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Here come the Patriots, the most hated team in sports

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The Patriots have been so successful over the past 17 years that fans outside of New England are sick of seeing it.

The Patriots have been so successful over the past 17 years that fans outside of New England are sick of seeing it.

Google image/Creative Commons license

Google image/Creative Commons license

The Patriots have been so successful over the past 17 years that fans outside of New England are sick of seeing it.

The New England Patriots are, arguably, the most hated franchise in the history of the NFL and — with the possible exception of the New York Yankees — the most despised in sports history.

In the region of New England, the Patriots are seen as a group of superheroes, but are seen as evil villains anywhere else.

According to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling last January, the Patriots were the most disliked team in the NFL for the second year in a row. About 21 percent of the 378 fans polled disliked the Patriots, and 42 percent said they felt negatively about the Patriots.

Why?

New England has had 15 playoff appearances in 17 years, five Super Bowl wins, seven Super Bowl appearances, and 12 AFC championship wins. Over the past 10 seasons, the Patriots have finished the regular season first in the AFC in all but one year (2008, when they were second). In each of the past four seasons, the Patriots have finished the regular season no worse than 12-4.

The “problem” is fairly easy to pinpoint: Those who cheer for any team other than New England most likely are suffering from a case of green-eyed jealousy.

Google image/Creative Commons license
They may be hated outside of New England, but local fans love their Patriots.

The nationwide envy and — let’s face it, hate — have been inflamed by the “Spygate” and “Deflategate” scandals.

Trying to gain a competitive edge (some might say this is a semantic cover for “cheating”) is a common thing in sports and from 2000-2007, the Patriots spied on opponents in more than 40 NFL games. They broke league rules by videotaping the signals of opposing coaches in order to gain an advantage.

Head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the franchise was fined $250,000, and it lost a 2008 first-round draft pick. The incident gave Belichick and the Pats a reputation for using shady tactics.

This poured gasoline on the bonfire of hatred.

On Jan. 18, 2015, a Patriots locker room attendant, Jim McNally, was found by the league to have likely released air from a set of game balls during the AFC championship game, ostensibly to give quarterback Tom Brady more control over them in the cold. At the conclusion of “Deflategate,” the Patriots were fined $1 million and docked a pair of draft picks.

Cue the ritual pouring of the gas.

Nevermind that the league’s analysis of the “deflated” balls assumed a pregame locker room temperature of 67 degrees instead of consistently applying the standard 71 degrees for most other games.

Nevermind that the analysis comes out fine using the latter standard. And nevermind that the Patriots crushed the Indianapolis Colts 28-0 in the second half of that 45-7 victory with “corrected” footballs.

And, perhaps most frustrating of all, fans may be incredibly frustrated with the Patriots because, beyond the seemingly endless parade of talent in the playing and coaching ranks over the years, it seems they have some pretty amazing luck.

Specifically: The “tuck rule”; their first two Super Bowls wins on last-second field goals; Russell Wilson’s inexplicable goal-line interception; and a for-the-ages comeback from a 28-3 deficit against Atlanta.

All told, four rings have come by a combined 13 points — a margin of victory that has been exceeded in half of all other Super Bowl games.

So, for as long as the Patriots remain successful, people will find a way to hate them. Haters gonna hate, as they say.

But the purpose of football is to win championships — not make friends.

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Here come the Patriots, the most hated team in sports