Love to hate
By Michael Silver, Yahoo Sports
December 14, 2007
"Why does everybody hate us?" she asked. "When we won the first Super Bowl, we were the out-of-nowhere underdogs, and everyone seemed to celebrate it. Even when we won the other two, it didn't seem like people were that against us. But now … "
She stopped and smiled before continuing: "Now people are saying, 'Break out the Dramamine.' "
OK, that was a dig. Nancy is no shrinking violet, and if you don't believe me, ask the rowdy actress who only narrowly escaped from a Gillette Stadium luxury box after incurring her wrath a few years back. In this case, she was sincerely perplexed about why her team had become the Hate-riots, and over the next half-hour I did my best to give her an honest answer.
Now, for you unlucky souls who weren't part of our festive crew at Mistral, here are the six reasons that almost everyone hates the Pats:
1. Bitter Bill: Even the most cynical of football fans will readily acknowledge that Bill Belichick is a brilliant coach whose mastery of defensive strategy, character evaluation and building a team-oriented atmosphere is unrivaled. I'm one of those people who can attest that he actually possesses a personality and, at times, a sense of humor. But as his legend has grown, Belichick, rather than bask in his accomplishments, has appeared increasingly petty, vindictive and miserable. Watching him callously shove that photographer who was blocking his path to former assistant Eric Mangini following the Pats' playoff victory over the Jets – and, after the obviously insincere hug, pushing his way past another cameraman – was a major turnoff to many fans. His joyless blowoff of the popular Tony Dungy during their postgame handshake in November, whatever his reasons, showed once again that Belichick isn't all that stressed about how others perceive him. Just as Barry Bonds' prickly nature wins him no points with media members and most fans outside of San Francisco, the lack of warmth projected by Belichick (even in relation to his typically tight peers) causes anyone not already cheering for the Patriots to resent his success.
2. Reformed Randy: Until joining the Patriots in April, wideout Randy Moss was a symbol for everything most sports fans detest. Brazenly defending his "I play when I want to play" mantra, squirting Gatorade at an official in a playoff game, walking out on his team before a game ended … Moss, in Minnesota, was hardly an endearing figure. Then he went to Oakland and got even worse, ripping his employers with regularity and openly dogging it on the field. Yet after last season, Tom Brady actively wooed Moss and, once the receiver arrived in New England, he began lauding him for being a "great teammate" and a "great leader." Very few people, outside of some judgmental wackos from the religious right, have anything negative to say about Brady, but it's disturbing to hear the greatest player in football praise Moss in such over-the-top fashion. Belichick, too, chimed in, citing Moss' "professionalism" as a reason the receiver would fit in with the Patriots. Even worse has been listening to the rationalizations of most Pats fans, who would absolutely detest Moss were he a) on another team or b) on their team in a pickup game. Which brings us to …
3. Patriot Propaganda: Somehow, it's not enough that New England has the best owners, coach and quarterback, not to mention an accomplished talent evaluator (Scott Pioli) and a slew of really, really good players who understand and follow their assignments. The Pats also have to proclaim that their culture is superior. (And please, spare me your emails claiming this is a media creation; I've got the quotes to back it up.) It's true that the Patriots have a solid locker room full of respected leaders, and that's a major reason guys like Moss and Corey Dillon have put aside turbulent pasts and thrived in that environment. But this whole "winning with class" thing? Barf. First of all, the Pats talk plenty on the field – even Brady (Tom, not Nancy) got into with some Steelers last Sunday, the way Joe Montana used to in his early years. They talk trash before and after games as well, though usually under the guise that they were provoked by an opponent's disrespectful words. They also taunt; just ask LaDainian Tomlinson, who took such great offense to the postgame behavior of some Pats players after their playoff victory at San Diego in January that he called Belichick "classless." Never mind whether LT's comments were justified; just know that many outside observers – and players for other NFL teams – are of the opinion that the Pats' holier-than-thou self-image is garbage.
4. Dynasty Disease: Some of the negativity toward the Pats is a simple result of their amazing run of excellence, and in an era that is supposed to have built-in mechanisms against such sustained prosperity. Since the merger, at various times, the Cowboys, 49ers, Steelers and other big winners have felt the wrath of the masses purely for seeming unbeatable, in the same way that Notre Dame, the Yankees and the Lakers and Celtics have in their respective realms. Call it jealousy, boredom, a natural tendency to root for the underdog or a combination of all three – whatever. The bottom line is that the Pats have become so dominant that many fans of other teams are eager to see them fall.
5. Spygate Surliness: You didn't think we'd skip over the great scandal of 2007, did you? It's true that some people flat-out hate the Pats because, after a team employee was caught videotaping the Jets' coaches giving signals from the sidelines in the season opener despite a clear directive from the league banning such acts, they view Belichick as a cheater whose previous successes are thus tainted in the same way Bonds' (and now, apparently, Roger Clemens' and so many others' in baseball) were. But I'd say a larger group reviles Belichick and, to some degree, his players for the way they've reacted to "Spygate." Though he was fined $500,000 by the NFL, and the organization was docked another $250,000 and a first-round draft choice, Belichick never came clean. The coach tried to hide behind a technicality while insisting he hadn't intentionally violated the rule. Then, beginning with the team's Week 2 blowout of the Chargers, the Pats adopted an attitude that cast themselves as the aggrieved party – a "how-dare-you-question-our-excellence?" middle finger to the world.
6. Obnoxious Overkill: There has been a great deal of debate as to whether the Pats have run up the score in some of their lopsided victories, and rather than get into the validity of such charges, I'm simply going to note that the perception exists. It was one thing to score a gratuitous touchdown against the Cowboys, probably the league's second-most-hated franchise. But when New England appeared to pour it on against Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs in a 52-7 thrashing of the Redskins, a lot of people thought Belichick and his players were rubbing it in – and it rubbed them the wrong way. Again, it would be one thing if a team were perceived as running up scores against overmatched opponents. But when that team also attempts to position itself as the emblem of class, expect a serious backlash from the masses.
So there you have it: That's the best I can offer in the way of explanation. When I finished my soliloquy, Nancy Brady shook her head sadly. "I've been waiting for a dream season like this for so long," she said. "Tommy finally has these incredible players around him, and he's putting up numbers that silence all the people who always took shots at him for not having the stats. And we're undefeated. I just want to enjoy it."
So enjoy it, I told her. Who cares what anyone else thinks?
She shrugged, turned to the bartender and ordered a "Grey Goose and Haterade." Or maybe she didn't. The important thing is, she was smiling once more … as she should have been.
Take it to the ATM
After the 49ers lose to the Bengals on Saturday, coach Mike Nolan will complain that injured quarterback Alex Smith "is a wee little girlie-man," and Smith will shoot back that Nolan "is a mean, big-fat liar-liar-pants-on-fire" – or something to that effect … Keyed by Anquan Boldin's return, the Cardinals will outscore the Saints to keep their playoff hopes – and what remains of my dignity – alive for at least another week … Arthur Blank will never hire another college coach – nor will he ever again discuss fried chicken on national television.
Please, boss, send me to …
Sunny South Florida, por favor. The '72 Dolphins will be at sold-out Dolphin Stadium Sunday to see if 0-13 Miami can get that cherished victory for Cam Cameron (thus avoiding a regular season of unprecedented awfulness) – and far be it from me to miss out on the pageantry. I expect the Ravens, good sports that they are, to comply by resembling the team that fell behind by a zillion points to Indy last week, rather than the one that nearly beat the Patriots the previous Monday night. If not … bring on the Pats-Jets highlights and a slice of key lime pie.
Lies, lies, lies
1. There is a funnier nickname for Anthony Smith than the one my buddy, salty Steelers fan Greg Heywood, bestowed upon Pittsburgh's mouthy safety: "DB DB." (The less obvious "DB" is an unflattering slur derived from a feminine hygiene product.)
2. Bobby Petrino, in fact, has gonads.
3. The 49ers are a first-rate organization, from the owner on down.
World's simplest pool
Coming off his successful pick last week of Jacksonville over Carolina, here's Suns GM Steve Kerr's selection in Week 15: "New England, duh!"
My buddy's annoying fantasy football adventure
"Kolby Smith? Are you kidding me? Way to go, Silver." That was the salty text message I received from my buddy Malibu in the third quarter of the Pats-Steelers game – a sign that all was not well with Beat The Gypsy after a wildly successful regular season. Sure enough, BTG went down to an inglorious defeat in the opening round of his league's eight-team playoff tournament, absorbing a 53-point smoking at the hands of Cleveland Steamers. And, naturally, he blamed it all on me – the guy who told him to take Adrian Peterson in the second round. "Dude, your beef is not with Kolby Smith," I told him later. "It's with Anthony Smith." The latter Smith's guarantee had riled up the Patriots, which helped provoke Brady's near 40-point outburst for Steamers. Big days by Marques Colston and Bernard Berrian also helped Steamers roll. Meanwhile, Peterson, had by far the worst day of his young career – which along with underwhelming performances by Carson Palmer, Kellen Winslow and, yes, Kolby Smith doomed BTG to defeat. "That's not fair," I told him. "Yea, no (expletive)," he answered. "Fantasy sucks. I had the second-highest point total in the league, but one bad week knocks you out." Even worse, BTG now must battle The Big Show – the team run by Malibu's son, A-Man – in the consolation round. For what it's worth, I told him to lose the Bills' defense (they're playing the high-scoring Browns) and to consider playing Chester Taylor (he of the 84-yard touchdown run against the Niners) instead of – you guessed it – Kolby Smith.
Oxygen-deprived thought from above
When I'm late to the airport, where's this crazy cabbie?
Let's do some Don Julio Silver shots for …
This is one of those full-throttle, empty-bottle Fridays, and the first shots are for Saints linebacker Scott Fujita and (especially) his studette of a wife, Jaclyn, who gave birth to twin daughters Delilah Lily and Isabell Rose Thursday morning – future Cal soccer and basketball stars, I'm guessing. Speaking of Golden Bears, I'm refilling the shot glass to welcome new NBA blogger Rod Benson, the latest unique and talented addition to the Y! Sports empire and leader of the Boom Tho! movement. Suffice it to say that he's in there like swimwear. Next I'm downing a get-well shot (and chowing a large combo at Santiago's in Stockton, Calif.) for my friend and former Sports Illustrated colleague, George Dohrmann, the world's finest investigative sports reporter. Lastly, I'm whipping out the tall shot glasses for the Cal women's volleyball team, which succumbed in three games to No. 1-ranked Penn State Thursday night in the NCAA semifinals at Sacramento's ARCO Arena, concluding the best season in school history. Congratulations to fabulous seniors Angie Pressey and Ellen Orchard on their stellar careers and to the ridiculously potent Nittany Lions, who face No. 1 seed Stanford in the championship match on Saturday. And yeah, volleyball fans, that was me sitting in the sweet seats with athletic director Sandy Barbour, old Oaktown homey Dan Williams and his tall sons and a certain injured 49ers quarterback and two of his athletically inclined and irresistibly cute daughters. Of the concussion that will keep him out of Saturday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Trent Dilfer said, "I'm hoping the blow to the head will somehow regenerate hair growth. If so, it'll be worth the brain damage." There are many reasons that anyone who rips on this man has to get through me first, and his sense of humor is but a small one.
Yahoo search words of the week
Worst present ever Marinovich
Rollin' with the Royals
Last Saturday was a glorious afternoon for the Reading Football Club, which, in its second season of English Premier League competition after decades of lower-level play, scored its biggest victory since its promotion. The Royals' 3-1 triumph over previous unbeaten Liverpool at Madejski Stadium was its first-ever Premiership victory over a "Big Four" side (Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool) – and by all accounts it was completely deserved. After taking the lead on Stephen Hunt's penalty kick following a controversial call – Jamie Carragher's takedown of Kevin Doyle was near the edge of the box – Reading nearly went up 2-0 on American midfielder Bobby Convey's 25-yard shot, which missed the top corner of the net by inches. The Reds got the equalizer when star midfielder Steven Garrard scored on a counterattack in the 28th minute. But Reading answered with two goals after the break – Doyle headed in Nicky Shorey's floating free kick in the 60th minute and James Harper, after playing a nice through-ball from Dave Kitson, rounded keeper Pepe Reina and slid one into the net. The Royals (5-2-9), now 12th in the 20-team league, look for their first road victory of the season at Birmingham (4-2-10) on Saturday. All of this was devastating to my friend Ajay Nirula, a longtime Liverpool loyalist who noted that Saturday's "game was on the 27th anniversary of a much greater loss for Liverpool (and the world)." Amen.
Lyric-altered song dedication of the week
You know Coach Hoodie is getting his Tupac on as he prepares for vengeance against former protégé Eric Mangini. To the tune of "Hail Mary."
Makaveli in this Belichick body, just like John Gotti.
Come with me, Traitor Eric,
I ain't a killa but don't push me
Come with me, Traitor Eric,
Trippin' on E(mail)
"I'm a big Steelers fan and I really enjoyed your column on Mike Tomlin and the Steelers after their big loss to the Patriots. Watching the game I thought both Ben R. and Willie Parker performed well but the Steelers still got blown out. Although nobody likes losing, there really isn't any shame losing to such a great team as the Patriots. Short of Tom Brady getting hurt, or gale force winds at game time, do you see any team competing against the Patriots in the postseason?"
It's tough to imagine anyone beating the Patriots in the playoffs, but I do think the Colts, if things break right, have a shot.
"Are you completely insane? Mike Tomlin is a pathetic coach. Coaching isn't being buddies with your players. Coaching is getting the most you can out of your players. Why is Anthony Smith still on the team? He opened his big mouth, then proceeded to give up two long touchdowns! He's every bit the loser Tomlin is! Mike Tomlin only proved he is incapable of adjusting within a game. You criticize Bill Cowher? No one has won more games with less talent than Cowher in the history of the game! Cowher's won-loss record is irreproachable. He won with guys named (Neil) O'Donnell, (Kordell) Stewart, and a revolving door of defensive players because the Steelers refuse to pay anyone big contracts. Who cares if he hurt his team's feelings? His system worked better than anyone's in the past 15 years! Period! Mike Tomlin shouldn't be coach of the year. He should be fired! He inherited a Super Bowl-caliber team that has every bit the talent of New England, Dallas and Indy. (I'd start any receiving crew with Hines Ward over Moss, Harrison, and T.O.) He lost to the Jets! And Denver! And Arizona! And he barely beat Miami! The Steelers should have been undefeated going into the game against New England. Instead, they have a scant lead over Cleveland, and, with the way Tomlin is coaching, the Steelers will lose their last four games, finish 9-7, and miss the playoffs! Tomlin, Coach of the year? Please! How about underachiever of the year! Bring back Cowher-Power!"
Easy there, rabble-rouser. No offense, but I'm going to side with Dan Rooney on this one. And I happen to agree with you about Cowher's greatness – he's a tremendous coach who'll do great things from another lucky franchise in the near future.
"I have a problem with your use of the word meltdown. If you were to look at most NFL games that are heated in competition on the field, you would, if you were honest, say that most teams playing the game today get flagged for some kind of personel file due to fustration. You also do not hear what is said on the field that may cause the flag. Also alot of times it is the return shot that is flagged. One other thing teams like the Patriots also have meltdowns for personel fouls, but reporters like yourself do not care to notice them. Oh yes, being undefeated in the NFL might have something to due with that."
I commend you for spelling the word "meltdown" correctly.
"You whiffed I'd say on the Ellis Hobbs quote. You have to understand that evangelical Christians take any opportunity to spread the word, and that's just what he was doing: preaching. He didn't mean that God was playing with Smith, or that God cares about football. He meant that like all braggarts, Smith had been humbled, giving the opportunity for God to lift him up (it's actually a slight misquote of James 4:10). This was in his view simply a generic instance of God's general practice of braggart-humbling. You may think that's stupid, but you're fighting an entire widely-held belief system. And I could be wrong but am guessing you're Jewish so that may be a bit of a faux pas."
Well happy holidays to you, too. I did a book with Kurt Warner, so it's possible I have more understanding of evangelical Christians than you suggest. Or, perhaps, I've just gotten my fill from living in George W. Bush's America. Whatever – I stand by my assertion that Hobbs's statement was inane, and if you think that's crazy, you might want to increase your understanding of people who aren't evangelical Christians.
"Hey, I enjoy the column. I piss off fanboys at my college (hahahaha WVU) and wanted to extend my kudos on trolling the majority of NFL fans. You are a god among men! One resource I've found for great pictures at minimum is somethingawful.com. They have a football forum that has provided me many stories and stats to piss people off. The forum inspired me to rename the Patriots 'Satan's Army' in my NFL column for my college's newspaper, as there is no way any NFL team could be that good without the Dark Prince's help. Keep up the good fight and please continue pissing off the internet!."
Thanks, bro. God among men? I take it you're not an evangelical Christian; or, if you are, you have a better sense of humor than I expected.
"I'm a professional writer who finds professional writers sniggering about how poorly non-professional writers write about as attractive as a chef sniggering at housewives for not being able to turn potatoes or julienne carrots. No doubt you'd perform the jobs your various e-mailers have as competently as they write e-mails. And tell you what – let's see you post an unedited column once. No copy editors looking it over before it goes up on the site, just write it, post it and let us count all the mistakes. Don't bother telling us which one it'll be, we'll figure it out pretty quickly."
OK, here's an unedited reply: (Expletive expletive expletive expletive expletive). Uh, maybe that wasn't such a good idea.
"Didn't you write an article about how the Red Sox were not going to win the series? Something about the pink hat factor and Ortiz being hurt. Your an idiot. Your credibility gone, for some reason I looked at your site today, I won't be back again. You suck."
Uh, no … I didn't write anything about the Red Sox and pink hats. But after reading this, I so wish I had.
"RE: 'I have 32 babies …' When Miami was little, and looking so promising, you dropped him, didn't you?"
"It takes a big man to admit he is wrong … or at least give praise to those he loathes. The Chargers seem to be coming into their own and I think Norv might have been right to put his QB through some fire the last few weeks. I love Drew Brees, and if the Saints ever play at (Qualcomm) I will give him a standing O, but I still remember the playoff game against the Jets; Brees couldn't get it done in clutch time. Rivers has looked like a large pile of rotting feces for most of the year but he has a way of getting it done when it counts, (See Denver, and Cincy last year)."
I definitely don't loathe the Chargers. How could I? They're one of my 32 babies.
"I had to laugh at Rick Lewczyk's spygate email, but I didn't think it was quite accurate. A better analogy would be: Little Pat: 'Dad, I got an A-plus in my English class today.' Dad: 'That's great, son!' Little Pat: 'I kind of feel bad, though.' Dad: 'Why's that, son?' Little Pat: 'Well, I wasn't sure of my answers, so I snuck a peek at the answers of the kid next to me.' Dad: 'That's not good, son. No draft picks for you next summer!' Little Pat: 'But, dad! It shouldn't even count. It wasn't like I used the answers, or anything – the kid spelled 'idiot' as 'idot', and his grammar! Don't get me started on his grammar.' Dad: 'Well, I believe that, son, but don't do it again, or you'll get an asterisk against your perfect record.' Little Pat: 'Okay, dad.' Disclaimer: I am a Pats fan (otherwise I'd probably hate them, too), and as far as I know the Pats have (unfortunately) never expressed any remorse for 'Spygate.' Go Pats!"
Thanks to you and to the many other readers who submitted revised versions of Rick's mock conversation.
"My earliest football memory is of the 30th Super Bowl between the Cowboys and the Steelers. I was an 8-year-old die hard Dallas fan sitting in a room full of adult Steelers loyalists, and as I watched them suffer and shout, I thought I knew the meaning of the term 'love to hate.' It was not until this season, with the Patriots stealing what so easily could have been the Boys' spotlight year, that I have truly felt a love of hate. Around Week 4, it was mentioned that someone might take a cheap shot at Brady, and I have whole-heartedly embraced the idea. Each snap he takes, the words 'break his legs' escape my lips. How many others could be thinking this? Is there still a possibility some desperate defensive player, in regular season, playoffs or even the Super Bowl, might take this shot? Could they withstand the hit? Maybe they've padded the numbers enough to soften the blow."
Aw, you little spitfire, you. The NFL is, in fact, a brutally violent game, but I like to think that there's a very small chance that anyone would intentionally try to injure Brady – at least, until Jerry Jones signs you to that free-agent contract.
"Royals Drain the 'Pool. Hmmmm, tempting to call it a lucky win, but anytime you score three goals, you're doing something right, and essentially ending Liverpool's hopes for the league title. Great to see Bobby Convey back in the lineup; his pass to set up the penalty was sweet, and Liverpool fans should shut the hell up about it being outside the box. If (Jamie) Carragher gets booked like he should of, he misses the ManU game next week. Fair trade. I'd be much more concerned with Rafa's rotation and substitution policy, which tossed in some unheard of 19 yr old in the center of the defense, and then for some unknown reason took out (Steven) Gerrard when he put (Ryan) Babel into the game, which is like putting in an impact post-man just when you pull your point guard. (Rafael) Benitez will be under a ton of heat, especially if they lose to Marseilles and are out of the Champion's League. They'll essentially have nothing to play for from Christmas on. I hope Tom Hicks sends that whining Spaniard to work on a rotation policy in an East Texas whorehouse. He makes baseball's free agency process look sane. Cheers, and love the column."
Thanks – and thanks for knowing a hell of a lot more about the Premier League than I do.
"I have to say, week after week, you crack me up. Thank God somebody tells it like it is! On a completely different note, could you take a different picture? The one above looks like a mug shot, however, since you do write about the NFL, maybe that's appropriate :)."
Ha, good call. You'll be happy to know that a new mug shot was, in fact, taken in September. When it will actually appear on the site, however, remains a mystery. And at least the mug that's on there now is an improvement from the original one that I had Barry Switzer snap of me in a San Antonio hotel room in August.
"From one of your readers – 'please do a thorough column on the ineptitude of the NFC compared to the AFC' Please don't, because I'd hate to have to point out that the NFC and AFC are both a combined 27-27 in non-conference games."
"'My handwriting – so atrocious it's a miracle even that I can read it.' I should've written that. Matter of fact, maybe I already did – in longhand."
Of course you did – illegibly.
"Lol! All I have to say is you rock man. I'll probably butcher the English language in more ways than one in this short paragraph, and I'll expect you to critisize me for it as you should. That my friend is what makes you so awesome. Most writers will get comments about how dumb, retarded or ugly they are and you never see them stand up. Not only do you stand up for yourself, you do it so smooth and with such confidence and intelligence, I love it. One of these days, maybe people will realize that all columns, not just sports columns, are an expression of opinion. It's not whether the opinion is right or wrong, but how entertaining it is. That's what makes you a great writer! Keep it rockin man! Go Broncos! (High hopes I know … )."
Thanks, bro. With that attitude, feel free to "critisize" me anytime.
"One could only imagine that, after observing how brutal you are on readers who write like fourth graders, these people might check their work before hitting the 'Send' button. Alas, the headache continues. Great work as always. Go Giants."
I admire your optimism.
"I think I just found a Yahoo! sports writer that doesn't make me spitting mad; I'm pleasantly surprised! Keep the good stuff coming!"
Thanks. Our other writers make me spitting mad, too, especially when we're getting physical at the House of Blues in Vegas. But they're good – one of the many reasons why we are No. 1.
"This has been the single-most humbling year of recent memory for me. Not only did the Nebraska football team perform to mediocrity that even your Cal Bears topped, but now your volleyball team dethroned the Huskers' defending national championship team. I hate to sound like a Cubs fan, but I suppose there's always next year."
I don't have much of a reply; I just wanted to get one last Cal volleyball reference in there. Hang in.
"See Spot. See Spot run. Spell check. Spell check everything."
Eat treat. Good doggie.
Michael Silver covers the NFL for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Mogotxt, Twitter and Facebook. Also check out ridewithsilver.com. Send Michael a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Friday, Dec 14, 2007 11:51 am, EST