I vividly remember the moment anytime the glorious scent of donuts strikes my nose.
I was in college and my friends and I were putting the finishing touches on a modest pregame spread to celebrate what appeared to be a mismatched Super Bowl.
The New England Patriots were playing the St. Louis Rams in the Superdome, and I couldn’t be less invested in either team. But it was the Super Bowl...and I would watch because of a strong moral obligation.
To hedge against the impending blowout, my friends and I compiled a conventional selection of game day foods with one notable exception...donuts.
Predictably, none of us minded that a friend, inexperienced with game-day cuisine, had provided one dozen deliciously glazed and glistening donuts. Sitting between wings and chips, they weren’t bad.
We maneuvered around my cramped dorm room as the festivities began to subside and the business of player introductions loomed about. This was always my favorite part of the Super Bowl because it was one of the only times where I was able to discern genuine emotion and nervousness from the players.
The magnitude of the game was written on each individual face.
But the emotion was even more evident in light of the events of September 11th. While the usual pomp and circumstance of the game was on full display, the notion of a unified patriotism was clearly evident through all the pregame performers.
For me, the atmosphere was vaguely reminiscent to Super Bowl XXV in 1991 after Whitney Houston’s performance of the Star Spangled Banner. The stadium was full of emotion with the Gulf War weighing heavily on most American minds.
I was glad to be watching the Super Bowl and feeling proud of my country just months after finding myself in a Spanish class where our teacher inexplicably communicated to us in indecipherable Spanish that the World Trade Center was being attacked.
Released from class early, we wandered around campus oblivious to the developments but aware that something was amiss.
Even though the teams disinterested me, the merging of all these feelings, along with one of the teams being named the “Patriots,” was more than enough to gain a small notion of intrigue and persuasive rooting interest in the game.
The player introductions began, which meant the Rams would be trotting out the key components of the “Greatest Show on Turf.” One-by-one, the most impressive offense assembled in my lifetime was introduced.
When the time came for the Patriots to be introduced, something odd happened.
Instead of hearing the individual names of the offense or defense, the entire team pooled out onto the field, each individual forming one large and cohesive unit.
It was at that moment that I became a fan of the New England Patriots.
Whether it was a testament to the underdog status, the fervor of patriotism, or the team entrance onto the field, I’ll never be able to honestly say what most contributed to my conversion. But as a lifelong believer in the importance of teamwork and the solidarity of camaraderie, the Patriots’ approach spoke to me.
Their offensive strategy was as provocative as an episode of The Golden Girls, and it stood in stark contrast to the track-meet style of the Ram’s offense—but it was blue-collar and deliberate.
And it worked.
In fact, their entire roster could have been described as blue-collar and deliberate. Instead of focusing on big name free agents with equally large price tags, the Patriots plundered through other team’s scrap heaps to make shrewd signing after shrewd signing.
Cast-aways and also-rans were reborn as Patriots, mirroring the composition of our nascent nation’s militias that fought against red-coated and blue-blooded cousins from across the pond.
And though it may seem silly to put so much meaning into a game when there was a much larger undertaking going on throughout our country, the team, their name, and the mantra of the night all converged into something bigger and more profound than a sport’s championship.
Through the entirety of the game, my interest and investment in the Patriots grew rapidly. The ups-and-downs of the game gnawed at me. While I had begun the night disinterested and impartial, as the seconds ticked away I needed the Patriots to win.
There was a bigger symbolism that had to be served.
The Patriots’ vanquishing of the Rams in overtime was the subtle gesture of symbolism I needed. The nature of the upset recalled the original essence of our country and the sturdy foundation of stubbornness that it was built upon.
Even though our courtship was brief, the ’01-’02 Patriots are my favorite all-time team. I continue to root for the Patriots, not just because of the meaning I’ve attached to that night, but because (Spygate aside) they continue to be a franchise that stands apart from all the others.
Kind of like those donuts.