So how did the New England Patriots become such a focus for my disgust? It's hard to like any team that is not your own, (I feel very strange that as an Eagles fan I'm enjoying a Giants win so much) but it takes something special for me to hate another team. I generally hate the Cowboys, and that's from getting kicked in the gut so many times as a kid watching the Eagles getting beaten in the playoffs - and also T.O. But here were the Patriots, on the surface very likable winners, getting excellent media coverage, like "60 Minutes" specials about what a terrific guy Tom Brady is, how they do everything right - playing as a team - eschewing individual achievements - blah, whatever.
And watching this, it irritated me to no end that in all of the talk of inevitability, all of the "greatest team ever" chatter, the thing the media coverage mostly ignored was THAT THEY WERE CAUGHT CHEATING. OK, as far as I know the "cheating" didn't give them a huge competitive edge, or any edge at all (of course, we'll never know for sure since the spy tapes were destroyed). But do you know what? It doesn't matter. Because in my mind that media coverage should have gone like this:
"Wow, these guys are playing amazing football. But we already know that they are losers at the game of life, because THEY CHEATED. FOR NO GOOD REASON. What a bunch of losers."
Some friends in middle school always had a bug up their butt not to learn, not to be engaged, but to get perfect scores. This type of achievement always seemed shallow to me - they would work really hard with no big picture perspective at all, just trying to be the best at whatever class they were in. And a lot of times this pursuit of perfection would help those students justify cheating. I always thought this was dumb because it meant that success in the classroom for most of them was absolutely empty. To their credit, many of them figured out that cheating is a stupid endeavor. But apparently, Bill Belichick's Patriots never learned this most basic lesson. And so, I am thrilled that today all of Boston wishes their almost perfect season had never happened. What perfect justice.
Funny thing is, Tom Brady came off like a jerk in that 60 minutes special that was supposed to do the opposite. He told some story about how people knew he had lost a chess match if they came in a room and found the board and pieces scattered around the floor. I thought - oh yes, I knew punks like that - punks who felt some sort of cosmic unfairness if they lost anything - punks who didn't think at all about what it means to compete, or to win or lose. And somewhere along the piece it comes across that Brady himself feels a sort of emptiness. He even wonders aloud "is this all there is?" Maybe one day he will figure something out. Today would be a good day to start trying.