“I prefer a villain to a false hero” – Killer Mike, Villain
Growing up in Buffalo, it is only natural to hate the New England Patriots. They are everything Bills fans wish we could be. They have it all. The legendary quarterback, coach, and team. They win by maximizing their potential and stick to their mantra: “Do Your Job.” A true, blue collar system that Bill Belichick has crafted and executed so perfectly–team first. No max contracts or overpaying for talent that does not fit the system. It is truly remarkable and admirable what they have achieved on the football field. We all know it. 10 straight AFC East Titles. 5 Super Bowl Titles since 2001. They have done it all.
Yet, in all things, anybody that has success becomes a villain. No champion gets to where it is without being hated on. Success breeds jealousy. Jealousy breeds hate. Hate leads to the title of “Villain”. That’s what the Patriots have become. The NFL’s perfect villain. Constantly under a microscope. People pay extra money to pack their home NFL stadium to hate on the Patriots in the hopes they can distract them and knock them off their throne.
Until the day comes when we can all celebrate the death of the king, we have to acknowledge the reason everybody hates them so much and appreciate how they got to that point. Sure, they must take some responsibility for their controversies, but the NFL is not filled with choir boys and all NFL teams have baggage. It is just the nature of the beast.
If the Patriots *allegedly deflate footballs*, the whole world stops and forgets about the sexual assault problems, concussion problems, and gang violence of the NFL. It’s as if an under-inflated football is all that matters and any other problems are secondary. If you take a step back and think about it, it really does not make any sense at all. The NFL has real world problems and for two years all we heard was debates about the PSI levels of footballs. Not the rise in suicides of ex players; or sexual violence. NFL fans put all that aside and obsessed over one thing: deflated footballs.
My point is, it was never about the footballs. It’s about the Patriots success. NFL fans grasp at any thing possible to knock the king off his throne. We over analyze, over criticize, and hate them because they have what we all want: success and championships. Winning solves everything and creates problems at the same time.
On the other side of things, Patriots fans over justify, turn a blind eye, and will not concede an inch. Forget the fact that Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in prison after he was convicted of murder, Rob Gronkowski’s back may never recover, or Gisele Bundchen is worried about her husband’s concussion history, and cannot fathom how she could raise her kids without her husband functioning properly. None of that matters to a Pats fan.
It doesn’t matter that the Patriots were caught stealing other teams signals in the Spygate scandal. Or, they had a team employee named “The Deflator”. Or, Julian Edelman used PEDs to recover from an ACL injury and fought his suspension tooth and nail because he was too proud and unable to tell the truth. Or, the mysterious problem with visiting teams headsets not functioning properly when they play at Gillette. They don’t care how they get there.
The point of this article is not to tear into the Patriots success or to blame their fans for enabling the bad behavior. The point is all NFL fans want one thing: a Lombardi Trophy. Any NFL team would choose the Patriots success and all the baggage that comes with it over a team that is full of character guys and goes 8-8. It is unrealistic to think that all teams will have stand up guys that will put the team first. The NFL is a business.
You are gonna have guys that only want to play for a paycheck and do not care what the fans think one bit. They may not even care if they win or lose. It’s no different than the person in your cubicle next to you that slacks off all day and does not invest in his job or career. He may never care if the business succeeds or fails. Some people will never have the same passion or dedication as others. That is ok. That’s just how the world works.
Not everybody cares as much as many of us do. We all need to stop trying so hard to treat NFL players as if they are demigods that should do everything for their fanbase and the Lombardi trophy. They are human beings with real life problems. Families that drive them crazy. Too much money for their own good. Influencers that latch on to any success, and try to use the player’s money for their own benefit.
As you prepare to watch the game on Sunday, take a step back and look at the players, coaches, and owners as real people; even the players, coaches, and owner of the New England Patriots. It is so easy to rip into an NFL player or team for breaking the rules or not doing things the right way every time.
Marcell Dareus comes to mind. Bills fans everywhere are so critical and do not even consider the mental aspect of the game. He was constantly in trouble with the league for weed and off the field issues. Rather than take a step back and consider why he may have been acting out, fans across Buffalo ripped him apart and called him lazy. Meanwhile, his story is heartbreaking and he lost his parents and grandparents all before he was 21. He was left to raise his siblings as if they were his own. Bills fans hated on him and his $100 million contract, but he is no different from me and you. Money doesn’t make one a new person or allow one to forget about, pain, struggle, and heartbreak.
Who are we to judge another for his mistakes without looking in the mirror and acknowledging our own? The same argument applies the the people in charge of the direction of the franchise. When all fans care about is winning, it is not surprising that many franchises will cut corners, or turn a blind eye to star players before their problems are in the public sphere. Thus, the New England Patriots thrived on one thing, winning. But, you are naive if you think all teams don’t do things for a competitive advantage.
Trust me, I will still be hating on the Patriots with my heart and soul on Sunday. I will be grasping onto anything to try to knock them down and celebrate their defeat like I did last year. That’s what fandom allows you to do. Fandom can help you forget about your own problems for the 3 hours when you watch the Big Game with friends and family and for the countless hours spent thinking about the game.
After the game, however, fans will go back to their daily struggle. The players will go back to their daily struggle. The coaches will go back to their daily struggle. The commentators, officials, and anyone involved will go back to their own daily struggle. And that’s the way it should be. That’s life.
The NFL is an entertainment business. It should be viewed as such. When all fans really care about is winning, what do you expect to happen?
Do not let it get in the way of your own personal life, or force you to take out your frustration on family, friends, or complete strangers. Hate as much as you want for three hours on Sunday and move on. Don’t forget the outcome, but do not let your anger over the game bottle up to the point that you are willing to risk ruining yourself or ruining another.
At the end of the day, it’s just a game.
Can’t wait for Sunday. The Patriots are cheaters. Go Rams!
Midd Kid: Middlebury College Football Grad in 2015. Nichols School Football, Hockey, and Lacrosse player. Ancient Epic Poetry and Political Philosophy junkie. Advocate for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention. Bills, Sabres, and UB Bulls fan. College Hockey fan. Go Middlebury Panthers, Go Nichols Big Green, Go Minnesota State Mavericks! Favorite Artist: Taylor Swift. Favorite Athlete: Chris Drury. Favorite Movie: The Departed.