It didn’t take more than 30 minutes before it was named the Comeback Catch. People love good names almost as much as they love good stories. Every Patriot fan has their version of the story. Even their opponents can’t resist.
I was in the kitchen, fetching more snacks and ignoring the game because I thought the outcome was obvious. More than 100 million people watch the Super Bowl and it’s the most predictable game of the season. Teams don’t take chances in the Super Bowl; the stakes are too high. Hail Marys are rare and running quaterbacks drop to the ground at the first sight of trouble. No team has ever come back from more than a 10 point deficient and the Falcons were leading by 25 points. I had lost hope in a close game. Then, out of no where, with my eyes off the screen like the fool I am, Tom Brady, recovering from a knee injury, on a path to vanquish all disbelievers after Deflategate, throws a spiral to Julian Edelman who wrestles with three members of the Falcons and catches the ball only centimeters off the ground and cradles it like it was his baby.
In preparation for the game I actively prayed for the Patriots’ loss and the embarrassment of Brady. But as I watched the remainder of the game, as I saw the Patriots quickly take control of it, I couldn’t help but smile. I just couldn’t.
Of course, every good story needs a great villain. In sports, they grow on trees. The combination of a high-stress environment and the adoration of millions of fans tend to corrupt some of our greatest heroes. I’m not saying they are wicked and evil but their behavior tend to put people off. It happened to Christian Laettner who spent much of his time taunting his opponents, banging his chest in their faces and speaking foully of them in interviews. Ty Cobb was the villain in baseball for some time. He would often get into fights with the other players, regardless of their affiliation, and once he stormed the stands to fight a heckler who had no hands.
We condemn their actions but forgive them because they perform miracles.
Outside New England, Tom Brady and his Patriots would fall under the same category as Laettner and Cobb. They have managed to unite hordes of loyal foes in hatred over “rule-bending, rule-breaking, the hooded Darth Belichick’s demeanor, “pretty boy” Tom Brady constantly calling for flags and often getting them, the “Tuck Rule,” Deflategate, Spygate, illegal pick plays, and so on and so on.”
Tom Brady has been named the most hated QB in history thanks to a poll. He’s handsome, outspoken, rich, married to a beautiful woman, friends with David Beckham, and deeply ignorant of his haters. He really seems to have it all and that makes it so much easier to loath him.
Maybe it says something that the most despised people in sports are also the most successful; whose to say what came first? Did the fans grow to hate their idols as their success distanced the idols from their beginnings, seeking small errors as justification, or did the success of these heroes turn them sour?
It’s probably a mixture of both cases but in all fairness it really shouldn’t matter. Just like any good story, sports survive and thrive on the villains. A universal distaste towards a team or a single person exists in virtually every sport. We condemn their actions but forgive them because they perform miracles. They are stronger, quicker, and better than most people and we are willing to pay a lot for such a spectacle. You can’t disregard them because they demand the attention. You can hate them all you like but in the end, you’ll end up watching them, mesmerized. They’re most likely aware of this fact; it would explain their endurance.
When I watched the last part of the Super Bowl LI, I didn’t care that Brady wears his own initials on the front of his cap or that he whines whenever someone tackles him, all I wanted was for him to throw leather balls over great distances so that they softly fall into the arms of his teammates. As I watched, that thought occurred to me. And another: maybe deep inside I really don’t want the Patriots to fail, maybe I want them to stick it to all of us jealous American football fans because it makes for a great story, the best story. The despised prove their worth to all of us as they make the greatest comeback in NFL history and I’m the villain of the story.