Win or lose, this article in USA Today cracked me up. I absolutely adore and love being a fan of a team that SO many people have such a distain for. Suck it, haters.
"There’s a lot to love about the New England Patriots. They’re named for Revolutionary War heroes. Tom Brady, their GQ cover-boy quarterback, is married to one of the world’s most beautiful women. They play at an exceptionally high level year after year after year.
So how come so many pro football fans outside the half-dozen New England states despise the Patriots with a white-hot, visceral, no-holds-barred hate normally reserved for Darth Vader and the New York Yankees?
Allow Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo to answer that one. In a series of tweets this week, he called out the Patriots as heartless, gimmicky cheaters. Ayanbadejo apologized a day later. Too late: Much of the country agreed with him.
"I don’t get it," New England defensive end Rob Ninkovich says. "I love the Patriots."
Well, yes, but he plays for them. He must know lots of fans don’t love his team?
"Yeah, sure, definitely," Ninkovich says. "That’s part of the game, part of sports. Whenever there’s a team that has won for a long time, everyone wants to see them go down. That’s just part of winning."
And the Patriots do win. Since the 2001 season, they have played in five Super Bowls and won three.
They must get past Ayanbadejo’s Ravens in Sunday’s American Football Conference title game, as they did a year ago, to reach a sixth Super Bowl. Much of the country will be rooting for the Ravens — or, more precisely, against the Patriots. That’s OK by the Ravens.
"It’s nice to have some extra fans on our side," Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda says. "That isn’t going to help us on Sunday, but heck, why not? We’ll take them. The more, the merrier."
Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones is the older brother of Patriots defensive lineman Chandler Jones. He loves his brother and doesn’t hate his brother’s team. But he’s happy to have extra fans, too.
"It’s a blessing," Arthur Jones says. "The world will be watching. We’ll try not to disappoint."
Let’s count the ways to hate
The Patriots are widely viewed as rich, entitled, arrogant and smug.
"Don’t even ask us to say who we’d be rooting for if they played against the Taliban," says Buffalo Bills fan Rick Keaton, who writes a weekly Bills rant in which he refers to the Patriots exclusively as the Cheetahs.
So why all this hate?
They cheat: No escaping this one. The Patriots got caught red- (white-and-blue) handed taping opponents’ sideline signals in 2007. The NFL docked the franchise a No. 1 draft choice and fined coach Bill Belichick $500,000. The flap is so famous that it is known by the simple shorthand Spygate, an appellation that puts the Patriots on the level of burglars from Richard Nixon’s White House.
They’re ruthless: The Patriots released wide receiver Tiquan Underwood on the eve of last year’s Super Bowl. That’s either a vivid example of one of the franchise’s best corporate traits — never let sentimentality get in the way of improving personnel — or a particularly heartless roster move.
Ayanbadejo tweeted: “You know the same organization that did Spygate and cut a guy the day b4 the Super Bowl.”
Their quarterback is a pretty boy: Brady is perhaps the best quarterback of his era and one of the best ever to play. He is married to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who gave birth to a son. How do you hate a guy like that?
"It is especially galling to Bills fans to lose so many hard-fought, rugged NFL games to a metro-sexual QB that wears skinny jeans, Uggs and a tub of hair product," Keaton rants.
Their coach is the smartest guy in the stadium: His friends say Belichick is a personable guy, but one of the greatest coaches of all time has the public personality of a grouch who is openly disdainful of reporters’ questions and typically says as little as possible about anything.
"Belichik dresses for games like a ragamuffin Dickensian street urchin and obviously cuts his own hair," Keaton rants. "He is about as entertaining and charming as a fire hydrant."
They hurry up and dink: This is the hardest one to understand, but critics complain about the Patriots’ reliance on short passes and their hurry-up attack.
"New England does some suspect stuff on offense," Ayanbadejo tweeted. "Can’t really respect it. Comparable to a cheap shot b4 a fight."
Their fans are insufferable: In last year’s Super Bowl, hometown Indianapolis Colts fans spent hard-earned cash on New York Giants gear, which they wore proudly to pregame events and to the game itself. Why? To make arrogant Patriots fans who came to Indianapolis feel like they were in enemy territory.
Wherever they go, Patriots fans are generally unwelcome.
"We hate their obnoxious New England snooty persona, the food they eat/smell like — chowda and lobsta — and their generally unearned attitude of football superiority,” Keaton rants.
Everybody hates a winner
"I am free of all prejudice," W.C. Fields once said. "I hate everyone equally."
Then again, he didn’t live long enough to see the Patriots’ Super Bowl era.
Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo doesn’t care what people think who live elsewhere. “I’m all the way up here in New England,” he says. “So they love us up here. That’s all that matters.”
Besides, if other teams hate the Patriots, Mayo figures that’s really just a sign of respect.
"Any time other teams hate you," he says, "I think that’s a good thing."
Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib used to play for the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, so he has seen the Pats from both sides.
"It wasn’t that we didn’t like them," Talib says of his days with the Bucs. "We kind of looked up to them, like they’re always good. I wouldn’t say that teams around the league don’t like them. They kind of respect them."
San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner says his team hated the Patriots when he played for the Bills, but his current team does not.
"Whenever you win a lot, you get a lot of envy, a lot of jealousy from people," Whitner says.
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley says the Patriots sense the hate out there but they just don’t care.
"Everybody hates you when you’re winning," Ridley says. "That’s just part of it, but that’s not just the Patriots. A lot of times that just comes with life in general.
"When you’re doing well, people are going to have something negative to say. You can’t get caught up in that. The Patriot way with us is we buy into each other. We buy into this locker room and this team and us — not what everybody else is saying."
ESPN analyst Damien Woody played for the Patriots.
"Look, a lot of people want to throw Spygate and all the rest of that stuff in there," he says. "But at the end of the day, you can’t dispute their success. I think it’s simple. There’s no middle ground with the Patriots. You either love them or you hate them."
Contributing: Jarrett Bell, Gary Mihoces, Chris Strauss
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