Patriots Are the Team NFL Fans Love to Hate

By Glen Farley, Enterprise staff writer

FOXBORO— Their second of three Super Bowl championships prompted a book entitled, “Patriot Reign.” The story line as the New England Patriots strive for No. 4: Patriot disdain.

“Good vs. Evil” was the prevailing theme nationwide as the Indianapolis Colts, who just so happen to be the reigning champs, prepared to host the Patriots inside the RCA Dome in Super Bowl XLI 1/2 last Sunday afternoon.

Actually, the theme was proposed last month, prior to game week.

“Patriots at Colts on Nov. 4 is shaping up to be one of the most attractive and exciting NFL regular-season games ever staged,” ESPN columnist Gregg Easterbrook wrote. “The pairing is fabulous; the teams are the league’s best; and there is a chance both will take the field undefeated. Plus, Patriots at Colts has a powerful, compelling narrative. Namely — Good vs. Evil.

“The fact that I don’t even need to tell you which team represents Good and which stands for Evil says a lot about how low New England has sunk. You knew instantly which was which, didn’t you?”

A football nation alternately nods its head in agreement and shakes its head at the Patriots’ actions.

First, there was safety Rodney Harrison’s four-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Then there was (pick a name, any name) “Videogate” or “Spygate” or “Cameragate” — the scandal in which the Patriots were found to be illegally taping New York Jets coaches as they sent signals in to their players during their season-opening game.

More recently, the Patriots have been accused of running up scores on foes.

“Hey, it means you’re doing something right,” cornerback Ellis Hobbs said Tuesday in speaking of the role the Patriots have assumed as the team folks love to hate. “If we’re 9-0 and we’re supposed to be crying, how’s the team that’s 1-8 supposed to be feeling?

“It doesn’t matter to us. We know what we do in our hearts. We know what it takes to win the right way. We go out there and work day in and day out, even when that whole ‘Spygate’ came up. We don’t put all our eggs in a basket like that.”

“I don’t consider myself a cheater,” said Hobbs. “Nobody on this team does. We go out there and we work day in and day out every day, and the results speak for themselves.”

Maybe, but what a difference six years makes.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the nation, could there have been a more fitting climax to the 2001 NFL season than a team called the Patriots rallied from an 0-2 start to win America’s biggest football game?

Now, Bill Belichick’s Patriots are viewed as cheaters who will stop at nothing in their bid for a fourth Super Bowl title in seven seasons, but their first since 2004.

As the details of the Patriots’ dirty deeds in the Meadowlands unfolded two months ago, Colts head coach Tony Dungy evoked the name of baseball’s Barry Bonds when discussing the Patriots’ video affair.

Need we say more? Dungy didn’t back down from the analogy in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game.

“It was my opinion at the time and it’s what I believe,” said Dungy. “Again, I don’t think it takes away from anything they’ve done. It’s just disappointing that it wasn’t a good situation for the league or any of the players in the NFL.”

In their bid for perfection, the 9-0 Patriots are being portrayed as the league’s problem children. Dungy’s theme has been embraced by the NFL’s winningest head coach, Don Shula, who, given the fact that he guided the league’s only perfect team, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, has a deep-rooted interest in the Patriots’ quest.

Of course, Shula’s distaste for the Patriots dates back to 1982 when head coach Ron Meyer waved Mark Henderson, a guy serving on the Schaefer Stadium maintenance crew as part of a prison work release program, to steer his John Deere onto the field to clear a path for John Smith to kick the winning field goal in a 3-0 snow-driven New England victory.

Twenty-five years later, Shula isn’t talking about a convict, but what he believes to be a Foxboro con game.

“The ‘Spygate’ thing has diminished what they’ve accomplished,” Shula told the New York Daily News. “You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They’ve got it. Belichick was fined $500,000, the team was fined $250,000 and they lost a first-round draft choice. That tells you the seriousness or significance of what they found.”

“I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds’ home-run record,” Shula continued. “I guess it will be noted that the Patriots were fined and a No.1 draft choice was taken away during that year of accomplishment. The sad thing is Tom Brady looks so good, it doesn’t look like he needs any help.”

Brockton-born Al Davis must be proud. The Patriots have become latter-day versions of his Oakland Raiders when they were in their glory days, for this is a team that wins games, not hearts.

Of course, all this could play into Belichick’s hands as he tells the troops that it’s them against the world.

“In the past we always kind of rallied around some things,” defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. “We’ll see what happens.”

When the Patriots won their first Super Bowl six seasons ago, they rocked to the strains of U2’s “Beautiful Day.” Nowadays, they’re rolling to The Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”

“Obviously, (Shula) is one of the most well-respected men that’s ever been in this game,” linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. “I can’t control what opinions he has. All I can do is take it upon myself to think about what my job is, and my job is to play football and help this team keep on winning. That’s all I really can focus on.

“I can’t control opinions. It’s unfortunate he had some of those things to say. I wish he didn’t say them, but so be it. People can express what they want to feel. We’re just going to keep playing good football.”

“If someone questions your integrity, if someone questions who you are and if someone questions the organization you’ve been a part of ever since you walked into the league, would it upset you?” Bruschi asked. “So, yes, it does upset me. I can’t control how people feel about it. I can’t control what comes out of their mouths. I can only control, like I said, what I do out there, what we do as a defense and what we do on the field as a team.

“Keep winning and playing hard, and if they want to keep saying those things, maybe we just need to play a little bit harder.”
<!–

  • Give us your opinion on this story.

    TEMPORARILY REDIREICTED TO OLD SERVER –>

  • Advertisements

    ~ by Sactown Raider Boosters on November 7, 2007.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s

     
    %d bloggers like this: