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    December 26, 2008
The Art of the Unholy Alliance
By:  Rich Lee
PatsFans.com Fan Columnist

Hello PatsFans! Fortunately I had my Patriots mix CD blasting loud enough during last year's Dallas tailgate to draw Kevin Rousseau's attention. Now he has given me an opportunity to put my Pats-related commentary (which up to this point had been numerous texts and e-mails filling Mr. Rousseau's inbox) into a public forum for all to enjoy.

Hopefully there will be future articles to go into my background but I'll give you the essentials: born and raised in Virginia; living in Richmond; as a kid I resisted local peer pressure to pull for the Redskins and started following the Pats when Bledsoe and Parcells got to Foxborough (plus my mom's side of the family is from New England).

I've been following the Pats for a good 15 years and I've gone to great lengths for them. Going to bars to watch games when they aren't televised in Richmond (and dealing with fans of the opposition), planning vacations around Pats road games, arguing Brady over Manning with coworkers, defending Matt Cassel to Pats fans after the Charger game– I've spent a lot of time and energy for my boys (maybe too much, but that's for someone else to judge).

This season, with the Pats not in control of there own playoff destiny, I've had to step up my commitment to a 2008 playoff run and make a few unholy alliances along the way. Pats fans have managed to avoid this dilemma for the most part during the Kraft era (with the painful exception of 2002). For some it's no big deal, for others (like me) the thought of pulling for a hated rival (or just a hated team like Dallas) feels dirty and plain wrong (thankfully we were spared from having to pull for Indianapolis).

Being a die-hard Pats fan, I take two things seriously when it comes to football – first, my commitment to the Pats in good times and bad; secondly, my commitment to pulling against teams like Pittsburgh, Dallas and the Jets. Yet there I was after the conclusion of last week's Oakland game, in the bar side-by-side with Steeler fans hoping Pittsburgh would pull this one out. Arguing that Holmes' goal-line catch was actually a touchdown (which anyone with one eye could tell was not). "It's all for the Pats", I kept telling myself. Thankfully the Steelers gave us a little help that day. But unholy alliances aren't always beneficial- sometimes you learn lessons the hard way. One thing made clear to me during the Baltimore-Dallas game is this - never count on Tony Romo and the Cowboys in an important game, ever.

Now we reach the mother of all unholy alliances this week – Patriot Nation must rally behind the Jets of all teams with Brett "Will I or Won't I?" Favre and Eric "The Rat" Mangini. I could go into my issues with these guys but hopefully the nicknames summed it up. The most unholy aspect of it all is that we should be pulling for Chad Pennington. A guy who somehow tolerated the Jets organization long enough to stay for 8 years, but was let go for the greater glory of Brett Favre. Now he gets to come in and show the Jets that they made the wrong decision. And we have to pull against him. "It's all for the Pats" though.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Pats still need to take care of business in Buffalo. As we saw against another playoff-seeking team in Denver, the Bills are playing this season out and Dick Jauron's job may very well be on the line this Sunday. And if any franchise is sick and tired of losing to New England and would like to crush our playoff hopes, it's Buffalo.

Assuming conventional wisdom wins out and the Pats roll, fans will be faced with the task of hoping Favre doesn't repeat his Giants Stadium debacle in the last game of 2002. We must hold out hope that Mangini has one more moment in the sun, as much as we want to see him fail.

Just remember, as wrong as cheering for the Jets might feel, it's all for the Pats – has been and always will be.

Random thoughts while walking my rottweiler Brady:

I enjoy a blowout as much as the next fan but come on Arizona, at least try. Ken Wisenhunt deprived us of a Cassel-Lienart showdown to have Pro Bowl starter Kurt Warner hand off all day.

Last Christmas my aunt gave me a "2007 AFC East Division Champs" t-shirt. I don't think I ever wore it. I'm not even sure where it is. But I can tell you this – if there is a Patriots "2008 Division Champs" shirt it will be on my back once a week until September.

 Rich Lee
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