Getting a fan’s perspective on Super Bowl XLIX

Seattle Seahawks fan Wendy Wilson, left, and New England Patriots fan Jace Schillinger — both employees at Dickinson State University — spoke with me about why they like the teams they do and about the hate each team receives heading into Super Bowl XLIX

Do we really have to watch the Super Bowl today? Does anyone actually like the Seattle Seahawks? Or did they just get fans about three years ago.

How could anyone — especially in western North Dakota — really be a fan of the New England Patriots? I’m from New England, N.D., and I don’t know anyone there who likes the Patriots.

Around here, we’ve got cheeseheads, people who know the lyrics to “Skol Vikings” and a few who are praying that Peyton Manning starts aging like Benjamin Button. Then there are those staunch supporters of more traditional powerhouses who still wax poetic about the days of Steel Curtains, Super Bowl Shuffles or “America’s Team.” And, of course, there are people like me, who support a team that no longer knows how to beat the Seahawks.

So, with all the hubbub over the Patriots’ Deflategate, Marshawn Lynch’s interview skills, and the general dislike levied upon the two Super Bowl teams by opposing fans — including myself — I decided to seek out both a Seahawks fan and a Patriots fan to see what they had to say about today’s game, and chat about what made them fans of their teams.

Dickinson State University psychology professor Wendy Wilson — no relation to Russell — was born and raised in Sumner, Wash., a small town on the southern outskirts of the Seattle-Tacoma suburbs. She remembers, not that long ago, when she’d wear a Seahawks shirt or jersey and “always got made fun of.”

Now, she said, after Seattle’s run to a second straight Super Bowl, “I’m like, ‘Well, in your face.’”

Across DSU’s campus in the Weinbergen Hall basement sits Jace Schillinger, the Blue Hawk football team’s offensive coordinator and an unsuspecting and self-described “quiet” Patriots fan who groomed his fandom in the Drew Bledsoe glory days of the ’90s and stuck with the team when Tom Brady showed up.

The past two seasons have made Wilson wear her navy and “action green” (really, that’s Seattle’s actual team color) with a little more pride, and she has even noticed more fans showing their Seahawks pride.

“When I first moved here, which was only four years ago, I didn’t see anyone,” she said, adding that now she sees a 12th Man flag flying on a house near campus.

So, are all those Seahawks fans just jumping on the bandwagon? Or is it just another product of the Bakken boom? We may never really know.

To Schillinger, one of the few drawbacks to cheering for a team that has been to six Super Bowls in 14 years — and is so consistently good that most opposing fans hate their coach so much because they can’t help but respect him — is the lack of rival fans in the area and overall difficulty of finding Patriots gear without going to an online shop.

“There’s no rivals around here. It’s not like Packers and Vikings, where everybody is talking the whole year. There’s not really any Jet fans around here,” Schillinger said.

However, he added, “it’s kind of nice. People don’t recognize you for being a Patriots fan. When things don’t go right, they don’t come to you and mock you either. I’m a quiet fan. They’ve been pretty successful, but I don’t go out and spout about it too much.”

Schillinger knows a thing or two about football. He has been around the game as a player or coach most of his life and has a younger brother who played four seasons in the National Football League. He’s also DSU’s all-time leading rusher. That’s why he still can’t understand the obsession with the investigation into the Patriots deflating football during the AFC championship game.

“Personally, I think the media is bored,” he said, admitting he probably sounds bias.

Wilson, however, isn’t so sure.

“I hope they’re not cheating,” she said, laughing a little before acknowledging her legitimate concern. “They’re known for it.”

But what both teams are perhaps known best for — at least this decade — is being two of the most hated teams in the NFL by opponents.

Schillinger’s said it’s because “when teams are on top, you either like ’em or you hate ’em.”

Wilson’s take is much simpler, but ties into Schillinger’s theory.

“In general, a lot of people don’t like the Patriots,” she said. “And they don’t like the Seahawks.”

Still, try as we all might to hate the fact that these two teams are playing today — and that one of them has to win — this big game is bound to be a good one.

I mean, it has to be better than last year. Right?

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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