By Randy Pierce
Almost everyone I knew and never knew was eager to give me encouragement and congratulations, excited and enthused for my unusual experience as not only the Patriot Fan of the Year but unimaginably announced as a selection for the Ultimate Fan with a plaque to be placed in the Pro-Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. For me, the much supported excitement was entirely focused upon the upcoming Super Bowl competition between the St. Louis Rams (“The Greatest Show on Turf”) and “my” New England Patriots.
I’d recently had a fun on-air radio interview with Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys who, while congratulating me and my team, hoped I was content because we unfortunately had no chance in the game. It is with that perspective I always hope to readily find the appropriate respect and humility to appreciate accomplishment without ever denigrating a challenge. It is also where I put my experiential philosophies to the debate as we went point for point on why I thought there was always reason for hope with a plan and the determination to back it up. Why I felt that teamwork raised the group beyond the individual limitations when managed effectively.
I still recall his final dismissal: “You are a great fan and I respect that, but I’m an NFL player and I think I’ve got a little more credibility — Rams will win.” Undaunted by his unquestioned talent and great humor throughout our work I responded: “Emmitt, I’m already in the Hall of Fame and you still have to wait five years so maybe I have the credibility edge and I still say my team has a chance in this game!” He laughed himself off his chair, conceded the jab if not the game, and we shook hands in appreciation of a fun interview and time well spent.
While the eventual Patriot victory served my point rather well that day, the real points for me are methods of approaching life. There is always possibility if you are willing to problem solve and persevere. It is always reasonable to maintain an appropriate respect for opposition and humility for our own abilities both to succeed or stumble.
I have long loved the sport of football and specifically my New England Patriots. I love the blend of strategy with a myriad and diverse style of athleticism into a team oriented effort. I love the social interactions which are readily encouraged by the stop action nature of the sport as personnel shifts and formations allow for strategy discussion before the flurry of action. I spent decades attending every home game and wearing my fanaticism plainly with the reward of so many moments of friendship and fun along the way.
Football has played many roles in my life and some of those were captured wonderfully in the Sports Emmy Award Nominated Episode of HBO “Inside the NFL Fanlife” which featured my friends and me in a worthy 11 minute video that I encourage you to watch for what it shares well beyond football:
I still love my team today and will be hoping and rooting for their win on February 4, 2018. I know they have been winning at levels so far beyond what I could have ever expected and more than any fan surely deserves. I truly wish the positive fans of every team could understand and experience some of the great rewards I believe my team has brought to me. Of course I want my team to continue to strive for excellence and to win. I candidly miss the long gone days when so many were eager to be positive and encouraging for me and my team as well. The reality is that resentment for our team has grown for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons may be deserved, many are less so.
I too feel concern for how the NFL manages player safety, domestic violence, and a monetary foundation which seems to have lost more focus than I find comfortable. I watch the opportunities for real and positive change to come along and advocate for it in the ways I am best able. Much as I did with Emmitt so long ago, I believe it’s possible and for now continue to enjoy how fortunate I am to enjoy a remarkable team on an incredible run. I recall some of the lessons I learned from this team and how, with a little thought, they might apply to life and hope for those positive aspects to find their way to the forefront again.