With the opening of the 2019 NFL season, the website Fivethirtyeight- a statistics junkie’s dream- has made the prediction that the New England Patriots have the greatest chance of making the Super Bowl yet again. This should have many people pulling their hair out screaming, “NO!!! Not again!!!” It always struck this writer as weird as to why so many people dislike the Patriots. Some of it may be that phenomena engrained into the American psyche against dynasties.
This writer remembers the time when the Dallas Cowboys were a “dynasty” and often described as “America’s team.” What made them “America’s team,” other than the big blue star on their silver helmets, I know not. Perhaps, it was the hot cheerleaders on the sidelines or something. Or maybe it was because of their quarterback at the time, Roger Staubach, a non-controversial figure who stood proudly when the National Anthem was played. Then along came my favorite team- the Pittsburgh Steelers with players like “Mean” Joe Green, Franco Harris, and Terry Bradshaw. However, eventually, they were rejected also.
Apparently, fans of the NFL like variety in their yearly champions. Or perhaps we just like to cheer for the underdogs which are often not anything approaching dynasty status.
As regards the NFL, when they make their schedule for the upcoming year, the Super Bowl champion is awarded the toughest schedule. While New England may exist in a division consisting of also-rans like Buffalo, the Jets and Miami (that could be a guaranteed six wins right there), the rest of their schedule is filled in with division winners and runners-up. That is, the NFL scheduling algorithm makes it as difficult as possible for the Super Bowl champion to repeat. Yet, the New England Patriots, despite retirements and personnel changes, and the toughest schedule perseveres and usually makes it to the playoffs, if not the Super Bowl.
Part of the “hatred” against the Patriots stems from the accusations of cheating on the part of quarterback Tom Brady or head coach Bill Belischek. With Brady, it was the great “deflategate” controversy they blamed on their winning ways. Apparently, deflating a football a few degrees of pressure made Brady a better quarterback and his receivers equally better. Of course, the real flaw was in the design of the rules regarding the use of game balls. Does any other sport allow a team to use their own balls? Even in hockey, spare pucks are kept in the back pockets of referees or at the scoring bench. As for the coach reading opposing team plays, well shame on them for allowing it and being so stupid. Taking advantage of stupidity is not cheating.
Leaving aside Tom Brady’s personality, political views and preferences, and his alleged cheating, what really motivates the dislike of the Patriots is that they win often against the odds. They were not supposed to beat the Atlanta Falcons and they were not supposed to beat the LA Rams last year. Only a trick boldly executed play was the difference in their loss to Philadelphia two years ago. As an aside, living in the Philadelphia media market, I have developed a visceral dislike of the Eagles.
It would appear that no one likes a winner. And that is what many NFL junkies living outside the Boston media market have adopted as their motivation for disliking the Patriots. Two simple words: “They win.”
And that is precisely what they have in common with their political counterparts, the NeverTrump faction. Just as the Patriots-haters like to concoct every conceivable excuse to justify their hatred of the team, so too do the NeverTrumpers to justify their hatred of Trump and his presidency. Probably no one more exemplifies this mindset than, ironically, someone whose head looks like that of a bleached deflated football- Max Boot, the ultimate NeverTrumper. Boot, who may actually be a living Thetan and proof of Scientology lore, recently penned an article in the Washington Post listing 14 reasons why he will vote for a Democrat in 2020 rather than Trump. Why he chose 14 and not 10, 20 or other numbers divisible by five, one knows not. Fourteen seems to be the magical number for some reason. Nuking hurricanes was actually listed as one reason which illustrates how deep Boot has jumped off the end.
What really motivates people like Max Boot (and the writing staff of The Bulwark) is the fact that Trump won. At one time, the Oakland Raiders were known as one of the meanest, hardest-hitting, nastiest teams in the NFL. To Boot and the NeverTrumpers, President Trump is a cross between the Oakland Raiders of yesteryear and the New England Patriots of today. He is a dirty player, but even worse, he is a dirty player who wins. And it is that winning aspect that motivates the hatred the most.
The tried-and-untrue playbook of the GOP and conservatives more broadly was rewritten by Trump in 2016. In fact, like the Patriots’ head coach, he stole several pages from the opposition’s playbook and used it against first his GOP foes during the regular season and then his Super Bowl opponent, Hillary Clinton. And he won. All the hand-wringing and all the dire predictions have failed to materialize and that has to further the butt-burn Boot and his allies now experience.
NeverTrumpers would rather be the perennial underdog who played squarely within the rules not even to dare skirt the boundaries. They explain this as sticking to principles. But principles absent winning action are just thoughts in a head or words on paper. What good is a principle such as being pro-life if you are willing to vote for a candidate who is pro-choice? What good is a principle such as deregulation if you are going to support a candidate who will transform American society and the economy through regulation and taxation? NeverTrumpers would rather wallow in pity, soul-searching, and martyrdom than win.
One can only imagine how the Atlanta Falcons and their many fans felt after Tom Brady led his New England Patriots to a tremendous comeback victory in Super Bowl LI in early 2017. They managed to rally from a 28-3 deficit early in the third quarter to stun the Falcons with an improbable 34-28 overtime victory. Boot and the NeverTrumpers are like grieving Falcons fans with one exception- the fans got over the loss and gave credit where credit was due.
The following year, the Philadelphia Eagles managed to defeat the hated Patriots in a game that went down to the wire. But they came back the next year to win their sixth Super Bowl. Rest assured that if the Patriots again make the Super Bowl in 2020, Max Boot and his NeverTrump followers will be rooting for the NFC participant.
They just do not like winners or winning.