The Boston newspaper that I work for part-time plastered the question, “Why do they hate us?” on their cover today under the images of four polished Super Bowl trophies. (Let me preface this by saying I adore the paper and thank the stars every single day that there is a large news outlet that lets me actually write about sports part-time. I understand I am an extremely lucky person.)
They chose the cover they did to echo what many New Englanders have been asking over the last week. Why does the rest of America seem to hate the New England Patriots? Why are those outside of New England rejoicing in the idea of quarterback Tom Brady being suspended four games, the team losing draft picks and having to pay a million dollar fine?
Oh, it’s easy. It is not because the rest of United States is filled with jealous green eyed monsters wanting to revel in the idea of the Patriots’ fall. It’s not because we or the NFL are a Mean Girls-level of catty.
As someone who spent 22 formidable years in “the rest of the country,” let me list the reasons why the rest of the U.S. hates the stereotypical “pink hat” Patriots fan that seems to be getting their turn in the spotlight:
The Patriots fan base will not acknowledge that football existed prior to January 2002.
I thought that by moving here 11 years ago, I would be surrounded by knowledgeable fans I could talk about my favorite 1990s quarterbacks with. Alas, many in New England failed to pay attention to the NFL prior to the millennium. It’s like Boston decided that if they survived Y2K, they should move on to figuring out what this football thing the rest of the country likes is.
You ask who Steve Young is? “He’s that guy on ESPN who bashed Brady!” Reggie White. “Who?” Merton Hanks. “A company?” Steve Tasker. “The sideline reporter from when the lights went out at the Super Bowl!”
Let me tell you, 1990s football was amazing. Less drama, great games, solid personalities, more creative post-touchdown celebrations. (Merton and Deion, your dances are missed.) You missed heck of a lot, New England.
The refusal to acknowledge that there was a point in time where the Patriots were awful.
This harkens back to my first point. Because football seemingly didn’t exist prior to 2002, Patriots followers don’t realize there was a point in time where the team was the laughing stock of the AFC East. (It was when Steve Grogan, Hugh Millen and Scott Zolak played QB. They all seem like nice guys, but they weren’t the best quarterbacks that era had to offer. I am sure there are some who listen to Zolak on 98.5 on a regular basis who may not even be aware that he once started for the Patriots.)
I own Buffalo Bills rainboots (and joke that I own them because it’s always raining for us Bills followers), and the number of completely uninformed comments I get from New Englanders when I wear them is shocking.
An actual example from a Green Line ride:
“Ha! A Bills fan. Bet you wish you’ve gone to the Super Bowl.”
The Bills did. Four times in a row, in fact.
“No they’ve never been! You’ve always sucked!”
Okay. Um, ESPN is about to do a 30 on 30 on those four appearances, but you know, don’t stop believing, buddy!
The greatest coaches are often those who elicit a wide range of opinions, and Belichick’s career is a fantastic example.
I grew up with a Rust Belt father who doesn’t hold much hate in his heart. He holds doors for ladies, writes birthday cards and buys candy for his co-workers in the machine shop and dragged us to 7am Catholic Mass every Sunday.
He Hates-With-a-Capital-H Bill Belichick.
After the Giants defeated the Bills in Super Bowl XXV, my father didn’t blame Bill Parcells. He didn’t blame Bills kicker Scott Norwood. He blamed then-Giants defensive coordinator Belichick for using “illegal formations,” claimed that he sent out too many players on defense several times during the game and ran a dirty defense that wasn’t called for obvious penalties. And correct allegations or not, he wasn’t alone in his beliefs. Factories and Wegmans lines all over Western New York engaged in this discussion in the 1990s. If any Giants coach was ever mentioned by name in those “wide right” post-mortems besides Parcells, it was Belichick.
Belichick then moved onto the Cleveland Browns, another Rust Belt city that once was a football power and has since struggled to recapture that glory. His failure as a head coach there there cast him in another bad light. More Rust Belt fathers joined my father and his friends in their hatred.
I’ve learned to respect Belichick for the job he has done with the Patriots and the amount of hard work he has done, cheating and all. I held much of my father’s dislike until I read Michael Holley’s War Room and Patriot Reign, and realized that while Belichick may appear to lack personality and be some sort of evil genius, he is just a lacrosse player who emulated his father and loves coaching and problem solving.
But those two books are deep cuts, volumes that you probably won’t read unless you live in New England or are a very knowledgeable football fan. Reading them changed my attitude on Belichick, but most people in America haven’t read them and rely on Belichick’s not-so shiny public persona for their opinions.
Belichick isn’t liked. Some in America find him the real life version of Grumpy Cat. Right or wrong, his association with the Patriots will forever sully the team to a large base of people.
New England’s collective temper tantrum over DeflateGate.
Never since the toddler tumbling class I once taught had a massive meltdown because I wouldn’t let them throw mats have I seen such a collective tantrum.
That Facebook image of a middle finger with four Super Bowl rings on it that everyone keeps sharing? Super classy. (On a side note, how come 49ers fans never did that with their five rings when Eddie DeBartolo was fined by the NFL, barred from active control of the 49ers and eventually forced to give up ownership? If Twitter had been alive back then, would we have seen the hashtag #FreeEddie?)
The Barstool Sports guys “protesting” at NFL Headquarters in Tom Brady jerseys? Not only is protesting anything contradictory to your previous stance on protests (which are scarily obsessively violent), they looked sad because there were only four of them. Mr. Portnoy, it looked like you threw a party and no one showed up. (Hey, I’ve been there. Seventh birthday: massive strep throat infection depleted my party’s attendance. Two girls. Chuck E. Cheese wouldn’t even come to our table because it was so pitiful.) Or it looked like you were in the end stages of a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. Just sad.
Look, it is absolutely fine to be incensed by the NFL’s decision. We all have a right to question the decision making of Ted Wells and Roger Goodell. (And gosh, Ted Wells, I hope you never decide to get a PhD on top of your MBA and JD and have to go up in front of a dissertation defense, because if Tuesday’s media availability was any indication, you would not get any of your committee to sign off.)
There are less whiny and more classy ways to voice your support of your favorite NFL team and the uneven decision making of the NFL. The changing of social media profile photos to a Brady jersey? Classy. Asking the Patriots not to raise a Super Bowl banner until Brady plays? Understandable. But stop flipping out like a two year old being weaned off a pacifier.
I don’t dislike Patriots fans and know many who are just wonderful. I choose to live in Massachusetts, listen to a lot of sports radio and have a desire to be a full-time sports writer in this town that I chase like a kid chases the first ice cream truck of the season. My statements above aren’t indicative of all Patriots fans, but the loud few. But if Patriots’ followers don’t understand why the rest of America dislikes them, then it’s time to wake up. Just like many other franchises, there is a lot to dislike.