(Note: This story was written and published in 2016 before the 2016 election and before the league attacks on Colin Kaepernick. I have since taken down my Tom Brady poster and stopped watching most games. And even still, my love for the game and the Pats remains on some level.)
I am a somewhat unlikely NFL football fan. I am a queer, trans, prison abolitionist, civil rights lawyer. I am fundamentally opposed to systems of power that exploit the bodies of people of color and that leverage the legacy of slavery to normalize the consumption of Blackness by white people. So you might think that I couldn’t stomach the NFL (I hardly can). And yet, despite all of my political critiques of the NFL, I live and breathe professional football. As Dave Zirin wrote of sports, “amid the politics and pain that engulf and sometimes threaten to smother professional sport, there is also an art that can take your breath away.”
It is this art that has lifted me up in my darkest times.
My identity as a Patriots fan is a part of me like my queerness, my transness, my hatred of prisons and other caging apparatuses, my love for family.
The office where I spend my days speaks to these parts of me.
On one side of my office is a picture of Tom Brady, bracing to throw the ball seemingly in my direction. It is the only thing that covers the tan cubicle wall opposite the desk where I sit. Behind my desk are other posters that speak to who I am and what inspires me: a drawing of Marsha P. Johnson with the words “No Pride for Some of Us Without Liberation for All of Us”; a “Homoland Security” poster with some fabulous queers lifting up the border; an image of Travon Martin; a comic sent to me from my client and friend, Chelsea Manning; pictures of my kid (dressed in Patriots attire of course).
In my office I am regularly confronted with the fact that the world is a horrible, terrifying and beautiful place. I hear regularly from trans people in prison fighting each day to survive, building networks of support in and outside of the prison walls, and lifting each other up with visions for survival.
I am so blessed to do the work that I do; to have the family that I have; to be able to share in laughter, to hold and touch the people that I love; to have survived into adulthood. So many things that many in the trans community never get to experience — particularly the many transgender women of color whose last breaths are extracted at too young an age at the hands of hateful individuals and through the deadly tolls of administrative violence.
What does this have to do with football, then? Well nothing really but also everything.
I have sat on the edge of so much sadness and self-hate. Somehow the beauty of the Patriots play over these past fifteen years (and even the not so beautiful play of my first 18 years of life), the feeling of football season, the love of being a fan, the intensity of caring so deeply about something you have no control over (except of course that they will lose if I don’t wear my Edelman jersey on Sunday), has helped to keep me alive.
Last night I was overcome with sadness. A loss in my community. So many behind bars. A city of poor people and Black people poisoned. The challenges of parenting. So I sat and watched replays of Malcolm Butler intercepting the ball on the goal line in the final seconds of the Super Bowl (“MALCOLM, GO!”). I smiled and texted with my brother. I sent messages to other Patriots fans. I laughed about the season and hating Peyton Manning with Steelers fans and Giants fans.
I felt an intensity that had nothing to do with me. I felt proud of my team and of myself for knowing and caring so much about something so irrelevant to my day to day life. I even felt love for my favorite Pats haters (hey, Dave Zirin and Chris Hayes).
I love being a pats fan and I love you, New England Patriots. #GoPats.