As a new-money dynasty, growing up in the early 2000s, I remember Patriot fans getting a lot of shit for being "fair-weather" or "bandwagon" fans since they were historically a laughing stock across the league (even though from 1976-1988 the Patriots only had one losing season). Back in those days, being called a bandwagon fan was the worst thing you could say to me because I lived and died with Boston sports. Physically, I lived in Florida from 2003-2005 when the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls, so people assumed I was a "bandwagon" fan when in reality, I'm from Rhode Island and taking pride in a part of back home. Since some Patriot fans may still get a little shit for not knowing anything about the team before Mo Lewis collapsed Drew Bledsoe's lungs, please allow ya boi, Ole Dozo, to give you a little history lesson. I visited my grandma after work and really didn't feel like blogging tonight, but when it's the 50th anniversary of my favorite team getting its identity, I gotta pound the keys a little!
When the Boston Patriots began playing as a charter member of the American Football League in 1960, similarly to start-up leagues of recent years (even the USFL in the 80s), teams weren't playing in brand-new football-specific stadiums. None of the eight original AFL teams or two expansion ones debuted in a brand new stadium. The Titans of New York (who became the New York Jets in 1963) played in the dilapidated Polo Grounds with stray cats in the stands. The L.A. Coliseum was over 35 years old when the Chargers played there for one season before moving to San Diego until 2017. The then Boston Patriots were basically the couch-surfing team of the league. They never had a true home to call their own. In their 11 seasons of existence prior to 1971 (10 in the American Football League), the Patriots had four different home stadiums (Nickerson Field 1960-62; Fenway Park 1963-68; Alumni Stadium 1969; Harvard Stadium; 1970).
After the AFL-NFL merger was official for the 1970 season, the AFL became the AFC, and as part of the merger, all teams needed to have stadiums up the NFL's 50,000 seat requirement. This meant the Patriots needed a new home as no current stadiums in Boston fit the league's criteria.
When the Patriots left Boston for the suburbs in Foxborough, they also left the name Boston. In anger with the city for never green-lighting a new stadium, as the Patriots were preparing to move into Schaefer, then Sullivan, and ultimately Foxboro Stadium, to appeal to the fact they were no longer the "Boston Patriots," the Patriots changed their name. I feel like most fans know this, but what they might not realize is like the Washington Football Team, the Patriots had a place-holder name.
That's right for like 20 minutes in 1971 the Patriots were known as the "Bay State Patriots". It's a terrible fucking name and rightfully was full of ridicule. I mean you're setting yourself up to be the "B.S." Patriots or something a little more crass during the heyday of homophobia and Provincetown developing as a LGBTQ+ destination.
It wasn't until March 22nd, 1971 that the New England Patriots, as they're known today went into effect. As a Howard Cosell guy I cannot believe I'm saying this, but thank you Pete Rozelle!!!!
"The feeling now is that the Patriots are representing all New England, not just the city of Boston, not just the state of Massachusetts"- Billy Sullivan.
Say what you want about Billy Sullivan, and believe me, there's plenty to say; you could talk about trading Leon Gray to save money when the Patriots were legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the late 1970s or eventually losing the team and stadium for putting Sullivan Stadium up as collateral for Michael Jackson's 1984 Victory Tour, but damnit what a great quote that still rings true to today, even if it was Pete Rozelle who essentially suggested the new name. Rozelle canceled Bay State Patriots! Thank God I'm not a Bay State Patriot fan.
Today, the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers (who the Patriots beat in Super Bowl XXXVIII) are the only team in all professional sports (I believe) that represent an entire geographic region (I don't think Golden State Warriors count).
In the 50 years that have since passed, the NEW ENGLAND Patriots have won six Super Bowls and participated in five more for a grand total of 11; three more than the next closest teams (Cowboys, Broncos, and Steelers). I think it is safe to say the name change worked out well.