I don’t honestly have much use for football — I generally tune in in late December, when I’m desperate for the sight of grass, and then whatever bandwagon team I pick gets bounced in the first round. But tonight was different: The Colts and the Patriots in a game that might as well be this year’s Super Bowl, a showdown made even livelier by Bill Belichick’s jihad against Roger Goodell and the entire NFL.
This battle didn’t disappoint — it was just a phenomenal game from the outset. Emily and our friend Eddie and I caught the game at Toad Hall, a Soho bar with a fondness for the Mets — and the place where 13 months ago we celebrated one of the happiest days in Met history. (Here’s to victory! And to Schadenfreude!) The crowd — big and boisterous, and given a boost in both respects by tired, celebrating marathoners and a mild night — had naturally segregated itself. The Colts rooters (more properly, the hordes on the Anti-Pats bandwagon) were in the front at one end of the bar, while the handful of Pats fans were in the back by the waitress station. So the noise level see-sawed along with the momentum of the game, with one end of the bar quiet or groaning while the other roared and vice versa.
This is a wonderful time for New England. The Red Sox are World Champs again, and this time it’s as a normal team, instead of as a collective saddled with a region’s tragedies and dreary myths. The Patriots are a juggernaut. Heck, the Celtics should be pretty good. Right now, if you want to locate the center of excellence in North American sports, it’s Boston.
I’ve got lots of Red Sox friends. I know Pats rooters who grew up in the fan equivalent of total darkness, and for whom learning to cheer was like cave fish learning to see. I’m happy for them. I really am. But here’s the thing; As the tide turned for good, with the Colts sputtering and Manning fumbling, I started hearing this sound in Toad Hall. It was an unwelcome sound, one I don’t usually hear in November. A familiar, very New York sound — a cocksure bray, the kind of self-congratulatory noise I imagine a billionaire makes checking his balance. It was the sound of smug certainty and entitlement.
Heed my warning, New England friends: I heard your brethren tonight in Toad Hall. Maybe I even heard you. And you sounded exactly like Yankee fans.