The Patriots are America's team now, whether you like it or not

“Now just hold on a second,” I say to this New England Patriots fan from Rhode Island who I just happened to sit next to on a plane last week, “the Patriots have become a national franchise. Everywhere I travel I see people wearing (Tom) Brady jerseys. Like it or not, for at least this shining moment, the Patriots are America’s team to root for or against.”

He has his arms crossed. He is shaking his head. “No,” he says, “the Pats are our team.”

By “our” it’s a given he means New England’s team.

Philadelphia Eagles fans would of course agree with him, as would Minnesota Vikings fans and every other ardent football fan in America.

Nevertheless, the Patriots are almost a Hollywood cliché of the definitive NFL team put together by central casting. They’ve become an American ideal. They epitomize a series of all-American stereotypes so well they almost seem like a parody of what a successful football team is supposed to be.

Nevertheless, the Patriots are almost a Hollywood cliché of the definitive NFL team put together by central casting. They’ve become an American ideal. They epitomize a series of all-American stereotypes so well they almost seem like a parody of what a successful football team is supposed to be.

If this were a movie about high school, Tom Brady would be the jock who is both the quarterback and the prom king. His wife, Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, would be the head cheerleader and prom queen.

Instead, in this real American dream team production the Patriots are trotting out four-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, a now 40-year-old quarterback who seems ageless on the field and who has the looks of a GQ cover model.

So yeah, Brady is almost done. He can become the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. This is a record Peyton Manning set at 39 years old. That’s an American success story.

Brady plays the role flawlessly. He has hosted “Saturday Night Live” and has been seen as cartoon versions of himself on “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.”

Brady was a model for the Stetson cologne. He recently launched his own line of vegan snacks, making him some kind of modern ideal of a sensitive man.

Brady even has an injury to overcome in this American production. He is still dealing with a right hand injury, but then, even when he had 12 stiches in his hand (which are now out), Brady pummeled the Jacksonville Jaguars with 290 passing yards.

Though Brady’s human flaws were certainly exposed during “Deflategate” and even his politics came out when a Trump hat was spotted in his locker (oh boy, did the media hate that!), those events just added nuance to his all-American stature.

Still, this isn’t all about Brady and his supermodel wife.

Looking over the rest of the Patriots’ cast of characters – ah, I mean roster – feels like going through a diverse American list of talented misfits who somehow fit together into a team, such as the cast of throwaway convicts in that epic 1967 film “The Dirty Dozen.”

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, at 65, is salty enough to be the character played by Lee Marvin.

Rob Gronkowski, aka “Gronk,” who is expected to play after leaving the AFC title game with a concussion, is a 6-foot-6, 265-pound, block-headed and square-jawed monster of a tight end for the Patriots.

Meanwhile, Patriots’ running back Dion Lewis has emerged as one of the most dynamic weapons in the league and star receiver Brandin Cooks gave Brady a difference-maker in his first year in New England.

Much of the rest of the roster is just as symbolic of the American ideal. In fact, a startling number of them weren’t even early draft picks. While other teams are more often reluctant to bench early draft picks, Belichick isn’t so reliant on a player’s pedigree.

In fact, Brady saw 198 players selected before him in the 2000 NFL draft and came into the league with an underdog mentality that made him a fan favorite in New England once he proved he belonged.

Such is why the Patriots have 18 undrafted players on their active roster for the Super Bowl. Many are starters, such as David Andrews, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Butler.

The New York Yankees, during their hottest recent winning run a decade ago, felt like America’s team to love or hate. The Patriots are now at that lofty height.

This isn’t to say the Patriots are fated to win, though the Patriots are the slight favorites, according to odds makers.

America might love its archetypes, but it also loves an underdog and the Eagles haven’t won a Super Bowl in franchise history.

If I were writing a screenplay with this set of characters and this plot, I’d have the Patriots go down with the Eagles throwing a hail marry pass in the last seconds of play. I’d then have the cameras pan in on Brady as he falls to his knees, his face muddy and beaten, a fallen American football hero we’ll all salute because he gave it all, yet fell just short like the rest of us.

Frank Miniter is author of "The Future of the Gun" & "The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide". His latest book is, is "Kill Big Brother", a cyber-thriller that shows how to balance freedom with security without diminishing the U.S. Bill of Rights.