Over the past two decades, the New England Patriots have assembled the greatest dynasty in football history, with perennial trips to the Super Bowl powered by superior players, brilliant tactics, firm discipline… and a locker room filled with geeks.
Lawrence Guy grew up as a full-fledged nerd, balancing his prep football stardom with an obsessive love of Pokémon, Dragon Ball and A Goofy Movie (ask him about his swaggy Powerline shirt). After spending the first few years of his career with the Baltimore Ravens, the defensive tackle signed a four-year deal with the Patriots last off-season, and when he arrived at training camp, he stumbled upon a clubhouse culture that he couldn’t have expected when he agreed to play for Bill Belichick, the team’s famously dour, straight-laced head coach.
"We were in meetings all day, every day, then we're doing so many activities on the field and when you get that little break, you build friendships and you find something that's in common," Guy explains in a new episode of The Fandom Files. "And a bunch of our teammates had anime in common, so we just started talking about it and then kept going through our lunch break. Alan Branch was the biggest fan, because he'll be at his locker and will watch anime for like 10 or 15 minutes and be like, hey, you gotta watch this show!"
A lot of the Patriots dabble in Japanese cartoons, but there was a core four early this past season: Guy, Branch, Adam Butler and Cassius Marsh (who was released in late November). That a number of pro football players would discover that they all love anime is less unlikely than it may seem, as Pro Bowler Mike Daniels explained during another recent episode of The Fandom Files. That a bunch of them just so happened to play the same position, that was an unlikely bonus.
"Me, Alan Branch and Adam Butler, we're right there next to each other in the locker room, so we have non-stop communication to figure out what was going on and what was the next step in certain cartoons and anime," Guy says, laughing. "All three of us would constantly talk about it somehow, someway. I remember one day, I finished Hunter x Hunter, and they were like now you gotta get into Black Clover."
The club trades recommendations; Guy spreads the gospel of Attack on Titan and One Punch Man. They don’t just talk about anime, either; New England’s geek crew dive deep into just about anything, as evidenced by their long forensic investigation into one of the great indignities of A Goofy Movie and its sequel, An Extremely Goofy Movie.
"The last discussion me and Alan Butler had, we wanted to know what happened to Roxanne from A Goofy Movie," Guy says, laughing. "She totally disappeared. Totally. And I'm like, hold on, he went to the Powerline concert, did everything for this girl and then in next movie, she’s nowhere to be seen? So we had a full-on conversation and I think it took a couple of hours. We tore into it and it went down to the new cartoon. You have a lot of spare time throughout meetings and practice and that's one of the things that has helped us get through the day."
The non-stop cartoon talk clearly doesn’t interfere with football, as the Patriots had a league-best 13-3 record and went to the Super Bowl. Whether coach Belichick or Tom Brady join in on the anime club conversation, well, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast to find out.
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