Fear and Loathing for New England
Plus: Is It Time to Talk 16-0?
In A Bronx Tale, Calogero asks Sonny:
"Is is better to be loved or feared?"
"That's a good question," Sonny tells him. "It's nice to be both, but it's very difficult.
"But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared. Fear lasts longer than love. ... But the trick is not to be hated."
I feel obligated to inform you, my faithful congregation, that the Patriots are not loved, they are feared by some, and they are almost universally hated.
Every blog and site I visit has some fan of some team, in some cases media members, expressing deep hatred for the team with the most Super Bowl wins since the dawn of the new millennium.
Those whose teams have already lost to New England hate the most (well, except for most Colts fans). Dallas Cowboys fans actually thought the Patriots should take a knee on fourth down and hand them the ball at the end of the game. The fact that Dallas called a timeout instead of allowing time to expire and then allowed a fourth-string running back to virtually walk into the end zone doesn't seem to apply to their reality.
This week's cover of Sports Illustrated isn't going to help.
Oh, they're very afraid.
There's this one Colts blog, in particular (I'm not mentioning any names). The blogger rails against the attention your New England Patriots receive. And then he makes the following pronouncement:
Not only is this particular blogger afraid, he's already conceding defeat! How can he possibly say the game means nothing?
For the record, I don't expect the Colts themselves are so chicken-hearted.
They'll probably be playing "the respect card" any day now.
But for fans of most other teams, it's all about the hate.
I found it comical to read fans complain Sunday night that Jim Natnz and Phil Simms were raving about New England throughout the game. This is funny because probably no one hates the Patriots more than Nantz. I don't think either of them even mentioned the Patriots during the second quarter, they were so impressed with Dallas's defense and with Tony Romo.
But, at the end of the game, they were gushing over New England and Tom Brady. THEY WERE BEATING AN UNDEFEATED TEAM BY 20 POINTS. BRADY HAD 5 TOUCHDOWNS AND 388 YARDS. What do you want them to say? That Dallas put up a valiant effort and what a bunch of heros they are? What a swell, misunderstood guy Terrell Owens is? What a "mangenius" Wade Phillips was stopping the run and daring Brady to beat the Cowboys?
Give me a break.
Patriots fans have watched their team win game after game, year after year. And they've heard fans and players from other teams say after those games, "the better team didn't win."
No, of course not. The team with the best winning percentage of the 21st century wasn't the better team in those 100 or so games.
Still, all this talk about an undefeated season is way premature. We just got through Week 6, hardly even close to halfway through the season.
Every team, undefeated, winless or .500, is going to give New England its best game. For many teams, like the Patriots' AFC East rivals, playing New England will be their Super Bowl this season. When opponents play with nothing to lose, they play recklessly, and when they play recklessly, they have a tendency to injure players. That's one factor that makes repeating as champions (or completing an undefeated season) so difficult. The Patriots suffered a couple key injuries Sunday, and they have three games before the bye week. Brady stated quite clearly, "The season doesn't really start until after Thanksgiving anyway."
But let's put this in perspective with previous perfect-season close calls:
This isn't like Indianapolis, for the last several years, hoping their defense holds on. This is a complete team: offense, defense, special teams, coaching. And a thus far favorable schedule. Maybe the Patriots caught San Diego and Dallas at the right times. San Diego is looking much better than the team New England dismantled in Week 2. Dallas will (should) have Terry Glenn, Terry Johnson and Anthony Henry in the playoffs; they could be a completely different team. A perfect season is going to require a healthy dose of luck.
In the end, I would rather be feared. But get used to it: We're hated, and that's not going to change any time soon.
The Patriots, however, need not worry. We true fans love them well enough ourselves. Undefeated season or not.