United, we hate the Pats

Andrew Simon

Nothing bands people together like the hatred of a common enemy, whether it’s a megalomaniacal foreign dictator, a tough professor or that girl down the hall who won’t stop blasting “Umbrella.”

Yet no common enemy brings people together quite like a despicably arrogant and successful sports franchise. Nothing is quite so fun as rooting against these teams.

This phenomenon was on full display in Sunday’s Super Bowl when the underdog New York Giants upset the New England “We’re smarter than everyone else” Patriots.

How can the hatred for the Pats be measured? By the number of people, me included, who suddenly turned into rabid Giants fans.

Like millions across the country, I tuned in to The Big Game not to see if the Patriots could complete their perfect season or if Tom Brady could impregnate another actress by halftime. I tuned in with the faint hope that I would see the holier-than-thou Patriots and their spoiled fanbase crumble before my eyes.

As it became clear the Giants had a legitimate chance to win, fans everywhere cheered for the G-men with increasing intensity: 49ers fans like myself, who usually only root for New York the two times per season it plays the hated Dallas Cowboys; Dolphins fans who wanted their 1972 squad to keep its place in history; any fan who was sick of Bill Belichick’s insufferable awareness of his own “genius,” Tom Brady’s pretty boy persona an Rodney Harrison’s thug tactics.

Any other time, we all would have had our own agendas. But in this case, we were all on the same page.

We wanted the New England bubble to burst, and we cheered with almost the same intensity for this outcome as we would for our own team to win the Super Bowl.

And you know what? It was fun.

Cheering for a team is filled with stress and even agony. The side effects of watching your team play in a championship game are akin to those of the prescription drugs advertised during the games. Only when the final second tick off the clock or the final out is recorded can a devoted fan experience true joy.

Cheering against a team is much easier (and I would know after years of fanatical Yankee hating). Side effects are less severe. If the maligned team wins, it’s too bad, but it’s not as difficult to get on with your life.

If the team loses, like the Patriots did, the feeling of schadenfreude can be almost as satisfying as the exultation that comes from cheering for a champion.

Seeing the smug wiped off Belichick’s face after the game put a smile on mine. I also basked in the warm glow of the irony that after Brady laughed at Plaxico Burress’ prediction of a 23-17 Giants win, his record-setting offense managed only 13 points.

It’s just human nature for people to feel this way.

It’s also human nature to want to feel a sense of community. And the opportunity to grab a pitchfork and a torch and join the teeming masses in their assault on the New England dynasty certainly filled this need.

Now that all this is over, I’ll go back to bleeding red and gold. But I’ll always look back fondly on the time I was able to root for Eli Manning like I used to root for Steve Young.

Sports editor Andrew Simon is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected]