Tom Brady, left, and Rob Gronkowski were teammates together in New England and are now with Tampa Bay. Both expressed a love for their time in New England. Jeff Bottari/Associated Press

Even though the New England Patriots aren’t in the Super Bowl this season, fans across New England have plenty to root for Sunday when Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers play Kansas City in the Super Bowl.

I’ll be blatantly honest, I am not a Patriots fan. To make matters worse, I’m an Eagles fan, and Feb. 4, 2018 (when Philadelphia upended New England in the Super Bowl) is still one of the best days of my life. However, this doesn’t mean I’m rooting against Tom Brady this time around.

Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

I remember when Tom Brady announced he would be leaving New England like it was yesterday. Was it surprising? Honestly, it wasn’t as surprising to me as it may have been to others. That’s because in March when Brady left, I was interning on a local sports radio show, with local hosts Javier Gorriti and Chris Sedenka.  Gorriti is probably the biggest Pats hater in the state. I had heard for months that he was leaving when I was a part of the show from those few callers who actually thought it may happen, and Gorriti. He and Sedenka would go back and forth on why the Patriots should or shouldn’t resign him. Then, on March 17 to be exact, he was gone,, off to Tampa Bay. The GOAT was gone. 

For months I would listen to 95% of the callers from all across the state and region claiming there was absolutely no chance Brady would ever play for another team. “Tom’s not going to leave!” or “You really think Brady is going to leave the greatest franchise in the NFL for the worst?” Well he did, and now he’s back in the Super Bowl. 

Eli Canfield col sig

I get the sense that the fact that Tom Brady is no longer a Patriot still hasn’t really sunk in for many of those callers today. Well, maybe it did after they had an underwhelming season and finished 7-9.

Landen Chase, 15, of Topsham, is a lifelong Patriots fan who was born into the best dynasty in NFL history. He, too, remembers that March morning when Brady announced he was leavingNew England. 

“I didn’t think it was real, I had to have like four people confirm it to me, that day just didn’t feel real,” said Chase, a sophomore at Mt. Ararat High School. 

Chase said he found himself checking the Bucs’ score every Sunday, and toward the end of the season, he would watch the Bucs game instead of the Pats when their destiny was clear. He shares the same sentiment that most Pats fans feel when looking ahead to Sunday’s matchup against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. 

“The Bucs are going to win,” Chase said. “There’s just no way that Brady is going to lose, he’s getting No. 7.” 

Brady already owns a ridiculous six Super Bowl rings. Sunday will mark his 10th trip to the Big Game.  Tom Brady has made the Super Bowl 48% of the time he’s been in the NFL. Unreal.

Last Christmas, Chase wanted one thing and one thing only — A Tom Brady Buccaneers jersey. And, yes, his Christmas wish came true.

“It was the only thing I wanted,” said Chase. “I’ve worn it each Sunday since, and I’ll be wearing it again this weekend.”

Landen Chase, 15, of Topsham, poses with his Tampa Bay No. 12 Tom Brady jersey on Thursday. Chase, a Mt. Ararat sophomore, was born into a New England Patriots dynasty. On Sunday, he will be rooting for Brady to get his seventh ring. Photo provided by Krista Chase

I’ve seen more Buccaneers gear worn around southern Maine in the past four months than I have during my entire 22 years of living here. Any authentic jersey I’ve seen has had No. 12 on the back.

There are some Chiefs fans here, too.

Geo Almasi of Brunswick has been a Chiefs fan since Super Bowl I, where they fell to Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. 

“On my living room wall I have a framed original Sports Illustrated of Len Dawson in the victory over the Vikings (Super Bowl IV),” said Almasi. “Next to it is a framed SI with Patrick Mahomes from last year.”

Almasi has lived in the area for his entire life, meaning he has some love for Brady and the Patriots after the success they had for the better part of this century. 

“I still have a soft spot for Brady, but I love my Chiefs; Sunday should be a fun one for me,” he added.

If you are a Patriots fan and you aren’t cheering for Tom on Sunday, ask yourself why? Are you mad that he left? Are you mad at Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft for letting him get away? The answer is most likely yes to one of those questions.

As for me, the Eagles fan trapped in Patriots Nation, I’ll be cheering on Brady and the Bucs on Sunday with the other football fans in the area.

Happy Super Bowl weekend, I know you’ll be cheering for Tampa Bay with me.

Oh, and the Buccaneers will win, 36-31.

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