Armour: Hatred for Patriots comes with certain level of respect
HOUSTON _ The New England Patriots are the team America loves to hate.
They’re cheaters. Bill Belichick has no soul. Tom Brady is too perfect – and he wears Uggs. And let’s not even start on how New England has come to look at the Super Bowl as its party, a second Patriots Day if you will.
So when the Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, it’s pretty obvious who the favorite is going to be.
“I’m a Brady fan.”
“I don’t really care who wins but I’d probably pick the Patriots.”
Wait, what? Where’s all the animosity? The angst? The smoldering resentment? According to the annual survey by Public Policy Polling, the Patriots are the most hated team in the NFL for a second year in a row. Just 27% want to see them win the Super Bowl while 53% are rooting for Atlanta.
But ask fans wearing jerseys of teams other than the Patriots or Falcons here this week and you find that the whole “Patriots as the Evil Empire” thing might be a tad overblown.
“I kind of want Brady to solidify his legacy and win his fifth ring,” said Colby Dukes, who lives in Houston and is a Chargers fan the other 51 weeks of the year.
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Admiration for Brady was a recurring theme among those who said they’re supporting the Patriots. After all, a win over the Falcons would make him the first quarterback with five Super Bowl rings, and might provide a definitive answer to the question of whether he is the greatest of in NFL history.
This will be Brady’s seventh Super Bowl appearance. Given that Sunday’s is No. 51 – LI for you Roman numeral fans -- that means the Patriots quarterback has played in almost 14% of all Super Bowls. He also ranks in the top four on the career list in touchdowns, yards passing and QB rating.
Not bad for a sixth-round pick out of Michigan.
“I’ll root for Brady and the Patriots. I want to witness greatness,” said Stan Kristynik, whose brother Clayton described the two as “born and raised to bleed (Cowboys) blue.”
Rod Rickett has been watching – and rooting – for Brady since his days at Michigan. He sees no reason to stop now, even if he is a Cowboys fan.
“I remember seeing him rise,” Rickett said. “It’s nice to see him follow his trajectory.”
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That’s not to say there aren’t folks rooting against the Patriots – and rooting hard.
“As a Jets fan, I have to go for the Falcons,” Brian Sullivan said. “Bill (Belichick) left us after one day, stole all our players and then won a bunch of Super Bowls.”
That a Jets fan would hate the Patriots hardly comes as a surprise. In fact, not hating the Patriots is probably grounds for eviction from New Jersey. Or at least would require your neighbors to shun you.
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But Sullivan also has a point. With their seventh Super Bowl appearance since 2002, the Patriots have become the NFL’s equivalent of the New York Yankees. While there is something impressive about witnessing a dynasty -- see the Chicago Bulls during the Jordan Era, UCLA in the Wooden years or the Montreal Canadiens juggernaut from the early 1950s through the late 1970s – it also can get a little, how shall I put this? Boring.
“The Patriots have so many rings,” said Antonio Gonzalez, a Houston Texans fan.
The Patriots don’t always make themselves easy to love, either. The players come off as buttoned-down and boring, and Belichick acts as if he’s being asked to give away state secrets anytime he’s asked, well, anything.
It’s like watching a Fortune 500 company operate – only on the football field.
And then there are the scandals. Spygate, Deflategate. If there’s a way to bend – or break -- the rules, it seems as if Belichick and the Patriots find it.
“They’re cheaters. They’re deflators,” said Christine Schmidt, a diehard Denver Broncos fan.
They’re also in the Super Bowl. Again. Reject the hate. Embrace the love.
Follow Armour on Twitter @nrarmour
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