I Sweep The Streets I Used To Own: A Patriots Fan Woefully Prepares for Super Bowl LIV

Wallace stares off into the distance, pondering the meaning of it all

In this world of increasing chaotic instability, there are a decreasing number of things you can reliably count on. The seasons change. The sun rises and then it sets. A well-tailored trench coat brings any outfit together. The moon goes through its various cycles and phases. Drake’s surprise releases rise to number one on the chart. Millions of monarch butterflies complete their annual gruelling migration to Mexico. The New England Patriots play in the Super Bowl. 

Please insert your own abrupt record scratch sound effect here. Because obviously– depressingly, frustratingly, bewilderingly– that last item is not exactly true this year. 

If the sun were to disappear it would disrupt the orbit of all the planets in the solar system, causing them to go spinning recklessly into the unknown. And to be honest that’s more or less how I’ve been feeling, ever since the Patriots were knocked out of the NFL playoffs about a month ago with little ceremony but plenty of fanfare: Thrown-off. Directionless. Lost in space. 

I don’t expect saying this will earn me anybody’s sympathy. A big part of being a Pats fan in recent years has been growing accustomed to the jeers, the taunts, the (entirely lacking in context!) accusations of cheating. But it was always fine, because we did so much damn winning.

Now, it is regrettably time for me to learn how the other half lives. Or the other thirty one, as it were. One of the also-rans whose team faltered and fell short and doesn’t get the privilege of having a stake in the Super Bowl. It’s a foreign feeling and truthfully I do not care for it, but they say all change takes time. 

So in that spirit, I have tried my best to carry nobly on and get ready for what all brands are legally required to refer to as “The Big Game” with an open mind and a stoic heart. I assigned myself a handful of tasks, varying in their degree of difficulty, so I could be as prepared as possible to live in this new paradigm.  

This is my 2020 New England-less Super Bowl journey.     

Determine who to root for 

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via robbreport.com

It bears repeating how unsettling it is to not have my favorite team playing in the Super Bowl after three consecutive appearances. Like a gluttonous descendent of royalty, I have grown fat and spoiled after a two decade long diet of divisional dominance, lengthy playoff runs and Lombardi trophies. I could cite all kinds of stats to illustrate the Patriots’ historic excellence but let’s put it this way: the last time their season was cut shorter than the AFC Championship game, I received all my condolence messages on an LG Rumor.

So I don’t have a natural side to come down on in the upcoming showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Time to sort out the heroes from the villains.

Some pros for Kansas City: Considering they play within the same conference as the Patriots, I bear them remarkably little ill will. I have an entire catalogue of grudges built up against most teams in the AFC, some grounded in legitimacy, others more a product of my imagination, but somehow the Chiefs have largely escaped my ire. As far as head coaches go, Andy Reid seems like a decent, competent dude despite being often stymied by clock management. Meanwhile quarterback Patrick Mahomes appears to be the NFL’s version of Steph Curry; gifted, ebullient, and capable of the kinds of extraordinary plays that should trigger investigations into possible witchcraft. 

On to Cincinnati San Francisco: Of the two teams, the Niners are better known for their defence, which means that rooting for them inevitably means rooting for a more boring game. I already have a diminished emotional interest in this Super Bowl, do I really want to compound my struggle to stay engaged by hoping for a low score? 

The answer is yes, because ultimately I’m a predictable New England fan coming at this decision with a selfish agenda.

I’m not emotionally prepared to bear witness to the coronation of Pat Mahomes III, an event which will naturally involve the rhetorical burial of my beloved Tom Brady. Similarly, a spectacular performance by San Francisco quarterback (and noted handsome person) Jimmy Garoppolo will also make my team look bad, considering the Patriots once chose to trade him for a random collection of picks and maybe also a pair of cleats, idk, it was pretty lopsided. Neither option is good. 

Thus, I have determined it is in my best interest to cross my fingers and wish for a 49ers win that comes mainly on the strengths of their run game and their defence, with middling to average numbers from Jimmy GQ. This will be a dull viewing experience, for which I’m sorry, but the heart needs what it needs, and anyway, there’s always the halftime show and the commercials.     

Plan a menu 

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via Eating Well

For past Super Bowls in which New England was indeed playing, I dealt with the accompanying stress by essentially not leaving the kitchen.

People don’t warn you about this, but when your favorite team plays in the big game you experience roughly equal parts excitement and anxiety. My strategy in managing this has been to make copious amounts of Super Bowl worthy snack foods: dips, oh so many dips; quesadillas; mozzarella sticks; Frankensteinian combinations of cookie dough and brownies– say what you want about Pats fans, we eat well. 

Tomorrow I won’t have any high emotions to channel through the oven so I suspect the buffet table will have slightly less weight to strain under. However, my vast experience in this area has given me the confidence to declare, in no uncertain terms, that I have perfected the art of the Super Bowl menu, and since you have so kindly indulged my whining I feel compelled to share.

First Quarter: appetizers

You can go classic here, with a smorgasbord of chips and your usual dips– your quesos, your french onions, your guacamole– or you could bring out the slowcooker and make this next-level spinach-artichoke. Ideally you do all of the above, because this is not an occasion that calls for moderation. This is also the time to bring out stalwart snacks like onion rings, deep fried pickles, or the aforementioned mozzarella sticks. People will enjoy the game more in direct relation to how much fried food is on offer, it’s proven science.    

Second Quarter: a creative snack bar

If the first quarter was all about tradition, shake things up in the second by putting together a station where your guests can personalize a plate of something delicious. You can’t go wrong with a nacho bar that includes every imaginable fixing, but there are lots of other directions you can go here: A sub sandwich bar. One for mac and cheese. It could be something as simple as a popcorn bar with different butters and seasonings. Whatever you choose, your guests will definitely appreciate calling their own audibles and have some fun. 

Third Quarter: bread and other bready things

By now everyone will have been drinking for awhile and it’s just a practical idea to balance things out by serving something a bit more substantial. I can enthusiastically endorse this cheesy pull-apart garlic bread along with some kind of pasta dish, maybe a baked ziti. If you can plan ahead, this is also a good time to aim for any pizzas you might order to arrive. 

Fourth Quarter: dessert

There will be people who at this point will say they are too full for dessert– even people you love and respect. This is clearly an outrageous claim, and the only way you can protect yourself from this pitfall is to make your desserts undeniable. A warm crockpot filled with this cinnamon roll dip. Or chocolate brownies with Reese’s cups and peanut butter frosting. If the final course is something a step above store bought cookies or plain vanilla cupcakes, everyone’s plates will be cleared by the time the confetti cannons pop. 

Actually have a good time?

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As outlined above, I have lost my tentative grip on reality a little bit every time the Patriots have made it to the Super Bowl– which, for the record, has been nine times. Even if their absence this year has lessened my attachment to any particular outcome and reduced my expected time in the kitchen, I am beginning to see some bright sides to the situation. 

Because the thing is, it’s kind of nice to get a break from caring that much. From feeling my heart beat too fast and behaving as if every good thing in life hangs in the balance between one first down and the next. 

During this year’s Super Bowl, I can sit back and shrug. Hope for some good football, maybe a spectacular Mahomes throw or a Dee Ford sack, but otherwise stay above the fray, unaffected. Actually eat some of the food I spent all day making instead of feeling too full of nerves to manage a plate. 

I’m told there are even activities and games that more casual viewers participate in to stay interested. I can buy squares! Or make obscure prop bets– 50 bucks that the Gatorade poured over the winning coach will be red. I can actually pay attention to the commercials. 

A wide world of possibilities has been opened to me with the low personal stakes of this Super Bowl. I just don’t plan on getting used to it.  

Come to terms with the passage of time and the reality of getting older

For the record, I don’t believe the dynasty is done. Not yet. After all, we’ve still got Bill Belichick and Tom Brady– I’m currently choosing to ignore the hysterical speculation over whether or not he might leave. Two brilliant football minds and an incredible combined will to compete. We’ve been written off so many times during this two decade plus run, it’s easy to believe they’ll just regroup, readjust and next season will be a complete return to form. 

But even if the two of them have another 12-win season in them, another Super Bowl run towards ring number seven, it’s pretty undeniable that we’re in the endgame now. The quarterback I’ve adored since I was a little girl won’t play forever– he can’t, that’s the nature of this brutal game, and the fact that we’ve watched him be excellent for so long should already be considered a gift in itself. 

Watching your heroes get older is an unpleasant reminder that you too are getting older, that all of the things you take for granted will someday come to an end. Your uncreased skin. Your quick metabolism. Your ability to throw the long ball. Most of us won’t be pushed to retire around the age of forty but I think we all dread the idea of losing track of ourselves, of becoming some lesser version we don’t recognize.   

But if the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant earlier in the week reminded me of anything, it’s this: to grow old is a privilege denied to many, and it’s something else that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The fact is that sooner or later, Tom Brady will retire, leave football behind, enjoy more time with his family, potentially pursue a second act career. And then, god willing, someday he’ll return to Gillette Stadium with white hair, a cane in his hand, pointing up at all the banners he won; and I’ll be watching on a television somewhere with the volume turned all the way up, my hearing aids in, knowing that we’re both among the lucky ones.     


To all of the Chiefs and 49ers fans out there: good luck tomorrow. Try to enjoy the game despite the growing pit in your stomach. If your team wins, relish in it. Watch all of the post-game coverage you can. Relive the exhilarating moments, share stories with your fellow fans. Enjoy a full year of having the comfortable knowledge that your team are the reigning Super Bowl Champions. 

And if your team loses– allow yourself to feel sad, but don’t despair. Because even in times of great disappointment, I can tell you from experience– after that helmet catch, that Wes Welker fumble, that one moment of uncharacteristic brilliance by Nick Foles– the sun will still come up tomorrow. That’s something you can know for sure. 

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