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How do I hate the Patriots? Let me count the ways (50 of them)

On Life

Ruminations and provocations.

How do I hate the Patriots? Let me count the ways (50 of them)

Stephen H. Provost

I’ve got a lot of reasons to root against the Patriots, including the fact that they’re playing my Rams in Super Bowl El-Triple-I. But I’d be rooting against them just as hard if they were playing the Saints. Or the Eagles. Or any of the 29 NFL teams whose names don’t rhyme with Hatriots, Tratriots or Deflatriots. I’ll tell you why in a moment. But before we get to that, I’d like to start out with some of the things that don’t factor into my loathing of this particular team.

First off, Tom Brady’s wife is apparently some sort of model. Big whup. I couldn’t care less. I’d never even heard of his wife before someone brought it to my attention that he was married to someone in that particular profession, and I don’t know anything about her. But regardless, I’ll take my wife over his any day of the week. He should be jealous of me.

Next.

They play in Boston (well, Foxboro, but close enough). I’ve never there, but it seems like a pretty cool place. I like cooler climates, the history is amazing and (I’ve been told) so are the fall colors. Besides, how can you not like a city that’s half an hour’s drive from Salem?

Brady’s “chiseled good looks.” I’d rather look like Jason Momoa. Come to think of it, I’d rather just look like myself. I don’t have to wear sunglasses to look cool.

The Red Sox beat my beloved Dodgers in the World Series this year. Sorry. Try again. I happen to like the Red Sox. How can you not love the Green Monster? Fenway Park has to be the most awesome ballpark in the American League, if not all of baseball. The Sox also get some extra love as the nemesis of the evil New York Yankees, whose late owner (George Steinbrenner) would have been remembered as the most obnoxious sports executive off all-time if it weren’t for one Donald J. Trump. More on him shortly.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the issue. Regardless of the above, there are some real, bona fide reasons I hate the Patriots. Even more than I hate the Dallas Cowboys, with their pretentious “America’s Team” B.S. and their holier-than-thou good ol’ boy owner. Even more than I hate Alabama’s football team, with its built-in recruiting advantage relies on a corrupt system to maintain its advantage – a system that favors Power 5 schools over everyone else in a blatant and unapologetic money grab.

Those reasons include the following:

1.  Tom Brady’s Trump love: “It’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to accomplish.” (Like six bankruptcies? Exploiting workers? Firing people on a reality show? Running another football league into the ground? Truly amazing, Tom!) When a MAGA hat turned up in his locker, he claimed it “found its way” there, as though it had a brain and two legs. Brady says Trump “always gives me a call” and offers him motivational speeches. On what, I wonder. How to kiss women and grab their genitals without permission? How to run a football league into the ground? How to declare bankruptcy and leave others holding the bag for your mistakes? How to cheat and still look like a winner? Hmmm. Brady says Trump “obviously appeals to a lot of people, and he’s a hell of a lot of fun to play golf with.” If that’s your basis for liking someone, you need to go rent Shallow Hal.

2.  Robert Kraft’s Trump love: According to Brady, it was the Patriots owner who put that MAGA cap in his locker. Kraft says he likes Trump because the guy went to his wife’s funeral after she died of cancer and called several times to express his condolences. Sounds like a genuinely nice gesture ... until you realize this is the same guy wants to cut off health care access to millions of other Americans who can’t afford it, even though they’re suffering from cancer (and other conditions), too. But they apparently don’t matter because, for one thing, they’re not Kraft’s wife and, for another, he can afford it. (Just a head’s up, Mr. Kraft: Narcissists and sociopaths can be very ingratiating.)

3.  Bill Belichick’s Trump love: The Patriots coach is notorious for being gruff and unapproachable, at least by the media. He seldom smiles and often refuses to answer questions because he wants to control the narrative. Sound familiar? Maybe that’s why he penned a downright gushy love letter to the Trumpster on the eve of the 2016 election that, not surprisingly, also contained a dig at the media: “Congratulations on a tremendous campaign. You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media, and have come out beautifully – beautifully. You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to make America great again. Best wishes for great results tomorrow.” The letter contains so many superlatives – “amazing,” “tremendous” (twice), “beautifully” (again, twice), “great,” “remarkable” – that one might suspect Trump himself had written it ... if Trump had such a varied vocabulary. As it is, Belichick admitted he penned the letter. Not something to be particularly proud of.

(Are you sensing a theme here? Well, there’s a lot more to it than just the team’s Trumpiness. Read on.)

4.  Playing the victim ... Poor Tom Brady. According to him, “everyone thinks we suck.” Hey, Tom, you’ve won more Super Bowls than any other team in this millennium, and you’re trying to win people over by claiming you’re the underdog? Get a clue: NO ONE is going to support the Patriots because they’re a supposed underdog, any more than people would have supported Mike Tyson against Buster Douglas if he’d had the audacity to depict himself in those terms.

5.  ... while, at the same time, boasting about how wonderful they are. Julian Edelman had T-shirts made up daring haters to “Bet Against Us.” Sorry, Julian, but you can’t have it both ways.

6.  Deflategate. Brady’s denials on this were the most convincing since Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman.” But he could have quoted Nixon directly and just said, “I am not a crook.” Instead of footballs, it would be nice if someone had deflated the Patriots’ oversized egos.

7-46.  Spygate. This claims a full 40 spots, and rightfully so, because that’s how many times Belichick & Co. stole their opponents’ signals during games between 2000 and 2007, according to ESPN. The network reported that “Patriots staffers would dress like media members, covering team logos on their clothing or turning sweatshirts inside out to hide their team gear. They would also wear badges, credentials marked for Patriots TV or Kraft Productions. ... Patriots employees would go through a visiting team’s hotel looking for playbooks and other materials left behind. They would also send a staffer into an opponent’s locker room to steal play sheets with the first 20 scripted plays on them.” This is probably worth more than 40 spots, to be honest, because it’s the biggest reason I hate the Patriots.

47.  They don’t have to cheat. Spygate and Deflategate would have been bad enough if the Detroit Lions or Cleveland Browns had done it. But at least they would have had an excuse to look for an extra edge: They’re bad. The Patriots don’t even have that excuse. They’re a good team, which makes it even less forgivable that they would so flagrantly flout the rules with such downright devious behavior. They didn’t need to deflate footballs to beat the Colts, but they did it anyway. They’re like the thief who steals a man’s cash out of his wallet, then demands the picture of his family, too, just because he can.

48. Denial. The Patriots, of course, denied doing any of this, dismissing the ESPN report as a collection of “myths, conjectures and rumors” that were assembled “rather than giving credit for the team’s successes to Coach Belichick, his staff and the players for their hard work, attention to detail” blah, blah, blah. Sounds like something directly off the desk of Sarah Sanders. The only difference: “myths, conjectures and rumors” were used instead of “fake news.” As in Kraft’s letter, quoted above, the breadth of the vocabulary used here is the only distinction worth noting.

49. They get away with it. Despite all this, the NFL continues to treat the franchise like its golden child. Imagine if this level of cheating had been uncovered by the NCAA, where teams can be stripped of championships if a single player accepts a free dinner from a booster or dares to even talk to a professional agent can cost a school its national championship. Imagine if Kenesaw Mountain Landis, baseball’s first commissioner, were in charge. This is the guy who banned star players who were acquitted in court on charges that had nothing to do with baseball (Benny Kauff) and who hit .375 in the World Series (Joe Jackson) over mere allegations. Brady’s four-game suspension was a slap on the pinky in comparison. If Landis were in charge, Brady would be out of football. So would Belichick. But Roger Goodell has a different approach. According to one report, he called Rams head coach Mike Martz – whose team lost a Super Bowl to the Patriots during the Spygate era – and asked him to stop talking about it and write a statement saying he was satisfied with the league’s investigation in order to avoid further inquiries by Congress: “If it ever got to an investigation, it would be terrible for the league.” And the Patriots’ ill-gotten championships are good for the league? Really?

50. They always seem to get the calls. Even when they don’t deserve them, and especially when the game is on the line. That bogus roughing-the-passer penalty against the Chiefs was just the latest in a long line of “lucky breaks” the Patriots have received courtesy of the officials. There was also last year’s ridiculous call that gave them a win over the Steelers after the officials overturned an obvious Pittsburgh touchdown: The receiver clearly had possession and the ball broke the plane of the goal line before it came loose. Then, way back in 2001, there was Tom Brady’s fumble that would have given the Raiders the ball ... except officials overturned it based on a “tuck rule” that has since been abolished because it was such a disaster. In a 2018 playoff win over Jacksonville, the team was penalized just once, the fewest in any playoff game since 2011 ... when the Patriots (naturally) drew just one flag in a win over the Ravens. But the evidence isn’t just anecdotal. From 2011 to 2017, the Patriots were penalized 13 percent less than their opponents; in the playoffs, they were penalized 25 percent less – for 35 percent fewer yards. And most of the difference happened during close games. This isn’t proof that the league is consciously favoring the Patriots, but it’s pretty obvious that they are being favored. Yet another reason to hate them.

So, there you have it. If you need some more reasons, I’m sure you can come up with your own. If you still like the Patriots, I’m afraid you’re beyond help. If Brady’s next endorsement deal is with Kool-Aid, feel free to drink some. I’m sure it will taste real good to you going down.