For MANY years we sympathized with the laments coming from the city of Boston. Although the city’s basketball team won countless championships leading up to the mid 1980s, the baseball drought was legendary. And the Patriots of the 20th Century were among the most irrelevant teams in all of football.
But things started to change at the turn of the century.
Suddenly, Boston experienced a resurgence in its athletic prowess, all kicked off by a very exciting New England Patriots Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf in January of 2002.
Then the Patriots won again in 2003. And then AGAIN in 2004.
Suddenly, the people of Boston weren’t so championship starved anymore, and the Patriots went from being “David” to becoming “Goliath.” Instead of being perceived as the feel-good underdog story, the Patriots VERY rapidly became the team with the target on its back. It won three Super Bowls in four seasons, and all signs indicated that the Patriots had become a juggernaut force to be reckoned with.
The warmth that New England basked in during January of 2002 had grown very icy by the time 2007 rolled around.
In a matter of only four years, Boston had gone from “Loserville” to “Titletown.” In 2007 it seemed like the city held a monopoly on championships. The Red Sox had “purchased” a second World Series championship of the decade in 2007, and the Celtics were in the throes of what would become an excellent run after having followed the lead of the Red Sox by acquiring The Big Three.
Taking “Woe is Me” too far
All of that would have been tolerated by the American public, except for one small fact – the city of Boston, and the New England Patriots in particular, behaved as if they were still the loveable losers that the rest of the country felt sorry for (I guess old habits die hard).
They cried foul whenever their feelings got hurt, and sobbed that they were being picked on and got no respect. Every insult to the Patriots was overblown into a national headline. Each disparaging comment against their sacred organization was treated as an injustice which had to be righted in the public eye.
When Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell commented that he only knew the numbers (not the names) of the Patriots’ secondary, the New England defense was quick to cry foul and lament the lack of respect they felt they deserved. And when Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt (who admittedly has let his mouth get him into trouble) stated that the Patriots were beatable on the heels of some other controversial comments he made, the Patriots actually resorted to pathetic name-calling (Rodney Harrison called Vanderjagt “Vander-jerk”).
Is this kindergarten?!
Instead of looking like good guys, they came across as being petty and whiny. And as the 2007 season played out, the team, which ranks as number six on Sports Illustrated’s list of the most hated teams of all time, proved also to be hypocritical.
Hypocrisy in Action
After having bemoaned so much perceived disrespect at the hands of the greater league, the team delivered nothing BUT disrespect all season long by spitting in the faces of the league and its opponents.
On the field scores were run up to RIDICULOUS totals, as though the Pats were lobbying for a BCS rank. In one game they shut down the Redskins by a score of 52-7, and in another it was the Bills who were on the receiving end of a 56-10 performance. All told over the course of the season, the Patriots outscored opponents 582-274 (that equals to an average margin of victory of more than 19 points per game).
Off the field, though, was where the biggest sign of disrespect was felt.
It was early in the 2007 season when it was leaked that the New England Patriots had illegally participated in the clandestine videotaping of opponents’ practices.
That’s right – the New England Patriots were CHEATERS!
The Patriots committed the most heinous crime in the world of athletic competition. They not only spit in the face of their opponents, they cheapened the entire game with dirty tactics and rule-breaking. And in the midst of the scandal that became known as “Spygate,” the Patriots continued to play football completely unhindered by the situation they created.
It was the absolute height of injustice that a team which had been CAUGHT cheating on a championship stage could continue to play as if no charges existed against them. It was insulting to fans everywhere that the Patriots, mired as they were in scandal, could still go on to turn in the NFL’s first ever 16-0 regular season performance.
And the biggest insult of all was the complete lack of contrition or remorse that team officials and players showed. It was like watching a guilty man not only walk free, but go on to win the lottery.
With so many “deserving” teams in the league, it just seemed unfathomable that the Patriots, so tarnished in the public eye, could actually go on to turn in one of the greatest regular season performances in the history of the league.
Fortunately, these things have a way of working themselves out.
So for those of you who don’t believe in Karma, watch this play. Because in the end, despite the smug, above-the-rules attitude demonstrated by the Patriots all season long, justice was ultimately served in one of the greatest Super Bowl plays of all time!