It wasn’t looking good for the Patriots last Sunday. The Falcons attacked from the start of Super Bowl LI, leading 28-9 at the start of the 4th quarter. Then, in the kind of comeback that makes sports worth watching, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lead a resurgence, delivering a victory for his team and a fifth win for himself. Naturally, Patriots fans celebrated while Falcons fans speculated about what went wrong.
It’s typical for a deluge of memes to wash over my Facebook news feed and Reddit /r/all page immediately following an event. References to this near-miss by the Falcons, satiric and sincere, came my way late Sunday evening. The lighter comments and memes were expected, and felt at home alongside the fun filled night of football, chicken wings, and parties we’d all shared. Sure, the loss hurts for Falcons fans, but do the results of the Super Bowl really matter?
Yes. This time, they do.
After the jovial memes and tweets, I discovered serious ones: memes comparing Falcons fans’ overconfidence to that of Hillary Clinton supporters, tweets saying, “At least the Falcons had the popular vote,” and posts asserting the match between the Patriots and the Falcons was a metaphor for relations between white and black American. But none struck me quite as hard as this tweet:
The congratulations above are sincere. The Second City, a Chicago-based improv troupe, is congratulating the losing team on sparing themselves a visit to the White House, a visit that is traditionally an honor for the champion of professional and college sports. For many in Trumps America, though, it would be an occasion to feel profoundly uncomfortable and unwelcomed.
Several Patriots players share The Second City’s sentiment. To date, six Patriots players have stated that they will not make the trip to the White House with their teammates. Branch, Hightower, and Long have not taken an outwardly political stance, but the other three have come right out and made their reasons clear. McCourty said that he doesn’t “feel accepted in the White House” and that “certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.” That’s true. There are not only Trump supporters on the team, but Trump friends. Tom Brady, Robert Kraft, and Bill Belichick all Trump’s personal friends. They’ll be accepted in the White House. I can understand how it would be uncomfortable to stand in a room with a man who threatens your beliefs and his friends, who are your colleagues. I’m not sure I could do it.
In the past year, football has become more political. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting the treatment of blacks and other minorities by remaining seated during the National Anthem this past season. His silent stance caused much controversy, from people decrying his “unamerican” practice, to other football players joining him. In this age of division and political unrest, I await the increased politicization of football, and all aspect of life that used to have nothing to do with whoever sits in the Oval Office.