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You’re Wrong For Hating The Patriots

You’re Wrong For Hating The Patriots

I went to a Super Bowl party on Sunday night, and it seemed for most of the game that I was the only person in the room pulling for the New England Patriots.

Seriously. For most of the evening, it felt like that of the 30 or so people in attendance, the only person eager to see New England’s unprecedented run of Greatness continue was me. To be clear, I wasn’t rooting for the Patriots because I’ve ever lived in Boston or written a book with a player on the team. I was cheering for Greatness.

I couldn’t help but ask why everyone else wanted to see the Rams win. I’m a reporter at heart. Were they truly invested in the St. Louis, er, Los Angeles Rams? Was there a Rams player whose jersey they loved to sport? To a person, the answers to those questions were: No and No.

So why would you develop a one-game allegiance to LA, hoping they would beat the Patriots? That’s like pulling for Michael Jordan to roll an ankle in the NBA Finals or cheering for Jack Nicklaus to get the yips during the Masters or hoping to see a flying Wallenda fall.

For the most part, this was the response:

“I’m just tired of New England.”

I found this logic fascinating. What New England is doing is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the modern sports era. The last time a team or program was this dominant was 50 years ago when Coach John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins were marching to 10 national titles in 12 seasons of college basketball.

I happen to love Coach Wooden. He was my friend and mentor, but he was also one of the Greatest coaches the world has ever seen. I look back at his career, the sustained excellence, the titles, the player development, and I think it’s a wonder to behold. And I can’t help but think that in 10 or 15 years, people will look back on this Patriots run with the same kind of nostalgic interest.

But that’s the thing: appreciation for the Patriots will only come when their deeds are in the past because so many people are busy hating them in the present.
I prefer to enjoy Greatness as it happens. I want to marvel at it and mine it for clues!

While others are complaining about the Golden State Warriors super-team, or LeBron demanding certain types of teammates around him, I think, “Good for them. Assemble the best team you can—the object is winning, after all.”

While others hate on the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox for their lavish spending, I think, “You know what? You should use your resources to acquire and keep talent. The object is winning, after all.”

While some folks moan about Nick Saban and The Process and how it’s just unfair to the rest of college football that he always has the top recruiting class, I think, “If you have a great system and can draw talent to it, leverage it to your advantage. The object is winning, after all.”

The more I think about, that object—winning—is what fuels so many objections. Because if the Patriots or the Crimson Tide or the Warriors or Team X is winning all the time, that means the teams of those haters aren’t.

After all, we all want to be winners, right? In business, in sports, or in life, we all want to be the person who comes out on top—we all want success. And while some of us aren’t positioned to succeed from the outset, we still fight and push our way toward that goal.

We want to win. That’s the object.

This is part of our cultural narrative. We’ve grown up hearing about the American Dream, about the underdog who, through grit and effort and will, makes it to the mountaintop. It’s a story reinforced by history books, movies, and television. We love to root for the person who succeeds against all odds.

The Patriots were once the underdog. If you think back to the beginning of this dynasty, you’ll remember the breathless stories of Tom Brady, the overlooked QB (pick #199 in the 2000 NFL Draft), leading the forlorn Patriots to a memorable 2002 Super Bowl victory over the (wait for it) Saint Louis Rams. In that game, the Rams were…two-touchdown favorites!

We loved that story. Classic underdog reaches the mountaintop.

And we expected, having rooted the Patriots to that mountaintop, that it was then time to move on to a new underdog. Except the Patriots had no intention of leaving the scene. Their mission wasn’t just one Super Bowl, it was every Super Bowl. And for almost two decades, they’ve kept that focus, piling up wins despite continual shifts in the NFL landscape.

Now, the story we once cheered and adored has become the obstacle to other underdogs. And people hate them for it.

It’s remarkable to me that more people don’t study the Patriots in order to learn from their success. It seems like more people are interested in halting their Greatness than replicating it—and I think that should give everyone, sports fans, business leaders, and the general public, a moment of pause.

We don’t achieve Greatness by wanting someone else to fail. We achieve Greatness by wanting to become our best. We achieve Greatness by recognizing it in others and emulating it in ourselves.

Bottom line, we shouldn’t hate the Patriots. We should be grateful for them. They’re showing us in real time what it means to not only be Great but to sustain Greatness. That’s difficult stuff!

The oddsmakers have already installed their Super Bowl favorites for next year. The Chiefs are the favorites, followed by the Saints and Rams.

As for me, I’ll be pulling for the fourth team on that list–the one that shows us year in and year out what Greatness looks like.

Let other people hate on the Patriots. I’ll be too busy learning from them.

I hope you will too.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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