The only thing more shocking than the Patriots losing the Super Bowl, now almost four months ago, is the national hysteria that continues to rejoice at their downfall. Listen to sports commentators across the country wax poetic about the so-called "Spygate" scandal—stemming from last September 9, when the Pats were caught videotaping signals from the New York Jets' defense coaches—and you can almost hear the chorus of "Ding, dong, the witch is dead."
One wonders if it is even possible to be successful in today's America without incurring the wrath of its people. From Britney Spears to Tom Brady, it seems the only thing we love more than the glorious rise of our celebrities is their glorious demise.
How do they hate the Patriots? Let us count the ways.
First, there is the self-appointed Senator-for-Justice Arlen Specter, who continues to question the NFL's handling of the controversy by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Last week Specter held a private meeting with Patriots' former video assistant Matt Walsh. Specter has gone so far as to threaten that a Congressional investigation, similar to the Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball, might be needed to get to the bottom of all this.
Senator Specter is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, who were defeated by the Patriots in their third Super Bowl. How coincidental. Yet we must wonder, given the Mitchell Report and now the crusading of Senator Specter, if in these times of unending war, growing economic disparity and environmental crisis, our elected officials don't have more important matters to concern themselves with than the oversight of our professional sports leagues.
And of course there is golden boy Tom Brady. Brady is the ultimate American hero: gracing the cover of GQ one minute, head-butting his offensive linemen the next; speaking humbly about the excellent routs his receivers ran in his post-game press conference, then going clubbing in New York City with his supermodel girlfriend.
But it wasn't always like that. Tom Brady was never a starting quarterback in college at Michigan. He wasn't even drafted by the Patriots until the sixth round. His is a very attractive rags to riches story, but one that has run its course for most of America, even if Brady's career has many more chapters to be written.
Now (and it's always now in the sports world) it's Eli Manning: first-round pick, brother of (commercials actor and part-time Indianapolis Colts quarterback) Peyton, and son of former NFL player Archie, who is the glossy face of the beloved underdog, while the clock has struck midnight on Brady's Cinderella media coverage. We are done with his Super Bowl rings and his record-holder status. We are done with his stubble and his Stetson ads. He can't win anymore, no matter how many victories he accumulates.
The Patriots changed the culture of the me-first, superstar-mania-driven NFL. This is their greatest crime. They run out together, as a team. They employ mostly good over great players, knowing that their team truly is better than the sum of its parts. And they really do concentrate on "one game at a time," despite the inability of the media and fans to do so.
Several years ago, the Patriots were last year's underdog New York Giants. They went up against the "Greatest Show on Turf," and despite being a double-digit underdog to the St. Louis Rams, they pulled off the upset. But you can't remain the underdog forever. And as soon as you're transformed from David to Goliath, the championing of your success is on borrowed time.
Giants fans, be warned. Enjoy the limelight now; that spotlight can be awfully fickle.