USA Today — All kinds of things affect the way we think about other people’s teams. Fans, for example. As a neutral, you can’t like a team if you don’t enjoy being around its fans. Uniforms, too. Hard for neutrals to root for an eyesore. Good ownership is also important, and the team is question has to be fun to watch. Not necessarily good, just fun. Surprising. Interesting.
Mix all that stuff up and you come out with the neutral’s likability rankings. The order goes from most likable, to least. …
31. New England Patriots
The coach is an evil genius, they drafted one of the best quarterbacks ever in the sixth round, and the fans are never shy about boasting about it all. Only once since 2001 have the Patriots [won fewer] than 10 games, and that year — in 2002 — they won nine. Absurd. Four Super Bowl wins plus two more finals over the same period along with a host of different scandals means Pats fans can count themselves lucky, very lucky, that they’re only second-last on this list.
What the actual hell? Lucky, USA Today? Patriots fans are supposed to think themselves lucky the Pats are only the second-most unlikable team in the NFL. Way to prove you haven’t been paying attention for the last 15 years.
To have someone say the Redskins are more hated than the Patriots because of their name and vile, despicable owner is an insult. It’s lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous! If all it takes is a nickname to get the top spot, I move to immediately change the team name to Doomsday Cult Guys Who Take Teenage Wives and Horde Weapons in a Compound and Call Themselves Patriots. It’ll be hard to fit on a logo, but it’ll be worth it because the football-loving people of New England deserve nothing less than to have the most hated team in the nation. We’ve earned it.
Seriously, how can you justify calling the Redskins less likable than the Pats after all we’ve been through? Not just because of all the supposed scandals, the allegations of cheating and the systematic discrediting of everything the franchise has accomplished. Do I have to remind USA Today that there is a different set of rules for the Patriots than for the other 31 teams? That Tom Brady is barred from going anywhere near Gillette or talking to anyone on the team while he’s suspended, but Josh Gordon can come over and have playdates with his Browns friends anytime he wants? Or that when the Jets owner was found guilty of tampering with Darrelle Revis, he only had to pay a small fine and not give the Pats any draft picks, which is the usual punishment? How about that the team had draft picks taken away after the Wells Report said they had nothing to do with tampering with footballs?
I could go on. But the point I’m trying to make is that as long as you have a franchise that gets openly screwed by its own league with the full support of the public, you can’t argue it is less than the most reviled team in existence. And a long time ago we learned to embrace the hate. Call the coach evil. Say the team cheats. Admit you resent all the success. Just don’t ever let us hear you say anyone is more hated than the New England Patriots.