Opinion: Winning the right way (The Patriot Way) in sports doesn't exist
Opinion: Winning the right way (The Patriot Way) in sports doesn't exist. A look at the New England Patriots culture after the arrest of Aaron Hernandez.
Subjectivity is complicated. What food tastes good to me, may be disgusting to you. That’s a given. But, in other instances, a quality believed as fact may actually be subjective. For example, the way I see the color blue and the way it looks through your eyes is inherently different. We both know the color, but are aware the hue is slightly changed in its appearance from one person to the next.
While consuming commentary about Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial, Alfonzo Dennard’s arrest, and the Tim Tebow signing, I’ve realized the way fans and media perceive “The Patriot Way” is just like the color blue – distinctively altered from person to person. What I’m interested in is why this is the case.
Look, I never believed in “The Patriot Way” as it was presented to us by – yup, you guessed it – the media (Hmm. The same folks taking unseemly pleasure in mocking the term in light of recent events). Robert Kraft is no Robin Hood. The Patriots weren’t winning game after game as part of an altruistic mission for the poor. Nor is Bill Belichick a deity of sport. Truth is, the Pats have always taken chances on players in order to win football games.
That seemed silly to clarify. But retrospectively speaking, it does make complete sense -- the timing for the adulation was perfect. The Patriots succeeded in an understated manner – predicated not on saying the wrong thing, but rather saying nothing at all. Meanwhile, Terrell Owens, Joey Porter, Chad Johnson (yeesh!), Rex Ryan, and the rest of the NFL promulgated boisterous personas, ultimately making their downfalls easier to celebrate. Juxtaposing these two styles – and the degrees of success – created a specious tenet: “The Patriot Way.”
But if forced to subscribe, to me, “The Patriot Way” is – and always was –as much about Rodney Harrison, Randy Moss, and Aqib Talib as it is about Troy Brown, Tom Terrific, and the rest of the outstanding citizens to come through Patriot Place this last decade-plus. The utopian concept really just boils down to simple underlying themes: “Making the Smart Football Play,” “Humble Pie,” “It Is What It Is,” “Do Your Job,” and “Mental Toughness.” In other words, the same platitudes the players fed the media.
And if there was a dark side to “The Patriot Way,” like the aforementioned players with checkered pasts, SpyGate, and a passive aggressive penchant for running up the score, then fine. The Patriots are successful year after year, to the tune of seven AFC Championship Game appearances, five trips to the Super Bowl and three championships. I learned long before Odin Lloyd’s body was found that winning the “right way” in professional sports doesn’t exist. There’s just winning.
Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__