Opinion: Why I’m rooting for the Patriots after all


There are a lot of people rooting against the New England Patriots in this weekend’s Super Bowl.

Personally, I’m rooting for them, cheating history and all.

I’ll be the first to admit I have no loyalty or connection of any kind to the Patriots. I’m not from New England. I’ve never been to the East Coast except in passing through on international travel. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and have been an Arizona Cardinals fan since I began liking sports in the late 1990s.

So, while I possess no ties to the team or its fan base, and while I possess no particularly rooting interest in either team, what I do possess is fatigue at how much hatred has been directed at the Patriots.

It’s common knowledge how the Patriots likely deflated footballs in the 2014-2015 AFC Championship game, according to an SBNation article. That’s one claim fans often use to discredit the Patriots, in my opinion, foolishly, because even though they won the game in which they might have deflated the footballs, they still beat the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl afterward.

That fact shouldn’t be overlooked by objective football fans.

Neither should the fact that it’s highly likely other teams have cheated in various ways as well. Steroids are as big of an issue for the NFL as any other professional sports league. Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was suspended for four games this season after the NFL detected “performance enhancing substances” in his bloodstream, according to ESPN.

He’s just one of the biggest names in the league to be suspended for the offense. The league also is facing a lawsuit from some 1,500 former players claiming NFL training staff offered them strong painkilling drugs while “misleading them about the health risks,” according to an Associated Press article published on ESPN.

These are just some of the easier examples to find demonstrating that players and teams outside of the New England Patriots have also been caught cheating or, in some way, skirting the rules.

That shouldn’t be overlooked by objective football fans either.

Neither should the other facts that clarify the Patriots’ stance as possibly the greatest NFL team of this generation. This will be the seventh Super Bowl the team has been to since 2000. Of the previous six, they have won four of them. Three of those came in a four-year span running from 2001-2004.

Then there’s Bill Belichick, the evil Emperor Palpatine’s metaphorical doppelgänger in the eyes of NFL fans who believe the Patriots cheated. Belichick, as the team’s head coach for the last 17 years, surely deserves much, if not all of the criticism for the way the team has either broken or skirted the rules for the better part of the last two decades.

As a head coach in professional football, you are expected, fair or not, to maintain good order and discipline throughout your organization. It’s a fair point to argue he hasn’t done that.

It’s also, however, unfair to overlook the fact that he has been the head coach in all six of the Patriots’ Super Bowl appearances since 2000. According to his biography on Patriots.com, Belichick has more combined Super Bowl appearances as either an assistant coach or a head coach than any other man in NFL history. His six appearances as a head coach are only tied by Don Shula, the legendary head coach of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to ever go undefeated for an entire season.

That’s the kind of coach people will get to witness at work on Super Bowl Sunday. Like him or hate him, the numbers speak for themselves.

So when I hear common fans talk about how “tired” they are of the Patriots, I roll my eyes and take a different stance. I have no illusions that greatness, especially in the Patriots’ case, isn’t pure.

I just think we should take a second and enjoy that we get to witness greatness at all.

Shelton Burch is a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.