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Tom Brady and the Patriots Have Redefined What It Means to Be a Dynasty

New England has won a third of all Super Bowls played since the 2001 season, leaving no doubt that Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time.

ATLANTA — Tom Brady is walking—no, he’s swaggering—into the Patriots’ locker room after winning his sixth Super Bowl ring. He’s carrying the Lombardi Trophy, and as the sweaty, taped-up hero of New England hoists the seven pounds of football-shaped silver into the air he yells, “Who wants to hold this?!” 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium might as well have been in Foxborough, based on the number of Patriots fans in the crowd. And judging by the deafening noise, none of the New England faithful seemed to care that the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever—the final count: 13–3, with a combined 14 punts—was also the most boring. It was almost painful to watch; the game was tied at three through three quarters and didn’t break open until Sony Michel plunged into the end zone on a two-yard run with seven minutes left to play. When he did, the sea of Patriots number 12 jerseys throughout the stadium erupted into chants of “Brady! Brady!”

You’re kidding yourself if you thought Super Bowl LIII was going to be anything other than a “home game” for New England. The Rams don’t exactly have a reliable fan base in L.A. yet, but most importantly: Patriots fans travel, because Patriots fans expect to win.

Do you realize how ridiculous that is? Sports fandom is supposed to be about getting your heart ripped out repeatedly, about watching your team’s dreams die as you stuff another chicken wing into your mouth in the hopes that the blue cheese eases the pain. There are 32 NFL teams, and only one can win it all each season. But the Patriots have won a third of all the Super Bowls since the 2001 season, redefining our idea of what constitutes a dynasty.

And I, New England’s prodigal daughter who grew up in Massachusetts, am basking in these championships.

Celebrate the Patriots' Super Bowl LIII win with SI's commemorative package

I’ll be honest: I went through a period of time after the 2015 season (ring number four!) when I felt conflicted about the Pats. There was something that felt almost . . .wrong about winning all the time? It was like being absurdly rich and paying no taxes. Maybe it’s the New England puritan in me, or maybe it’s Jewish guilt. But whenever the Patriots take the field, my subconscious takes over and I am a goner. I become like one of those goslings from the experiments Konrad Lorenz used to run, when he wore red boots and marched around the yard scattering food. The goslings would imprint on the red boots and be drawn to them for the rest of their lives. The Patriots are my red boots. I am powerless against this team.

So this year I finally stopped fighting my head and gave in completely. This team is the ultimate. It doesn’t get better than this. Someday, yes, this will all end, even if it only happens when Brady turns 80. Why should I not enjoy every single second?

When something goes wrong, I have the unfortunate habit of imagining an alternate reality in which the bad thing never happened. Like the movie Sliding Doors but designed specifically by my brain to torture myself. Recently I started to flip it: When something goes well, I imagine what things would be like if something had gone wrong. It makes me appreciate what I have.

That’s what it’s like to be a Patriots fan. It means, for the most part, living in a universe where good things happen—like Malcolm Butler intercepting the Seahawks at the goal line (XLIX) or Julian Edelman catching a ball just inches off the ground as the Pats overcome a 28–3 deficit against the Falcons (LI). Sure, there have been some bumps and heartbreak along the way (the Giants, twice, and last year the Eagles), but Patriots fans are certainly getting the last laugh at this point.

Patriots Fans, Get Your Super Bowl LIII Championship Gear Here!

Despite the narrative that the Patriots tried to spin this season, I must admit that they were never really underdogs. In order to be an underdog, you first have to hurt your fans, then give them improbable hope. Sure, I was worried a bit about our 41-year-old quarterback after the back-to-back December losses this season, but those turned out to be blips. 

No, Brady didn’t have his best game against the Rams either. His first pass was picked off and he finished with a 71.4 passer rating, his lowest mark in nine career Super Bowls. But the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick are so brilliant because they’re always prepared. They follow through. They do their jobs. When they needed a score most, the offense came through, marching 69 yards in five plays. People love to debate GOATs, but after this title run how can anyone say there’s ever been a quarterback who played this game better, longer or more impressively than Brady? Find me a human alive who could outcoach Bill Belichick, I dare you. You can’t.

In the postgame locker room the Patriots could have been sitting at their lockers in silence after a loss, trying to change and leave as quickly as possible. But instead they are dancing around as a massive boom box blasts rapper Shek Wes’s “Mo Bamba.” And yet, theirs is almost a subdued celebration; this place isn’t going crazy the way the locker rooms celebrate when you surprise even yourself a bit by winning it all. The Patriots have been here before, many times, and soon Belichick will remind everyone that the only thing that matters is being here again at the end of the next season. The biggest commotion kicks up when owner Robert Kraft walks in with a box of vintage Cuban cigars, one for each player. He had bought them for last year’s Super Bowl but didn’t have occasion to crack the case open. But he held on to them, knowing the Pats would come back around to the reality they know best: the one where they win.