I get the Patriot hate. I really do.
As a Celtics fan, I despised watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls march to the NBA Finals year after year in the 1990s. As a Red Sox fan, I loathed the all-too-familiar sight of a champagne-soaked locker room celebration for the Yankees.
So it doesn’t surprise me, nor does it bother me as a Pats fan, that the entire country (outside New England) will root for Denver this weekend. USA Today’s “For the Win” fan blog featured a story today with the headline “Why you can’t root for the Patriots in the AFC Championship.”
Two weeks ago, before the playoffs started, that same website published a list of the teams fans should throw their support behind, from 1 to 12. Shocker, the Patriots were dead last.
“America would rather listen to a four-hour debate between Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and a cat scratching a chalkboard than have to watch the NFL’s Nixons hold up another Super Bowl trophy,” For the Win’s Chris Chase wrote.
Though I question the guy’s use of references – I think it would be quite entertaining to listen to Trump and Clinton trying to compete with a cat scratching a chalkboard; at some point, Trump would start berating the cat – the anti-Patriot sentiment is crystal clear.
But here’s the thing. Football fans who don’t have a team in the hunt should want, more than anything, an entertaining Super Bowl. I remember as a kid, when the Pats were rarely qualifying for the postseason, I just wanted the game on Super Sunday to be competitive – and it usually wasn’t. In fact, through the first 35 Super Bowls, only nine (about one out of every four games) were decided by a touchdown or less.
As a football fan with no dog in the fight, I just hoped for a back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire, hold-your-breath type contest, a game that would live up to the hype and overshadow the halftime show and commercials.
And if America wants an entertaining Super Bowl, the nation should be rooting for the Pats this weekend. All six of the Pats’ Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era were decided by 4 points or less. Through 49 editions of the game, the Pats have played in a third of all the games decided by a touchdown or less (18 total).
I recently picked up a magazine commemorating the 50th edition of the game, and they had an article listing the 10 games with the most fantastic finishes. Half of them involved the Pats: Vinatieri seals it I. Vinatieri Seals it II. The Helmet Catch. Manning to Manningham. And The Butler Did It.
There have been other great Super Bowls in the last 15 years – Steelers-Cardinals, Steelers-Packers, 49ers-Ravens (well, the 2nd half) and Saints-Colts. But there have also been some stinkers – Buccaneers-Raiders, Steelers-Seahawks, Colts-Bears and Broncos-Seahawks.
Without the Patriots in the Big Game, recent history says you’ve got a 50-50 shot of a decent game. With them in, you’re pretty much guaranteed an all-time classic.
Go ahead, America: Root for Peyton and the Broncos on Sunday. But just don’t complain if you get your way and, in two weeks, commercials and Coldplay are the highlights of your Sunday night.