When the Red Sox went to the World Series in 2013, it was safe to say that most of America wanted them to win. The city was still reeling from the Boston Marathon bombings, and the Red Sox were clearly the sentimental favorites. They were America’s team.
But with the Patriots going back to the Super Bowl for the sixth time in 14 years, don’t expect to feel the love.
Outside New England, everybody hates the Pats. They don’t like Pats coach Bill Belichick, the original Mr. Personality, who is thought of as arrogant at best and a cheat at worst. They don’t like Pats quarterback Tom Brady, who has to be the only multimillionaire athlete whose wife is the real breadwinner.
Even as Patriots fans were relishing the 45-7 shellacking of the Indianapolis Colts to advance to the Super Bowl, the NFL announced it was investigating allegations that the Pats had improperly deflated footballs, supposedly making them easier to throw and catch.
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Frankly, I wish the NFL would investigate inflated concession prices instead of deflated footballs, but that’s just me.
The point is, even when you would expect the rest of the country to acknowledge the Patriots as the AFC champions, and one of the best franchises in the history of the game, everybody from New York to L.A. is pointing fingers and raising eyebrows.
Part of this is pure jealousy. If I were an Oakland Raiders fan, I would hate the Patriots, too, because the Raiders have been as bad as long as the Patriots have been good.
But it is also undeniable that the Patriots just seem to court controversy.
Amid all the hoopla that will accompany the two-week buildup to the Super Bowl, one of the best Patriots receivers in recent years, Aaron Hernandez, will be on trial for murder. As hard it is to get an impartial jury in Bristol County, it would have been harder outside New England. If you held the voir dire in Montana, most prospective jurors would have to be excused because they would have said, “He was a Patriot. He’s got to be guilty.”
LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots running back who was one of the stars of Sunday’s AFC championship game, is known around here for the way he hits the hole and the yards he gains after initial contact. In other parts of the country, he is known as the guy who sucker-punched a rival in a college game and walked out on his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates.
On Monday, I sampled some of the national coverage of Sunday’s conference championship games. The ex-jocks and fanboys were in unison about the remarkable Seattle Seahawks comeback and simultaneous Green Bay Packers implosion. The debate was whether the Packers lost the game or the Seahawks won it.
But the talk about the Patriots was, “Did they cheat again?”
In 2007, Belichick was fined the NFL maximum of $500,000 and the Patriots were fined $250,000 and had to give up a first-round draft pick after spying on the New York Jets and stealing defensive signals. As stiff as those penalties seemed, most football fans thought it was a slap on the wrist.
It isn’t just opposing fans who hate the Patriots. Terrell Suggs, whose Baltimore Ravens were dispatched from the playoffs by the Pats a week ago, claims that all the other 31 teams in the NFL hate the Patriots. Earlier this month, Ravens coach John Harbaugh accused the Patriots of deception for using an alignment meant to trick opposing defenses. Ravens fans once accused the Patriots of messing with the scoreboard to confuse the Ravens and rush their kicker.
Others have accused the Pats of running up the score needlessly.
With the Patriots, it’s always something.
Of course, the best part of all this is that the Patriots and their fans couldn’t care less. Although they would never admit it, they are very much like Yankees fans. They honestly don’t care what others think.
And that’s kind of cool.
Go Pats. America’s Team. Not.