O’Sullivan: Ignore the Patriots hate during Super Bowl week

  • New England fans hold a large cut-out photo of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as the team warms up before a November game in Foxborough, Mass. AP file

  • A New England Patriots fan wears body paint referring to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady before an NFL football game between the Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes—AP

  • New England Patriots fans hold replicas of the Lombardi trophy, a photo of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and towels bearing the likeness of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the first half of an NFL football game between the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne—AP

  • New England fans hold photos of members of the Patriots during the first half of a divisional playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers earlier this month in Foxborough, Mass. Charles Krupa—AP

  • New England Patriots fans arrive at Gillette Stadium for an NFL football game between the Patriots and the New York Jets, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa—AP

Monitor staff
Published: 1/26/2019 8:03:11 PM

Can you feel it, New England? The full-blown hate is here.

Sure, there’s always some animosity aimed at the Patriots these days. That’s what happens when you hoard wins and crush dreams across the league for decades. But during the regular season, and even in the playoffs, there’s enough focus elsewhere that we can exist in a bubble of Patriots fandom, basking in the glow of all those Super Bowl rings and Lombardi Trophies.

Not now, not during Super Bowl week. The Patriots leave New England on Sunday to spend a week in Atlanta before facing the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3 in Super Bowl LIII. As soon as they hit Super Bowl Opening Night, the circus formerly known as Media Day, that bubble will be popped by microphones, cameras and inane questions from around the country and world. And the hate will come pouring in.

Everyone outside of New England is tired of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and all his sons. “Patriots fatigue” is replacing the common cold in other parts of the country. Most people would rather see Darth Vader, Voldemort or any Manning brother win the Super Bowl instead of the Patriots.

At first, I embraced it, crowing with glee, “They hate us ’cause they ain’t us!” That felt good … for a while. There’s just so much Patriots loathing out there. Embracing it all gets tiring.

It feels like time to block out the hate and return to the safety of the bubble. As it turns out, some of the Patriots feel the same, and thank you to the NFL for putting a mic on New England safety Devin McCourty so we could find out.

“I had this whole speech about all the people who doubted us, proving them wrong, doing all that, and I realize that don’t matter,” McCourty told his teammates before last Sunday’s 37-31 AFC Championship overtime win in Kansas City. “This game tonight is about us, our journey, trusting each other, loving each other, playing for each other. Tonight, that’s what it’s about. Nobody else.”

McCourty understands about the bubble.

The mic’d up clip from that game that got more attention was Julian Edelman yelling at Brady on the sideline, “You’re too old!” after Brady had hit Philip Dorsett with a 29-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left in the first half. Edelman was clearly embracing the hate in that moment and using it to hype up his quarterback. Brady’s response, however, was just to nod in game-faced silence, as if acknowledging the doubters but not letting them inside his bubble.

Of course Edelman uses criticism as motivation. He was an undersized quarterback from a mid-major college who somehow turned himself into a top NFL receiver, he had no choice but to prove the doubters wrong. But even he knows that wearing blinders and earplugs is the best way to get through this week.

“I’m not really worried about that,” Edelman said when asked what he thought of the country’s Patriots fatigue. “I’m more worried about the Los Angeles Rams and their defense and their schematics and coach Wade (Phillips, the defensive coordinator) and (cornerbacks Aqib) Talib and (Nickell) Robey (Coleman) and (Marcus) Peters. That’s the stuff that you’re thinking about because you know they’re thinking about you.”

Edelman has been around long enough that it seems like he can handle the hate in multiple ways. Jason McCourty, Devin’s twin brother, is in his first year with the Patriots, but apparently he’s been listening to his brother because he understands the bubble, too.

“I don’t care. That’s not a thought in my mind,” McCourty said when he was asked, like Edelman, about Patriots fatigue. “I’m so excited for my own opportunity and this team’s opportunity to get a chance to head to Atlanta and compete in the game that everybody that plays in this league wants to compete in. The guys in that locker room, we know how hard we’ve worked to get to this point. You’re just excited for this opportunity. You’re blessed, you’re grateful for it.”

It wasn’t always like this. The Patriots didn’t always have to answer questions about their popularity.

It’s easy to forget sometimes because it was so long ago, seemingly before we watched the games in color, or at least in HD. But when Brady lifted his first Lombardi Trophy in that far away time, he was a beloved underdog. Winning three in four years didn’t even bring out the haters, it was still overwhelming respect for the team and Belichick and the NFL’s newest dynasty.

But the winning didn’t stop, and the dislike began. Then came the stink of cheating, some of it real, some exaggerated, and the dislike grew into hate. It hasn’t stopped festering since.

Belichick’s permanent sour puss doesn’t help. Neither does Brady’s lifestyle, which makes the 1 percent of the 1 percent jealous.

So, the screaming haters and nitpicking doubters probably aren’t going anywhere. We have to deal with them. Embrace the hate if you like, but I’m with Jason McCourty, ignoring the negative and embracing the excitement like it was the first time.

“I was just telling (Devin) and (Duron Harmon), ‘How excited are ya’ll? We’re going to the Super Bowl. We leave on Sunday.’ And they’re like, ‘Calm down, man. Take it easy,’ ” McCourty said. “That’s been my role this year. I bring a different perspective, a different type of energy, a different journey which brings a different outlook on things. I’m embracing it. I can probably be annoying at times, but they love me.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341, tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)

 




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