Fan or not, Pats were fun to watch

You don’t really hate the Patriots. All season long, you’ve been looking for a reason to hate on the dynasty: “It’s unfair. They’re too lucky,” or “Tom Brady gets so much hype, even though he’s overrated. I can’t stand to hear it anymore.” Really, it’s time to get over it.

I’m not a Pats fan, but I’ve definitely enjoyed watching this team win a little too much over the last four years. Why? Part of it has to be that I’ve been inclined to humor my Boston-area friends.

On a more subversive level, I used to think it would be good to have the Pats win the Super Bowl because it would ensure that the Red Sox wouldn’t win the World Series. After all, a long-suffering neurotic fan base couldn’t handle two titles in the same year, right? It’s weird how reasoning like that never seems to pan out.

Anyway, even with hell freezing over, I still couldn’t help but pull for the Pats throughout the playoffs. For me, there’s just something too appealing to resist about this team. And I’ve finally managed to put my finger on it: The 2001-present Patriots are really just the football clone of the 1996-2000 New York Yankees.

Those Yankee teams had incredible chemistry that enabled them to perform at a much higher level than their individual parts should have allowed. Management sought out quality character guys who knew their roles on the team. Players always said all the right things to the media. On the field, those championship teams did all the little things well and almost always capitalized on their opponents’ mistakes. Sound familiar?

Both dynasties were also successful with minimal star power. Just like the 2003-2004 Pats during their 22-game win streak, the 1998 Yankees went 114-48 with a roster pretty much devoid of stars. (Remember, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter were not considered locks for Cooperstown back then.) Along the way, players have emerged from relative obscurity — Tedy Bruschi or Scott Brosius — to become heroes. Of course, New York’s payroll and the fact that baseball has no salary cap enabled the Yankees to hold on to their team without the difficulties that New England faces.

I also like the comparison between Joe Torre and Bill Belichick. Both have convinced players to drink their Kool-Aid and put egos aside in the pursuit of rings. They’ve also each managed to make seemingly all the right moves during their title runs. That includes in-game decisions, as well as the lineup shuffling of spare parts to fill vacancies in left field or a battered secondary. Of course, the connection isn’t exactly perfect. Torre gained recognition for his instincts, while Belichick is admired for a more technical wizardry. But maybe that’s just a difference between baseball and football.

What about the parallels between the start of Jeter’s career and Brady’s so far? Both have been the faces of their franchises, beloved by hometown fans and absolutely despised by everyone else for being “overrated.” Jeter’s critics said he got too much credit while A-Rod and Nomar piled up more impressive stats. His fans responded by citing clutch performances and other intangibles that helped bring home championships. Isn’t “Seattle’s A-Rod is to Jeter as Manning is to Brady” a pretty fair analogy? (By the way, I still say this while conceding the point that intangibles are more valuable for quarterbacks because they have more of an impact on a game than shortstops.)

Other than Jeter or Brady being “overrated,” the other most common complaint about these two dynasties is luck. The Tuck Rule has been cited by Patriots-haters almost as often as Jeffrey Maier’s name was cursed in the late ’90s. Sure, both teams got a nice share of breaks, but four World Series titles in five years or three Super Bowls in four years take a little bit more than luck.

Obviously, comparing the Patriots to any Yankees team is not a good way to make the Super Bowl champs more popular. Despite the fact that each team exemplifies the best things about team sports — class, great coaching, chemistry and so on — people still seem desperate for reasons to hate them.

They’re just fooling themselves. The real reason people try to hate these dynasties is because they win. Keep trying to find other flaws, but that’s what it boils down to. That’s fine. You can enjoy pulling for an underdog.

But, if you love sports, you have to appreciate (if not cheer for) dynasties. Dynasties are the measuring sticks that give fans something to debate. They mark the time amongst mediocre championship teams that you’ll never remember unless they came from your area.

Most of all, dynasties give people something they want to see — whether, they admit it or not. There’s a reason golf ratings spike when Tiger Woods is in the hunt — or even if he’s pulling away to win the U.S. Open by 15 strokes. People want to catch a glimpse of greatness.

With three out of four Super Bowls, a record-setting 22-game win streak and fresh off overcoming a storm of injuries for victories over the NFL’s three other best teams, the Patriots are almost certainly the best team in NFL history. And all this when free agency has brought the league to the height of parity. You may have rooted for them or against them, but you’ll always remember them. And we should appreciate that.

Comments