would be in Minnesota this month! Ha! Funny the things ones picks up after years of being around sports fans, if one is only paying attention. Go Pats!

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