It’s been a rough week to be a New England Patriots fan.
The day after handily defeating the Indianapolis Colts, when they should have been celebrating the team’s thunderous win in the AFC Championship game, fans instead instantly found themselves on defense thanks to a few deflated footballs. Instantly, the legions of bitter Patriots haters around the nation — both fans and members of the media themselves — went on the offensive. Suddenly, people who had been silent about the NFL’s other, more serious, scandals found their voice to attack the New England Patriots.
Of course, the hatred isn’t because the Patriots have really been proven to have done anything wrong. It’s really because of the team’s enormous success over the years that they are a target; the faux outrage is just a mask for jealousy. While it’s true that Bill Belichick was once caught violating the rules, he and the team were appropriately punished for it and have moved on. That is truly the only questionable behavior during Kraft-Belichick-Brady era; they have otherwise been model NFL citizens.
If the many newly discovered moral centers in football fans were real, the team they would be hating in this Super Bowl would be the Seattle Seahawks, not the New England Patriots.
After all, it was their players who failed drug tests and were suspended in 2012. One of the players who tested positive was Richard Sherman, their star cornerback, though his suspension was overturned on appeal. Indeed, under Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks have led the league in drug-related suspensions. Yet, strangely, there have been no calls for a wider investigation into the franchise, or for Carroll himself to be penalized in any way for the drug epidemic in his locker room.
Of course, questionable ethics is nothing new for Pete Carroll, whose checkered past should always be part of any conversation about him. After all, Carroll ended up back in the National Football League after fleeing his job coaching the USC Trojans as scandal embroiled that team. The NCAA found the team, under Carroll’s control, guilty of multiple recruiting violations — such as cash kickbacks for a star tailback and his family — but Carroll had already leapt into a promotion with his golden parachute by the time the findings came down. The NCAA forced USC to vacate a number of its wins, barred the Trojans from bowl games and docked the team 30 scholarships.
None of this seems to bother anyone anymore. Just as we have dismissed Sean Payton’s role in Bountygate with the New Orleans Saints, football fans seem more than ready and willing to grant Carroll a clean slate. Belichick, though, made a mistake and was penalized once, and yet it seems to dog him forever. Why the double standard?
The answer, of course, is that all of this isn’t about what the Patriots may or may not have done with any footballs, but the fact that they’re winners. That’s reason enough for most fans to assume guilt, labeling the Patriots the villains of the contest, despite the Seahawks’ many sins.
Not only are the Seahawks troubled as a franchise, they have the less appealing players. Marshawn Lynch’s constant trolling of the press by refusing to even speak to them makes him appear to be an arrogant prima donna. While the Seahawks players are saying our players aren’t that great, bashing Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady, our coach praises them.
So if you find Tom Brady’s success obnoxious rather than inspirational that’s up to you. If you think Belichick is annoying, you can root against the New England Patriots as much as you want. Just don’t pretend you’re making an ethical decision by choosing to root for a team with an endemic culture of corruption instead. That’s not only ridiculous; now that you’re aware of Seattle’s history and ignorance is no longer an excuse, it’s supremely hypocritical. So root for whichever team you want on Sunday, just be honest about your motivation.