"I Know the Game Like I'm Reffing It"

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Everybody Hates The Patriots

Everybody hates the Patriots.

Exaggeration? Perhaps a very slight one.

I guess if you're from New England, love dynasties, or are a raging Donald Trump enthusiast, or Trump himself, there's a good chance that you ride or die with Belichick, Brady and company.

However, come Super Bowl LI on Sunday in Houston, the rest of us will likely be rooting for a team that we just realized existed. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons may lack much National Football League significance whatsoever, but they will suddenly have enough fans to pack at least 32 Georgia Domes. Fitting, since this is the Dome’s last season housing the Dirty Birds.

But, I digress. This article is not about the Atlanta Falcons (don't worry, they're used to it), it's about New England Patriots hate and why it exists. Of course, there are some obvious reasons.

First, they win a lot. Since 2001, the Patriots have won 14 AFC East championships, including eight in a row since 2009. They have also won seven AFC championships and four Super Bowls since 2001, as well. Unless the Patriots are your team, you can't like that. Fans aren't fans of other team’s dynasties. The more you win, the more people start to root against you. That's just the way it is.

The same logic could apply to people’s dislike of Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, they win too much. Sure, Brady is perceived as a pretty boy who gets protected by the league and the referees and Belichick, as being smug and a ruthless competitor. But,86 if they had say, three less Super Bowls wins, most people would likely not have such strong feelings about them either way.

Recently, however, another factor may be contributing to the dislike of these two future Hall of Famers: Donald Trump.

Both Belichick and Brady have been linked to Trump (often by Trump, himself), insofar as their support for his presidential campaign, though neither has been willing to publicly admit as much. But, evidence suggests that the two men have a relationship with and supported Trump as a candidate and because of this, their unfavorable ratings have increased.

Tom Brady and Donald Trump enjoying a laugh.

A recent poll conducted by the group, Public Policy Polling, found some amusing, if not overly significant trends among football fans. While 39% of those polled viewed Tom Brady unfavorably, 41% of those who voted for Hillary Clinton viewed Brady unfavorably, compared to 34% of those who voted for Donald Trump. To be fair, 49% of Clinton voters viewed Brady favorably, compared to 44% of Trump voters.

When it came to Belichick, the numbers were a bit more suggestive. While 40% of those polled had a favorable view of Belichick, 46% were Trump voters, compared to only 31% Clinton voters. Belichick had a 36% unfavorable rating among Clinton voters, compared to 34% among Trump voters.

The divide exists, even if slightly in Brady’s case.

Anecdotally, I have joked that Belichick is trying to “Make the WR Position Great Again,” because of his penchant for white wide receivers. Of course, there are and have always been very good white wide receivers that no doubt belong and hold their own against the best. But, it is interesting – at least to me – that in a league where 92% of starting wide receivers were black in 2008 (the most recent relevant statistics), Belichick and the Patriots always seem to have one or two good white receivers in their lineup.

You can't say it hasn't worked, however.

One final reason for New England Patriots hate is that whole Deflate Gate/cheating thing. The Patriots and Belichick were rumored to have been (and actually caught) cheating since the beginning of their winning ways in 2001. But, Deflate Gate added a whole new dimension.

This time it was Brady who was the culprit and not only was he caught red handed trying to destroy evidence, the resulting saga stained the entire league, no matter who you chose to blame. Even those who remained neutral or blamed Roger Goodell for his handling of the scandal, grew weary of Brady, Belichick and the Patriots for some obvious wrong doing and contributing to the never ending distraction that lives on even as a subplot to Super Bowl LI. The mental fatigue that Deflate Gate has wreaked upon the fans has surely contributed to fatigue towards the Patriots in general.

All of this has seeped into fans’ rooting interests in Super Bowl LI. Public Policy Polling found that 53% of fans will be rooting for the Falcons to win, while only 27% will be rooting for the Patriots.

So, there are many reasons to hate the Patriots. Some are rooted in pure jealousy, some are politically motivated, some may even be justified. Regardless, the cup will runneth over with, of all things, Atlanta Falcons fans on Sunday.

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