I am the mom of three young New England Patriots fans. After the excitement dies down, the parade route resumes to be a traffic jam, and the local stories move from Gillette to Fenway, I will still be talking about the Super Bowl win, but it won’t have anything to do with football.
When I speak to my children about Super Bowl LI, it will be less about the impossible catch Edelman made, the pair of successful two-point conversions, or even the way Tom Brady expertly managed the clock. I agree that those were all incredible achievements, but as a parent, my takeaways are less about the Pats’ overtime touchdown drive and more about the attitude that got them there.
Parents strive to teach their kids important lessons and seek examples who model the behavior they want their children to exhibit. In our best moments, we as parents hopefully behave this way ourselves, but in reality we often look for role models for our children outside of ourselves. In my case I very often, and sometime unsuccessfully, turn to professional athletes. The Patriots did parents (regardless of their fan allegiances) a service this season by exemplifying the exact behaviors so many of us hope to instill in our offspring. Perhaps not the cursing that was sometimes caught on camera (wink, wink), but the collection of lessons Bill Bellichik and company shared throughout this season, and especially in this Super Bowl.
Lesson 1: You may not think the consequence is fair. Let that fuel you to improve.
I have not met a Patriots’ fan who is also a Roger Goodall Fan. As a fan base, we seem to disagree with the four game suspension he gave to Tom Brady after the “Deflategate” uncertainty. My kids are no exception to this as even my 4-year-old daughter says the NFL Commissioner’s name with a hint of disdain. The fact is that whether or not we agreed with the punishment, the suspension happened. And when #12 ran out onto the field for the first time in the 2016-2017 season he showed that accepting the consequence and holding your head up high can further fuel greatness. It’s called resilence, and it is one of the things parents struggle most to relay to their kids.
Would TB have been less successful if he had not been suspended? We do not know. But I can convince my kids that Mr. Brady took his punishment and bounced back ready to roll. If the greatest quarterback to ever play the game can recover from a 4-week suspension, my children certainly should be able to handle 10 minutes in the “calm down chair.“
Lesson 2: Work hard and DO YOUR JOB.
It was the motto of the team all season, but was so clearly exemplified in the second half of Super Bowl LI. Every person has a role to play, and when each of us puts in our top effort success comes more easily. In his Lombardi Trophy acceptance speech Coach Bill Bellichik said that Tom Brady continues to be one of the hardest workers in football. It is not a perfect equation that effort input is equal to success output, but four nights of studying spelling flashcards or four nights at the batting cages is bound to result in a better spelling, or hitting, average.
Lesson 3: Never give up
I would bet money that my 7-year-old was not the only fan who was an emotional disaster in the first half of Super Bowl LI. How could his beloved team be down 21-3? He was ready to give up, but luckily the Boys from Gillette were not. The news reports about the half-time atmosphere in the locker room suggest that unlike my 1st grader, the Pats’ players never really worried they would lose that game. The superhuman effort they exhibited in the third and fourth quarters demonstrated that mindset.
Lesson 4: We are all only human
A fellow mom and lifelong Patriots’ fan told me that when Tom Brady fell to his knees in tears in the post-game huddle of reporters, she fell right along with him. Thank you Mr. Brady for providing evidence to my children that we are all only human. Each one of us has struggles, and each one of us fights demons no matter our circumstances. Some say those were strictly happy tears, but I argue that they were overwhelming tears of relief, joy, sadness, disbelief, and redemption. It is ok for #12 to cry, and it is ok for the rest of us to cry, too.
Lesson 5: Believe in yourself and Defy the Odds
In our house we have a saying that the first step of doing something is believing that you can do it. I had to laugh when commentator Joe Buck noted (at the end of the first half) that no team had ever come back from such a deficit in a Super Bowl game. This New England team is essentially a group of people who defy the odds. Brady was the storied 6th round draft pick. Edelman is small for the typical wide out build and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia studied aeronautical engineering in college. Part of me expected the injured Gronk to run on the field in his street clothes and score a touchdown. Of course the Patriots accomplished something no other team had tackled up to that point, because defying odds is the team’s modus operandi. I want each of my children to always bet on his or her ability to defy the odds. My daughter truly thinks she will one day be a princess, and I don’t see a reason not to believe her or believe in her.
There are plenty of Patriots’ players and staff members who are also parents, but I do not suppose they thought about the lessons they were imparting during this season and this Super Bowl. The legacy of this game will be longstanding for certain, but as a parent I’m hoping the lessons I gathered will last for generations to come.