Nevertheless, the 2012 Patriots' appearance in Indianapolis is their fifth Super Bowl appearance in 12 years, which makes them, as Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote this week, the model NFL franchise.
So why do I want them and their golden boy quarterback to go down, and go down hard, Sunday night against the Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium?
Part of it is jealousy, I'll admit. At the "Catch" game, Brady, myself and the rest of the country were witness to what would become a dynasty in pro football. The Niners would go on to win four Super Bowls in nine years, become the Team of the ’80s, and have nearly two decades in a row of 10-plus victories between 1981-1998, one of the longest eras of dominance in pro sports ever.
The Dallas Cowboys became the team of the ’90s with their three Super Bowl victories in four years, but really, New England has picked up the mantle of the 49ers since then, certainly becoming the team of the Aughts, and onto the second year of the new decade (anybody have a nickname for this era -the ’10s?)
With one more post-season victory, Brady will move ahead of his boyhood idol, Niner QB Joe Montana. The Belichick-Brady combination has led to more victories than any coach-QB team, even more so than Montana with the great Bill Walsh.
But a little reality flash for Patriot enthusiasts. Yes, they've won 10 in a row, but until they narrowly — and luckily — defeated the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago, they had not defeated a winning team all season long.
These two Super Bowl teams played earlier this season in suburban Boston in early November, incidentally. That's when Eli Manning brought the New York Giants back in the last minute to upset the Patriots. And of course, we all remember the classic Super Bowl four years ago in Arizona, when the Pats, the first team in NFL history to finish a regular season 16-0 (the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978), were denied the perfect 19-0 by losing to the Giants in the last minute.
As for my enmity for Belichick and the boys? It's hardly a unique perspective. Just the other day Robert Kraft was asked by Dan Patrick on his radio show about his idea "that they are one of the most hated teams in the country?"
The website guyism.com wrote last year that the Patriots were the sixth most hated team in sports, writing:
The Patriots are basically this era’s San Francisco 49ers, which is great for them because it means that they get to win a whole bunch of Super Bowls, but on the downside it means that everyone else just wants to see their golden boy quarterback get his head ripped off and their arrogant coach get humiliated. I mean, come on, Tom Brady is married to Gisele Bundchen and he models for Uggs Boots. Of course everyone hates him. I mean, it’s not like these are opera fans he’s playing in front of every week. These are blue collar NFL fans. They have been conditioned from birth to hate someone like Tom Brady and that means that they hate his team too, the Patriots. Of course, there was also that whole Spygate thing from a few years back, which exposed Bill Belichick and his boys as a gang of cheaters and then there was their embracing of Randy Moss, and… damn, it’s no wonder people hate these guys.
Even though I'm still bitter about the 49ers' overtime loss to the Giants two Sunday nights ago at Candlestick, there's something a bit lovable about these Giants compared to the Pats. Oh, what it would be to have the Niners face the Patriots! Then again, guyism.com has the Niners as the ninth most hated team in sports, which is shocking since it seems like nobody cared about the team until the past month, after a near decade of being in NFL hell.
Lots of sports franchises are hated in the moment, when they’re on top of the world and everyone just wants to see them fall, but it takes a special franchise to remain hated even after they’ve taken that fall, and that’s why the 49ers are on this list. Even though they haven’t been good for a while now, people still hate them because they remember the way that they dominated the NFL for a decade plus, a decade plus of unsurpassed arrogance led by a golden boy quarterback named Joe Montana and a decade plus which saw them seem to become the living embodiment of what a lot of people despise about the Bay Area the team represents. They weren’t a down and dirty blue collar team. They were white collar, they were skill players, they were wine and cheese instead of beer and pretzels. Right or wrong that’s why people hated them and that’s why they’re still hated today.
That's pretty funny, but if I were a Pats fan, I'd enjoy these last few years with Tom Brady as your savior. Just ask the Indianapolis Colts. For the past decade, the Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry was the best in the game. Then Peyton got hurt and the Colts stunk this year, going 2-14. Now there is a question about whether Manning will ever play again, or at least with "the horseshoe," in owner Jim Irsay's words. And everybody loves Ron Gronkowski. Yay, Patriots.
There is way more pressure on New England to win this game and restore their reputation as "the model franchise." The NY Giants were 7-7 a little over a month ago, going nowhere. This is gravy for them. After two straight upset victories on the road in Green Bay and San Francisco, they find themselves slight underdogs again on the neutral artificial turf in Indy. We've read for weeks about the Pats' lust for revenge and how Brady wants to right his "sucky" performance against Baltimore.
I can't wait to see what happens.