Why Do We Hate Tom Brady So Much?

In honor of Super Bowl Weekend, I recognize a wide-spread dislike of Tom Brady and the Patriots by wondering, why do we hate these guys so much?

In the book I reviewed yesterday, the author talks about an experiment where soccer fans were given the opportunity to sacrifice something of their own for a person in distress, that person either being a fan of their team or a fan of the opposing team. It is as if the fan of the opposing team almost was undeserving of compassion or because the opposing fan was a threat to something of the subject-fan’s. So could it be that we hate Tom Brady and the Patriots because they represent a threat to our children and way of life? It’s possible that, now that Brady is approaching the useful end of a quarterback’s life, he will end up on the team where quarterbacks go to die – my team, The Jets – and we’ll find out if our attitudes towards him change when he’s part of our in-group.

Or perhaps we dislike them because it seems they get preferential treatment. Every fan immediately jumps on the refs when the call goes against their team but I have to admit that my husband and I (and, sometimes reluctantly, our viewing partner) are pretty good about looking at the replay and admitting that yes, we did hold on that play, or no, we didn’t stop them before they crossed the line. True, all the camera angles and super-slow instant-replay are making it easier as a fan to second guess every call, but still – there are certain teams that seem to get a blind eye from the refs when they do something blatantly wrong, and for whom the call seems to go right, when similar calls against our team went wrong earlier in the game. So maybe we hate the Patriots because we believe in fairness and it seems unfair that karma almost never goes against them (XLII notwithstanding). Side note: I wonder if scientists have studied whether there is a preferential blindness amongst fans that prevents them from seeing fouls their team commits while making them hypersensitive to fouls that their opponents commit.

In the grad school diversity class that I took, we learned about cultural preferences, one being a tendency to support the weak or to support the strong. A classmate said he didn’t understand what that meant and I said easy: you root for the Giants and I root for the Jets. Since then, the Giants’ fortunes have slipped, but at the time they were the strong. He tells me now that I had him pegged wrong, that rooting for the Giants wasn’t rooting for the strong, but he’s also fairly miserable that they’re doing so poorly and I’m perfectly fine with the Jet’s performance (although I do wish their system would quit ruining young quarterbacks). As I like to say, if the Jets lose, it’s what I expected – and sometimes they lose gloriously – but if they win, ah! what a pleasant surprise. Especially against the Patriots, who do so well against other strong teams. So maybe we hate the Patriots because we root for the underdog which they certainly are not.

Perhaps it’s a New York thing – New York and Boston having a rivalry in a number of sports because of our close proximity and the bold, brash, confident personalities of both cities. Perhaps it’s like that kid in our 8th grade class who sort of looked like us, and who was challenging us on our own ground. Perhaps there’s a fear of identity loss, that the Patriots will be selected by the gods of chance to win, and our team will lose, and by extension, our city will lose and will fall into the abyss of forgotten history.

I’d like to say that maybe we hate the Patriots because success seems to come easy to them. Tom with his supermodel wife and his expensive homes and popular boy haircut and soaring on-target throws, it all seems to fall in his lap while the Giants quarterback, who seems like truly a nice guy but always reminds me of the son with the anxiety disorder in Parenthood, seems to win despite himself. And the Jet’s quarterback…ummm…who is the Jet’s quarterback now…? But then I read an article about how much Brady prepares, how hard he actually works even off the field to stay in shape, to review film, and you know Belichick is working the rest of the team just as hard, while stories abound about the chaos in the Jet’s locker room (ex: Gino Smith’s broken jaw), and you have to admit that the only thing that seems to “come easy” to them is discipline.

So maybe it’s because they’ve gotten caught cheating so much. Deflategate, the radio signals, all that. There’s a part of me that, when they have a bad day, says that the opposing team must be jamming their frequency. But if they’re cheating all the time, they must be as good at that as they are at everything else.

So many possibilities for why we hate them. Too hard to choose.

What reasons have I left out?

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