By Alvin Halimwidjaya
I’m writing this at 11 p.m. on Sunday night, and I’m upset. I’m frustrated, and like many of my other friends, I’m extremely annoyed with the gleeful few from Massachusetts. Super Bowl LI is over, and the New England Patriots have just defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in Houston. An overtime victory came on the heels of an incredible comeback from a 21-point deficit, and I hated every second of it.
Coming from Indonesia, I haven’t really picked up a favorite team, as I don’t have a hometown affiliate. The Giants or, God help me, the Jets, are obviously an easy choice. Nevertheless, I’ve picked up one football habit up with ease: hating the Patriots. Going into Sunday evening, I was rooting for the Falcons to oust New England from the throne, and for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to unleash hell upon the Patriots secondary. Obviously, my hopes survived through Lady Gaga’s impressive halftime performance only to deflate with the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Make no mistake, I will readily admit the Patriots have proved themselves to be an absolutely incredible team. I’ll definitely agree with those who will bemoan the Falcons’ ridiculous collapse. If you want me to be honest, I’ll even grit my teeth and tell you Tom Brady could be the best NFL quarterback of all time. This will not change how much I absolutely hate the Patriots’ guts. Now, Pats fans could pretend that they were slighted in the first place, and that no one believes in them; however, it’s clear that a juggernaut as polarizing as this thrives off of hate as much as love.
In my experience, New England fans pretend to act as underdogs and seek redemption at every turn, even though they know that everyone is rooting against the Pats in an act of futile solidarity. They are one of the most polarizing teams in sports right now; New England is definitely a lot easier to hate than the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and is more aggravatingly consistent than even the San Antonio Spurs. The one team I would compare them to is the Lebron-led Miami Heat, aka the Heatles, aka the villains of the NBA from 2010-2014. Both teams were frustratingly successful, and they each have skeletons in their respective closets, whether it’s The Decision or Spygate.
The thing is, it’s a lot easier to hate a team than to love it, and New England loves to make it easier for you. Patriots like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick constantly get under opposing fans’ skins; how are they supposed to deal with 400-passing yard games, ridiculous flea flickers and catches from Edelman that will live on in history? Somehow, Patriots fans are worse. They’re always flashing their metaphorical rings in everyone’s face, yelling about Tom Brady and being obnoxious in general. If you’re a Pats fan, it’s always a good time in the NFL, and if you’re a Pats hater, it’s always a good time to rag on New England.
At the Super Bowl party I attended, Patriots haters outnumbered their supporters three to one, and the game went in an all too predictable fashion. Most of the room leapt out of their seats when cornerback Robert Alford returned an interception for a touchdown. When the Patriots started coming back, the room died down into a muted sense of panic, and when they struck first in overtime, Pats fans leapt out of their seats, proceeding to rub the comeback in everyone’s faces.
Regardless of how anyone feels about the New England Patriots, they are an elite NFL team; loving them or hating them will not stop their dominance in any way. There are just as many seasons fueled by a sense of vindication and a collective chip on the Patriots’ shoulders as those supported by their fans, whether loyal or bandwagon. What matters for the league is that people end up watching the games; a polarizing team will give the NFL the exposure it needs, and it doesn’t matter which side you’re on. Whatever reason fans decide to tune in for, the NFL is still raking in their piles of money, and the more people hate on the Patriots, the more rings they can rub in everyone’s faces.