Oddly Enough, the United Kingdom Sure Does Love Tom Brady and the Patriots
There’s been some debate lately over whether the Patriots have usurped the Dallas Cowboys’ old mantle and become “America’s Team.” Polls routinely showed that fans beyond the borders of Patriots Nation wholeheartedly believed Deflategate caught Tom Brady and company red-handed. But through the first few weeks of the 2015-16 season, Brady led the NFL in jersey sales, as he’s done for quite some time. “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser,” Gen. George S. Patton told his troops, but what if the winner can’t help but shake the perception they’re cheating?
In Europe, the situation is a little clearer. They love Brady and the Pats—so much so that no other player or team has sold more jerseys there. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, meanwhile, occupy the Nos. 5 and 7 spots, respectively. Deflategate be damned.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports dug into strange world of overseas Patriots fandom, tracing the origins of American football’s niche popularity in the United Kingdom. In the 1980s, prior to the formation of the Premier League, Dan Marino and his dominant Miami Dolphins developed a sizable following when games were shown on tape delay. After a decline in popularity in the ’90s, the NFL crept back into the UK market, with help from a young Brady and his dynastic Patriots squads of the early Aughts.
Of course, there’s the obvious irony of Brits cheering on a team named after a band of insurgents that handed them a good drubbing a scant 232 years ago.
“The irony there is that a lot of people have picked the Patriots because they don’t know their U.S. history,” Alistair Kirkwood, the NFL’s managing director in the UK, told Robinson. “When they get into the sport, they go, ‘Oh, it’s got England in the name.’ They didn’t realize that it’s actually not necessarily pro-English in the first place.”
James Cuff, a Pats fan who lives in Cardiff, Wales and runs a popular forum called UKpatriots.com, told Robinson that as popular as Brady is, more people know him as “Gisele’s husband” than the quarterback of the Patriots.