Hating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots has become a national sport.
Since 2001, Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick have been rewriting the record books. The duo has won 14 division titles, seven AFC championships and four Super Bowls. Brady has won the league’s Most Valuable Player award twice, and the Associated Press has named Belichick Coach of the Year three times.
All this success has been mired in controversy throughout the years. Several teams have accused the Patriots of cheating, notably the New York Jets in 2007 for videotaping their practices and the Indianapolis Colts in 2015 for using improperly inflated footballs in the AFC Championship game.
The “Spygate” and “Deflategate” controversies have become a national obsession, with ESPN exhaustively discussing the proper pounds per square inch of footballs and how it affects gameplay. The hysteria has reached such incredible levels that recently, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an article about how to explain Deflategate to children. According to the article, the Patriots’ success could stunt the moral growth of kids because it shows that sometimes “cheaters” do win.
Despite the cloud of suspicion and general antipathy toward the team, with which many Pittsburghers are intimately familiar, the Patriots have played some amazing football games, and I consider myself lucky to have lived through it.
Many sports fans are familiar with having the “greatest of all time” conversation with grandparents in which an elder talks about some long-ago star and loudly proclaims, “There’ll never be someone as good as [fill in the blank].” People may be tired of seeing the Patriots win, but I for one am rooting for New England next Sunday against the Falcons because I want to say I grew up watching the Best Who Ever Lived.
I was born in 1995, so all my life I’ve had to listen to older family members tell me I missed watching some of “the greats” during their prime. My only memories of Michael Jordan are of his mediocre stint with the Washington Wizards. I never saw Wayne Gretzky dominate the NHL as an Edmonton Oiler, and Babe Ruth’s baseball career ended more than 60 years before my birth.
But if Tom Brady wins his fifth Super Bowl in seven tries next Sunday, he will indisputably be the most successful quarterback to ever play in the NFL — with or without the controversies that have followed his career.
Already, he has more Super Bowl appearances than any other quarterback and is tied for the most championships with Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. He has more total wins than any quarterback in history and is near the top in almost every statistical offensive category.
As good as Peyton Manning was, there is little to debate now about who was better at his position. Tom Brady has very little to prove to the world at this point, but a win would further solidify his legacy.
To be clear, I can definitively say that I am not a Patriots fan. As a Washington, D.C., area native, none of the professional sports teams I support have won a championship in my life. I’ve rooted against the Patriots my whole life out of jealousy of their success, even rooting for the Redskins’ NFC East rival New York Giants both times they have squared off against New England in the Super Bowl. But their run of success has reached such rarefied air that I want them to keep winning now, just so I can witness history.
Sure, the Patriots are off-putting. It’s fitting that cartoon villain Eric Cartman from South Park says he learned from Bill Belichick’s example that America doesn’t care if you cheat as long as you cheat your way to the top.
But at some point, I realized resistance is futile, and hopped patriotically on the team’s bandwagon.