Like many of you, I’ve grown weary of the New England Patriots.
They are, quite frankly, too good, and the combination of their pretty boy quarterback, grouchy genius of a head coach and historically advantageous competitive environment has contributed to a national case of Patriot Derangement Syndrome.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect their accomplishments or don’t believe that they have become the most dominant franchise in the history of the National Football League. They certainly have and this past season — and Super Bowl — is proof of that.
Like many of you, I wish we could have seen them play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday and believe the outcome might have been different with another Hall of Fame quarterback on the field. The television ratings certainly would have been better.
But that wouldn’t have changed the fact that the Patriots and the playoffs have become inseparable. It wouldn’t have changed the fact that Tom Brady is the GOAT or that Bill Belichick is a game-planning savant or that the Pats have been able to shed the earthly bonds of the salary cap and their annual place at the end of the draft order. OK, so they cheated a little bit along the way, but who doesn’t?
New England sports fans, whose arrogance used to be held in check by the “Curse of the Bambino,” have become particularly insufferable, but they have every right to bathe in the joy of their latest championship, just as the rest of us have the right to resent them for it and console ourselves with wild conspiracy theories to explain their team’s success.
Don’t feel too guilty about that. It is the nature of sports dynasties that they are both loved and hated, and I’m not just talking about the regional allegiance and the national aversion to that level of competitive hegemony. The love-hate dynamic isn’t that simple, because a team such as the Patriots inspires an array of emotions in their anti-fans.
Let’s be honest here. You might be tired of seeing Brady in the Super Bowl, but do you really want him to retire before the Patriots visit M&T Bank Stadium next season for one of their very rare appearances in Baltimore?
If you’re a Ravens fan, don’t you want the chance to put another dent in that dynasty? Do you remember how delicious it was to crush the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the 2010 AFC Wild Card game? Or to watch the Ravens bounce back from the devastating Lee Evans drop in the 2012 AFC title game to beat Brady and Belichick in Foxborough on the way to the Super Bowl the following January?
The reason this Super Bowl had the lowest television ratings in a decade wasn’t because of a national case of Patriot fatigue. It was because the casual football fans that make up the bulk of the huge Super Bowl audience quickly lost interest in a game that featured three points by each team through the first three quarters.
It certainly didn’t help that the NFL has had more than its share of bad publicity over the past few years and that a big chunk of the football public believed that the league’s incompetence sent the wrong NFC team to Atlanta.
Whether we want to admit it or not, sports dynasties are good. Whether it was Knute Rockne and Notre Dame dominating college football in the 1920s, Red Auerbach and the Boston Celtics winning eight straight NBA titles from 1959-66 or John Wooden and UCLA winning 88 straight games early in the 1970s, that kind of excellence raises the bar for everyone and contributes to the rich history of American sports.
The New York Yankees, of course, are the greatest sports dynasty of them all and where would Major League Baseball be without them.
The Patriots have carved out their place among those great teams and may not be ready to give it up. They might be infuriating and entitled, but they didn’t win those six championships by accident.