There’s no good reason for the New England Patriots to ever get booed by their fans at a home game while Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still around.
Of all the situations and circumstances that might necessitate booing your football team as a fan, Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs 100% did not qualify for any of them.
At halftime, the score of the game was 20-7 in favor of the visitors.
If you’re a Chiefs fan, you’re undoubtedly thrilled that your team has a double-digit lead in one of the hardest road environments to win in. You’re probably also generally pleased that your team is 8-4, resides in first-place in the AFC West, and has somehow weathered a series of misfortunes – including the temporary loss of your franchise quarterback to injury – to remain very much in the playoff picture.
If you’re a Patriots fan, you’re doubtlessly disappointed that your team is down 13 points at home to one of your biggest rivals in the conference, but you’re not possibly surprised. You’re probably a bit nervous about how the second half will play out, but you’re also confident because you know you have the greatest head coach of all time on your side and he’s a master at making in-game adjustments between the second and third quarters.
Moreover, your team is 10-2, well-positioned to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs at the very least for the umpteenth time this millennium, very much in control of its own division and playoff destiny with a win or a loss against the Chiefs, and more a proven commodity in the rugged NFL landscape than any other franchise in the league.
And yet despite all this – the home crowd booed as the Patriots exited the field in Foxborough for the locker rooms to regroup. And not just a little bit of scattered booing either…. hardcore, vocal, stadium-wide booing.
New England linebacker and emotional leader Kyle Van Noy did not like it one bit.
“Ah, too much booing for me. I thought it was disrespectful. But it is what it is.”
According to CBS Boston, Van Noy was a guest on the “Quick Slants” Patriots podcast with interviewer and longtime New England reporter Tom E. Curran from NBC Sports. Curran asked Van Noy how he thought the crowd should have reacted after the team’s first half, and here was his answer:
“Positivity? A little cheering? We control what we can control, right? I mean … yeah.”
He’s somewhat right and somewhat wrong in his suggested alternative to booing. While he’s right that the Patriots crowd should probably have chosen to stay positive, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest the home crowd should have cheered their team.
After all, there wasn’t much to cheer about in that first half of action against the Chiefs – neither the offense nor the defense for New England looked very good.
All the same, though, the one thing this crowd should not have done is the one thing it did: booed.
Fans can boo their team for making bad decisions at inopportune moments that they don’t agree with. It’s one of the most common and most widely-accepted forms of the fans letting their coach or GM or quarterback or whoever know that they’re not pleased with what just happened… or with the general direction of the franchise.
They can boo a player that has done something reprehensible, or someone who’s acting selfishly or putting their own best interests above the collective interests of the team. They can boo a coach if that coach accepts a job elsewhere before their contract is finished.
There are probably a few other “acceptable” reasons for a home crowd to boo their team, but the first half against the Chiefs this past Sunday – as uninspiring as it was to watch – certainly was not a valid enough of an excuse for the rain of boos that fell down upon Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of this New England operation.
This team entered that game 10-2. They left that game 10-3. Do you know how many teams and fanbases around the league would absolutely sell their soul to be 10-3 right now heading into Week 15 of the season?
The Patriots entered that game in second place in the AFC and very much in line to receive a first-round bye. That’s the exact same way they left that game as well.
Now would it have been better to win the game outright and put a bit more distance between New England and their rivals from the AFC South and AFC West divisions – not to mention their rival within the AFC East (Buffalo)? Of course.
But for the home crowd to boo their team, a team that admittedly is struggling to produce consistently on offense, but a team that still has an amazing record and hands-down the best defense in the entire league… it’s just not fair. It’s also not proper. And it’s actually pretty darn stupid.
If fans don’t want to cheer for their team after a dismal first half, then that’s absolutely understandable. Don’t cheer.
But don’t boo. Not this team. Maybe if their team hadn’t won six Super Bowl championships, including three in the last five years, maybe then. Maybe. But probably not.
Maybe if their team didn’t have the best quarterback/head coach combo of all time still patrolling the sidelines. Maybe if their team hadn’t just won the Super Bowl last year with an even worse record in the regular season than this year’s team will likely have come the postseason.
New Englanders who were disgusted or disenchanted by what they saw on the field should have felt free to gripe to one another, to bite their nails nervously, shake their heads with worry, or retreat to the stadium bar to get another beer or three to wash away their concerns.
The one thing they shouldn’t have done is the one thing they did, and that was to boo a team that eventually they ended up cheering for vehemently come the fourth quarter. A cacophony of boo-birds transformed into a symphony of “Brady, Brady, Brady” cheers after the 42-year-old quarterback scrambled for 17 yards and a first down on fourth down late in the fourth quarter.
Football fans are always going to be a fickle breed in a league built on the motto “what have you done for me lately?”, but the one fanbase that really should never find itself booing – at least not until long after Brady and Belichick have gone – is the New England Patriots… no matter the circumstances.