I’ve been sort of ruminating on this subject ever since the end of the game Sunday. And since today is the unofficial last day to do postmortems on the 2012 Patriots before we move onto the Super Bowl and other teams and the 2013 offseason, I’ll bring it up now. And the question is: Why does the whole world hate the Patriots?
I’m being totally serious here. Without a doubt the Patriots have become the most despised team in all of pro sports and it’s happened right before our eyes. For 40 years they were the laughingstocks of pro sports. Then overnight they became America’s Sweethearts. Then, almost as fast, they went from classic underdog story to powerhouse dynasty to reviled from coast-to-coast. They’re the team everyone loves to detest. In the last four years they’ve lost in the Wild Card round, the Divisional round, the Championship Game and the Super Bowl. And in every instance, America’s taken a long, relaxing bath in their blood. Not that it bothers me. Believe me, my whole life up until 12 years ago they were irrelevant and this is much, much better. It’s just that I don’t 100% get all the vitriol. They’re hated like few teams I’ve ever seen. The ’80s-’90s Pistons. Some of the great Raiders teams. The ’70s Flyers. Various and sundry Yankees and Lakers. But it’s possible the Pats of the 21st century are more despised than any of them and I’m just asking why.
Likely Reason No. 1: Bill Belichick is An Asshole.
I get that. He’s dour. He doesn’t play grabass with the press. He says nothing. And he’s entirely focused on winning. Those are the very things we love about him but they make him unlikeable everywhere else. But what I don’t get is, why him? The world is lousy with asshole coaches and guys who are no fun. Ever watch an Andy Reid press conference? Mike Shanahan? Tom Coughlin? Those guys aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs, but they get a pass. And wait until the Harbaughs tag-team abuse the refs in the Super Bowl and the world realizes they’re not exactly the Wayans brothers. But again, no one will hate them for it. Hell, Sean Payton just served a 1-year suspension and he’s a media darling. I just don’t understand why only this one asshole suffers for his assholery and the rest don’t.
Likely Reason No. 2: Tom Brady is a Pretty Boy
I concede that Brady is a Metrosexual who does the occasional cringe-inducing things. And he is pretty. Very pretty. If you’re into perfect cheek bones and chin dimples and pillowy soft lips…. I digress. But to me he’s still the Great American Success Story. He’s still the guy who wasn’t given the starting job at Michigan and was drafted 199th behind Gino Carmozzi and was 4th on the QB depth chart behind Michael Bishop and had to fight for everything he’s ever gotten. A pretty boy to me is either Manning brother. Born to privilege. Their dad was a legend. They never had to earn a spot on a roster from Pop Warner to being 5 year starters in college to No. 1 draft picks. Granted they’ve made the most of their advantages, but still they were born on 3rd base and get treated like they hit a triple. So I don’t get why the country loves them and resents the guy with nothing who made himself great. Besides, who’s a more prettier boy than Derek Jeter? And aside from a couple of dickheaded internet trolls out there (me, for one) no one doesn’t love him.
Likely Reason No. 3: Spygate
Five years later and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the overreaction to this. Pointing a camera at a sidelines is such a minor offense I thought the story would blow over in a week and it still comes up. Even after the guy who ratted them out for it, Eric Mangini has disavowed the whole thing and regrets ever bringing it up. Since then other teams have been caught doing it, tampering and PEDs are rampant in the league and the Saints were caught running a Cash-for-Concussions scheme. But this is the only “scandal” anyone talks about. It’s mind boggling.
Likely Reason No. 4: Success
Again, this doesn’t add up. Plenty of teams have been successful over long stretches and not gotten this kind of backlash. I’ll cite Jeter’s Yankees again. Or the ’90s Cowboys. The Montana-Young 49ers. Michael Jordan’s Bulls. The San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers going all the way back to Magic Johnson. All those teams made enemies, but none of them ever had the whole country throwing a parade when they lost like the Pats do.
Likely Reason No. 5: “The Patriots Way”
The Pats were not only winning championships, they prided themselves on doing it with good-character guys who didn’t talk smack, didn’t get into trouble, didn’t act like goons. Right or wrong, that was the image they portrayed. Well if there’s one thing America loves more than building up its heroes, it’s tearing them down. Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. Bill Clinton. Manti Te’o. Mel Gibson. Every child star ever. It’s our National Pastime. And the crime the Patriots have committed is not giving anyone the chance to drag them down. And that’s unforgivable.
Likely Reason No. 6: Us
It could just be that the world hates us. Bostonians. New Englanders. We’ve dominated not only the sports world, but the culture for over a dozen years now. Championships. Movies. TV. Music. And the Patriots led the Masshole Revolution in this country. Everyone loved it when Mr. Kraft said “We are all Patriots” but that’s because we were coming off the worst run in our history. 15 years without a championship or even coming close. Now the Duckboat parade practically runs on a continuous loop. And you’re goddamned right we thump our chest about it, which has to be hard to take. No one has crowed louder about all this success than Barstool and no one has honked on the Patriots like I have. So maybe we/you/I are partly to blame for the anti-Pats sentiment. Like I said before, it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. It’s better to be hated/feared than loved. Go 2013 Patriots. @JerryThornton1