I am not an Atlanta Falcons fan. Before this year’s Super Bowl, I’d never cared about the outcome of a Falcons game before. However, when Atlanta jumped out to a 21-3 first half lead, I was ecstatic. The Falcons had brought me more sports-related happiness in just one half of football than my actual favorite team, the New York Jets, had brought me all season. This is because the Falcons were playing the New England Patriots.
Now, I have a lot of strong opinions about sports. Pedro Martinez, at his peak, was the greatest pitcher who has ever lived. There has never been a more dominant athlete in any sport than Tiger Woods in golf from 1999-2007. Barry Bonds should absolutely be in baseball’s Hall of Fame. I love Rafael Nadal (for no good reason). I hate Novak Djokovic (for no good reason). I love Kyrie Irving (for no good reason). I hate Kevin Durant (because he went to the Warriors this summer to chase a championship instead of trying to dethrone the Warriors in the Western Conference, which his Thunder team proved they could achieve, therefore sacrificing his entire legacy just for a championship … so basically for no good reason). But I hold no greater and more prevailing opinion than the fact that I, with every ounce of my body and soul, despise the New England Patriots.
Of course, there are obvious reasons why everyone should — and largely does — hate the Patriots. Firstly, many people in sports dislike teams or players that win all the time. The Patriots fit this mold as well as any team. They have the most Super Bowl appearances with nine, and they are tied for the second most wins with five. Furthermore, all five of their wins have come relatively recently, with their first coming in 2002, at the end of the 2001 NFL season. Also, all of their Super Bowl wins, and seven of their nine appearances, have been helmed by the same two people: head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. So, not only do fans have a franchise to hate, they also have a personification of that franchise in Belichick and Brady to detest as well. Additionally, both Belichick and Brady as well as New England’s long-time owner Robert Kraft have fairly public friendships with Donald Trump, which of course only adds fuel to the Patriots-hatred fire.
All of these reasons certainly inform my personal hatred of the Patriots, but for a New York Jets fan like myself, the hate goes even deeper. Firstly, being a New York sports fan, hating all New England-based teams is something taught from birth. Watching the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Patriots have so much success in recent years has brought me a great deal of sports-related anguish. But it is specifically my love of the Jets that makes the Patriots’ success the most sickening.
In 2000, both the Patriots and Jets were looking for a new head coach. The Jets selected a relatively experienced candidate who had bounced around the league as both a defensive coordinator and a head coach. His name was Bill Belichick. After one day on the job — one day — Belichick resigned and accepted an offer to coach the New England Patriots. He betrayed us! He’s a dirty, back-stabbing, traitor! Sorry, I get worked up when I talk about this.
Anyway, in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, the Patriots and their new coach selected a relatively unknown quarterback from Michigan. His name was Tom Brady. Brady didn’t see the field his entire first season, as the Patriots already had an established starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe. Then, in Brady’s second season, Bledsoe sustained an injury after a particularly forceful hit. After that, Brady replaced Bledsoe as the starter and led the Patriots to their first-ever Super Bowl championship. This marked the beginning of his path to becoming the greatest quarterback ever to play. “Why does this injury matter?” you might ask. Well, guess what team the Patriots were playing when Bledsoe went down with an injury? Which team, by extension, is directly responsible for giving Tom Brady his opportunity to achieve greatness? Seriously, guess. Yup, it’s the godforsaken New York Jets.
So as I watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday, I was not so much rooting for the Falcons as I was rooting against the Patriots. Nothing would have made me happier than to watch Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England Patriots lose in the Super Bowl. I felt some guilt with this as my mindset. The point of sports fandom should be to root for victory and glory, not to hope for a team to lose just because you can’t stand to watch them win again. But for a bitter Jets fan like me, I had way too much on the line to let sports morality inform my rooting. I simply could not bear to watch the Patriots win, but yet again, I was forced to.