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VALDEZ: We must recognize greatness when due

Opinions Column: The Power of An Open Mind

This past Sunday, Feb. 3, my roommates and I were sitting in our living room, fixated on the TV. We were witnessing a familiar sight. It was the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, and the Patriots were winning. Different season, same story. Even though the game was close, we all knew what was likely to happen. 

We had seen it too many times. Despite this depressing reality, a small part of me still had hope for the Rams. They had the ball, down 10-3 with 7 minutes left. Maybe, just maybe, they could prove our hunch wrong. The Giants and Eagles had done it before, so it was possible. Could Rams quarterback Jared Goff finally lead his team down the field for a touchdown after a night full of punts and field goals?

I nervously ate my nachos, watching the Rams finally make some plays on offense. Goff was starting to look confident, as he threw darts to wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. All of a sudden, they were on the Patriots' 27-yard line. They were in striking distance. All they needed to do was make a few more plays, and the game would be tied. 

On second down, Goff dropped back to pass. Under pressure, he threw off balance to avoid getting sacked. As soon as the ball left his hand, I knew it was a bad decision. The pass sailed high and became an easy interception for Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. A friend of mine who supports the Rams texted our group chat: “gg.” Good game. It was not technically over, but we all knew who was winning at that point. Soon enough, the Patriots' sideline stormed the field in celebration of their sixth championship in 18 years. 

Rather than complaining about the result of the game, I started reflecting. My life has consisted of many changes and moving parts over the years. My family has moved, I have transferred schools and I have made and lost plenty of friends. In the midst of all these changes, though, one thing has remained constant: the Patriots have been an elite football team. 

Being a Jets fan, I have never been pleased with this fact. Since they are in the same division, the AFC East, it feels like my team is the little brother in the family that will never live up to the success of his older sibling. Year after year, I watch helplessly as the Jets miss the playoffs while our division rival enjoys unprecedented levels of success.

When I first started following football in 2009, I could not stand the Patriots. Why were they so good every single year? Like many other Patriots haters, I would try to discredit them. I heard people say things like the Patriots are cheaters and the referees favor them. I started to repeat what they said, and it made me feel satisfied. It felt good to bond with people over our hatred for the best team in the sport. For years, I refused to admit what I always knew deep down: the Patriots were not actually cheaters or frauds. I simply resented the fact that they were the best.

I cannot blame my younger self for not admitting that sobering fact. As a Jets fan, it was emotionally painful. It still is, in fact. As the years passed though, I matured mentally. I gained a new perspective. I realized that when people perform well at their jobs on a consistent basis, they deserve nothing but respect and admiration. 

At a certain point, you cannot keep trying to discredit someone’s continued success. It makes you come off as bitter and jealous. Sure, it is true that the Patriots have bent NFL rules, such as the Spygate and Deflategate scandals. Yes, there have been many questionable calls in their favor over the years. The “Tuck Rule” game will be debated by football fans until the end of time. 

That being said, the bottom line is that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was able to hire two all-time greats to join his organization: head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The excellence and longevity of those two men are why their team has been able to maintain this dynasty.

Rather than refusing to acknowledge the greatness of successful people, it is better to learn from them. Try to find out what made them successful in the first place. Research their interviews and biographies. They will often say that it takes hard work, dedication and constant motivation. Instead of being jealous, learn from their strategies and apply them to your own life. If they can do it, why not you?

Josh Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in creative writing. His column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” runs on alternate Thursdays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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