One would think Red Sox fans would be the collective group around here that would be accused of being sensitive.
You know the types. Those who dumped Dave Matthews for Zac Brown at some point in 2013, those who drink only Nantucket Nectars from May to September, those who run 5Ks in fleeces, those who believe deep in their hearts that Boston puts on the best “FIAHworks” show in the country each and every Fourth of July and those Whole Foodsers who never stepped foot in a Market Basket anyway.
One would think those types would not like the needling. But jabbing at our Boston baseball team is typically fine for all … mostly because it’s normal, and it’s tradition. Friends who are Yankees fans poke fun. There are endless internal debates about whether they should have signed Stephen Drew and whether or not they should pay Jon Lester. The discussion is simply fun.
Discussing the Patriots with co-workers and friends is not nearly as enjoyable. There is always that birdie on your shoulder that warns you not to go too far in your criticism.
"Why is this defense going to be a Top 5 defense all of the sudden? Is Darrelle Revis really worlds better than Aqib Talib?"
“Rob Gronkowski hasn’t been healthy enough to contribute for the Pats in a playoff game since the second Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Why should we believe he’ll be 100 percent this particular January?”
“Only two starting quarterbacks over the age of 37 have won Super Bowls (John Elway and Johnny Unitas). Are the odds really in Tom Brady’s favor to continue to be elite?”
These are all fair questions regarding the 2014 Patriots. But don’t be too quick with a negative answer or you’re bound to – at some point - be labeled a “Pats hater.”
Truth be told, there are layers of reasons why Patriots fans are a little “sensy.”
In the first few years of the Patriot dynasty, many in the national media and other fan bases acted as though the Pats were just plain lucky. Sure, there was the Tuck Rule game that got things rolling. Great luck. But then it was lucky to win a second and then third Super Bowl? It was lucky to go undefeated in a regular season?
Up until 2006 or so, Pats fans had every single stat in the world to prove that Brady was not only better than Manning, but Brady was better than Marino, Montana, Unitas … the lot of 'em. After beating the Jaguars in the wild card round in early ’06, Brady was a perfect 10-0 in the NFL playoffs – simply unheard of.
The first sign of Brady-Belichick mortality came in the “Ben Watson-Champ Bailey” game a week after the win over the Jags, but SpyGate – of course, was the “ah-hah!” moment for everyone outside of New England.
Most right-minded individuals would now admit that the 2007 scandal wasn’t that big of a deal because: A. Nearly everyone was stealing signals at the time and B. the Patriots have done plenty of winning since they were “caught.”
Still, it remains the wrench that any football troll can toss at a Pats fan on an ESPN.com comments section.
Aaron Hernandez doesn’t help win Patriots fans any Internet arguments either. Fair or unfair, the Patriots are “Raiders East” in some circles due to their cheating ways and their harboring of an alleged murderer.
Aside from the negative imagery, Patriots fans don’t have those tried and true stats anymore to outright win a Brady-Manning or Patriots vs. The Field argument either. The arguments are no longer one sided.
Yes, the Patriots will win 11, 12 or 13 games this year, because that’s what they always do. They are the most consistent team in North American professional sports outside of the pro basketball team from San Antonio. Yet, it always feels as though the Pats don’t get the proper respect from people outside of New England and every slight, every comment – online or in person - tweaks a nerve. "Why don’t these people get that the Patriots are great!?"
The problem is, talking sports is like talking politics. Nine times out of 10, people already have their minds made up.
So don’t be so sensy this season, Pats fans. In fact, this year treat the haters like your head coach treats the media – quietly, and with disdain. Don’t let ’em rattle ya.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS