In which Gilbert Hernandez helps me understand my scorn for New England (the football team).
Well, it’s been a lousy playoff season for Saints fans, no question. But not without its little pleasures, too: Like watching the New York Jets smack the New England Patriots around last weekend. I like the Jets anyway—if you don’t enjoy watching cocky loudmouths tread the line between incandescing and flaming out, then we watch professional sports differently—but it was especially sweet to watch them put away a team I have always hated.
I started to wonder this weekend, though, why I’ve always hated the Pats. Although there are a lot of teams to which I am completely indifferent, there are few that inspire any emotion stronger than mild annoyance. I don’t care for Baltimore, because no one wants to watch a team win a game with their defense. And I have never been able to stand Atlanta, mostly because—and I may be remembering this wrong—it seemed liked Atlanta/New Orleans played twenty times a season when I was in high school, and both teams were terrible, and we only got the game on TV because Jackson was considered the New Orleans market, and the televising crew was clearly made up of local weathermen. I wasn’t allowed to not like New Orleans, so the Falcons have absorbed all of that ill will.
But the Pats are the worst of all, and I think I finally figured out why: It’s because I was in 5th grade during Super Bowl XX. You know the one: the Chicago Bears walloped the Patriots 46-10. It’s the first Super Bowl I remember watching or even really being aware of, and there’s an obvious reason for that: The Chicago Bears were a gaggle of outsize media darlings perfectly aimed at the id of a 5th-grader. Funny nicknames, a rap theme song, a gigantic lineman who also ran the ball who also became a member of G.I. Joe : the Bears might as well have been the Harlem Globetrotters.
And there you have the source of my antipathy for the Patriots: If the Bears were the Globetrotters, then the Patriots were the Washington Generals.* They weren’t a real team, just comic foils to a bunch of cartoon characters brought to life; they were supposed to lose. Those seeds were planted deep: I’ve never been able to generate any respect for the Patriots, even when they were unquestionably the dominant team in the league. Partly, I suspect, because their dominance was so boring, a bloodless display of technical perfectionism. Did anyone ever seem to be having any fun playing for the Pats?
I think I found the perfect visual representation for how I think of the Patriots in these before-and-after images of Fritz Martinez’s doomed suitor Enrique, from the pages of Gilbert Hernandez’s High Soft Lisp:
I will heretofore refer to Tom Brady as “Enrique.”**
*Some googling reveals that sportswriters have been using the Globetrotters comparison to describe the Patriots. They are doing it wrong.
**Not really, because how annoying would that be?