by Erik Ritland
Okay, twist my arm, I’ll tell you: I don’t hate the New England Patriots anymore.
Actually hate is a strong word, I never really hated them. I just pushed back on the obsession with them. If I would mention the over-the-top cheating of Spygate, or the less major but still illegal Deflategate, the response was often a condescending “you’re just jealous that they win all the time!” or the non-point “Everyone cheats!” The Patriots “greatness” and success blinded people to common sense: that cheating is wrong (and if you get caught there will always be a stain on your legacy, whether you want to admit it or not).
How easy pro-Patriots folks brushed that off, and the excuses they made, were an example of how over-the-top people get when they idolize a winning sports franchise or make certain players their hero. They want to hold on to that so badly that they’ll defend them even to the point of absurdity.
All that still being true, if I hate something for long enough, usually I come around, because hating something is exhausting. Plus Tom Brady and the Patriots gave me good reason to come around: post-Deflategate they came off, at least from what I saw, as nothing but classy. Sports talk show hosts on the TV and radio spoke of a “revenge tour,” but you never heard that nonsense from the organization. They just did what they do best: played football at the highest possible level to prove their worth.
Which makes it so sad that they had to cheat in the first place. I equated this especially with Deflategate, but it can be used as an analogy more broadly: the legacy of this Patriots dynasty will always have something of a Richard Nixon quality to it. Nixon didn’t have to spy on the Democrats; he would have won the election anyway. Yet, for some reason, he still felt the need to cheat. Logically, it makes no sense, and never will to me.
Regardless, the hard work, effort, and brilliance of this era of the New England Patriots cannot be denied. Tom Brady wins because he works harder than any other quarterback in the NFL. The Patriots keep making all the right trades and draft picks because Belichick is a genius. There’s no getting around it. And if you can’t respect that, there’s something wrong with you.
Once I realized that, I couldn’t hate the Patriots anymore.
Congratulations to the Super Bowl champions.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.