In sports, we all have our favourite teams but it’s impossible not to develop feelings, both positive and negative, towards the rest of the league as well. So what happens when two teams you dislike meet in an important matchup?
The concept of degrees of dislike isn’t a new one. In fact it’s something I recalibrate every year. In this year’s Super Bowl, we had another example in a different sport. Similar to the Chelsea/Bayern Munich Champions League final from 2012, the meeting between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots last night would surely explore the depths of my sports hatred.
Or so I thought anyways.
It turned out that while I’ve rooted against the Patriots every season since 20021, I have a begrudging respect for their prolonged success. In fact, comparisons between the Belichick/Brady Pats and my beloved Popovich/Duncan Spurs are not easily dismissed.
The bottom line was this year’s Super Bowl matchup was between two of America’s most despised teams. The Pats have the burden of jealousy that comes with success while the Seahawks have become poster boys for loud-mouthed, abrasive poor sports who are more than capable of backing up their annoying talk.
Both teams are cheaters. The Patriots having been dinged with Spygate years ago gave every anti-Patriots fan out there the ammunition they needed to try to discount their success. The Seahawks have had 9 PED-related suspensions2 since 2010, and while no one believes the Seahawks are alone in PED-use, their success makes their spotlight brighter.
Then came “Deflategate.3” The ridiculous overreaction to this very minor scandal has surprised and confounded me. This is basically a non-issue. Teams have been hit with fines for under-inflated footballs before, and other quarterbacks like Aaron Rogers have admitted to liking their footballs over-inflated. Basically, if this wasn’t the already-hated, caught-cheating Patriots, this story would have evaporated weeks ago.
The overreaction, continued and prolonged as it was, did nothing in my mind but a) show just how ridiculous our outrage culture has gotten and b) somehow turn the Patriots into sympathetic figures— a little, anyways— something I didn’t think was possible. Was I sitting around thinking “oh, poor Tom Brady”? No, but I did find myself coming to their defense in conversations both with other people and with my computer screen.
So, I’m glad the Pats won. Their 14-year stretch of success has been capped off, and considering the ways they’ve lost Super Bowls in the past (the helmet catch comes to mind) it’s hard to say they didn’t deserve another title. I guess if there was a rematch next year, I’d probably be pro-Pats again, but it’s hard to think of another matchup where I wouldn’t be rooting against Brady and Belichick.
Also, it was a great Super Bowl: Tightly contested, hard-fought, clean. We got another ridiculous catch that looked like it was going to nix a Patriots victory, only for the Pats’ defense to come through big in the end to seal the deal. After it happened, my first thought was something a reader sent in to Grantland’s Bill Simmons’ mailbag from last week. Rather than a question, Chris from Austin delivered a simple statement:
Lions lose in gut wrenching fashion to Cowboys.
Cowboys lose in gut wrenching fashion to Packers.
Packers lose in gut wrenching fashion to Seahawks.
Seahawks lose in gut wrenching fashion to Pats.
I was very much pro-Pats in Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, as an unheard of backup quarterback named Tom Brady was facing the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams— my most hated team at the time.↩
Suspensions: Lendale White (2010), Vai Taua (2011), John Moffitt (2011), Brandon Browner (2012), Winston Guy (2012), Allen Barbre (2012), Bruce Irvin (2013), Walter Thurmond (2013), Brandon Browner (2013) Incidentally, Browner is now a member of the Patriots. Also, this list does not include Richard Sherman, who had a suspension overturned via appeal because of a faulty test cup.↩