The Truth About Patriots Fans: "New England Bandwagon Nation"

Angel Navedo@NamedAngelSenior Writer IJanuary 23, 2009

There are harsh realities and truths that people often choose to ignore. Fortunately there's the written word when previously neglected ideas and notions require a spark of legitimacy.

People can’t only be told the truth — sometimes it has to be written with conviction, with no hesitation, and no apologies.

That’s exactly what Ken Knight did when he took on the daunting task of researching and writing his first book, New England: Bandwagon Nation.

An aspiring writer by his own admission, Knight isn’t going to dazzle any readers with poetic or rhythmic prose. Instead, Knight carries readers through a conversation for more than 200 pages, channeling his honest and passionate spirit as he details the history of professional football franchises in New England.

Supported by documented facts, an overwhelming barrage of statistics, and the all-important incorporation of life experience, Knight provides readers with profound material too significant to be disregarded for mere shock value.

A New England native and resident, Knight isn’t writing from the perspective of an outsider looking in. His experiences are the supportive backdrop for his extensive research on the Patriots’ fanbase and their questionable history as a loyal and supportive bunch.

Knight’s introduction does an exceptional job of setting the tone for what’s to come.

“If you only support the team when things are going well, that makes you a fan of winning, not a fan of the team. There is a huge difference.”

The opening chapter does exactly what’s necessary to introduce Knight’s theories. Beginning with the inaugural season of the 1960 Boston/New England Patriots, Knight impresses as he thoroughly recaps every season up to the 2007 campaign.

Knight compiles dates, scores, locations, and attendance records for every home game played by the Patriots, effectively explaining the startling trends between drops in attendance and losing seasons.

From the Pats’ 17-game television blackout streak to record-breaking attendance totals in seasons following a Super Bowl appearance, Knight drives home his point about fair-weather fan support in New England.

It's not exactly a novel concept as most working-class fans shouldn't be expected to purchase tickets to see a losing team, but startling nonetheless.

However, it’s Knight’s history lessons of failed teams prior to the Boston/New England Patriots that provides the biggest indictment of Boston sports fans and their inability to remain loyal to their gridiron franchises.

Detailing the history of two of Boston’s previous endeavors — the Redskins and the Yanks — Knight explains their short-lived existences in Massachusetts. The Redskins found a new home in Washington, D.C., and the Yanks eventually became the Indianapolis Colts the NFL knows today.

The fact that both teams moved on to other states and became some of the NFL’s most storied franchises is proof-positive of every claim Knight makes about Boston’s football faithful. The only interest is in victory with no patience for building.

As if the loss of two franchises wasn’t enough, Knight also reminds readers of the constant threat of relocation New England faced all the way through the early 1990s. Bill Parcells' arrival was the only saving grace that prevented the Patriots from calling St. Louis home.

However, the research isn’t flawless. While Knight paints a clear picture of Patriots history, his argument would have been better supported with attendance averages from other teams over the same period.

The one team Knight compares New England to is the Green Bay Packers—an unfair association to make by many standards, as most NFL teams could never boast the loyalty displayed by the Packers’ faithful.

Knight’s conversational style of writing also forces the book down some awkward directions. While he manages to bring most points around full-circle, readers interested in the NFL and the exposure of Patriots’ fans will be distracted by his NASCAR references and generally conservative views of the NFL and society as a whole.

While digressing into multiple topics — spanning from Boston sports coverage on 850 AM WEEI to character assassinations of players like Ray Lewis, Chad Johnson, Chris Henry, and Randy Moss — Knight could aggravate readers who appreciate the true purpose of his book.

Comments made in passing — like a criticism of the NFL Network’s usage of Hip-Hop music during highlight reels — seem out of place when Knight has spent an extraordinary amount of time cementing the foundation of his book with relevant data.

Despite those issues, New England: Bandwagon Nation is an important read for everyone who values the NFL and its rich history.

It’s more than a book for bitter Patriots haters to find common ground in mutual disgust for a pompous organization.

While supporting his beliefs with facts and statistics, Knight effortlessly expresses his strong opinions with class and integrity. The approach is confident and modest; he is stubborn, yet affable.

The research is so convincing that not even true, die-hard New England Patriots fans can take issue with anything Knight has written. He gives credit where credit is due and even acknowledges the existence of the small percentage of legitimate Pats fans forced to share a stadium with fans that wouldn’t have been there in the darker years.

New England: Bandwagon Nation is the soul of a football-loving man doing what he believes was right, with the best of intentions in his heart and mind.

Ken Knight’s New England: Bandwagon Nation is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and through his publisher at Word Association.

The book can also be found in New England-area Barnes and Noble stores, or can be made available by request.

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