- As a fan of the NFL’s New York teams, the creator of the ‘Game of Thrones’ world has a special perspective on Super Bowl 52, and the NFL
“Life is meaningless and full of pain,” George R.R. Martin writes. No, it’s not from his Song of Fire and Ice novels—the immersive, bloody and as yet endless tale of the Starks, Lannsters and Targaryens and the war for the Iron Throne—though the sentiment pervades the multimillion-selling books and their wildly popular television version, HBO’s Game of Thrones. The line, rather, is one that recurs on Martin’s LiveJournal blog when he writes about the NFL. A native of Bayonne, N.J., the novelist roots for both the Giants and the Jets, and he hasn’t had much to cheer about on either front in recent years. But he does have a special perspective on Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots. SI’s Greg Bishop caught up with Martin via email this week, and asked him for his thoughts on Super Bowl 52.
GREG BISHOP: When New England won the AFC championship again, everything I saw online basically pointed to the fact that now everyone in the country outside of the Patriots’ fan base would suddenly become Eagles fans. Do you agree with that? Why do the Patriots seem to rub people that way?
George R.R. Martin: Once upon a time, when the Patriots made their first Super Bowl run in the Belichick era, they were scrappy underdogs against the Greatest Show On Turf, and much of America was rooting for them. (Except maybe in New York, where Belichick’s desertion of the Jets still stung). But it has been a long time since they were underdogs. Teams that win too much or dominate too long are always hated. Back in the ’50s when I was a kid and the Yankees were in the World Series every year, the Yankees were hated everywhere outside New York ... and even IN New York, by Dodgers and Giants fans. Vince Lombardi’s Packers were hated, and so were the Cowboys when they were good. And the Patriots have had a longer run at the top than any of those.
Bottom line, Americans love their scrappy underdogs. The Amazin’ Mets, Joe Namath’s Jets, the Miracle on Ice, Seabiscuit, the Cinderella Man. When David faces Goliath, only the Philistines root for Goliath. Also: 1) They cheat. They have been caught twice, which makes you wonder how many times they haven’t been caught; 2) they have benefited from some of the worst calls in the history of officiating. From the Tuck Rule against the Raiders to the bogus pass interference against the Jags, somehow they always get the calls.
GB: There’s so much in your books about dynasty and the story arc involved there. How hard it is to build one, for instance. And how much harder it is to maintain one, for another. I’m curious what you make of the Patriots dynasty in particular. As much as people hate them—as much as people hate the Lannisters—is there anything to begrudgingly admire about the way they’ve been able to sustain their success? Or do the means they take to achieve that success—Spygate, Brady’s health methods, the general sort of aura they project—make it impossible to even begrudgingly respect them?
GRRM: Oh, you have to respect them. Belichick is a great coach, Brady is a great quarterback, they have been a great team. But respect and admiration are two different things. We can respect the skills of a Ty Cobb or a Pete Rose as ballplayers, or the military genius of a Napoleon or a Rommel, without admiring them.
GB: What would the NFL look like now if Belichick had stayed on as the Jets’ head coach?
GRRM: Different, certainly. The Jets would have had more success, the Patriots less. But I do not believe that we would necessarily have had a Jets dynasty in place of the New England one, not unless Belichick could somehow have brought Tom Brady with him to New York, or devised some magical way for Chad Pennington to stay healthy (the world has largely forgotten just how good Pennington was before his injuries started mounting up). The Patriots’ success has been the result of having both a great coach and a great quarterback at the same time, and you don’t necessarily get that if Evil Little Bill stays with Gang Green.
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