In a world of political correctness that seeks to convince us that mediocrity is the most cherished of all virtues, how refreshing are the New England Patriots? (Yes, I know, this blog probably sees itself as “above” the world of professional athletics, where it is true many steroid-using athletes get paid way too much money to play what should be a fun game.) But allow me to regress to my truer, more base nature, and wallow in the field of athletics, and even tie in cultural ramifications, because in the Patriots we finally see something we don’t even see in corporate America anymore: unequivocal, unashamed men applying their craft with excellence and without a single concern for anyone else. Un-Christian? Unfair? Unimportant. They’re out for blood, and I am loving every minute of it.
Think I am over-reacting? Consider that while they are running up scores on unassuming opponents to stick it to the league, media pundits are starting to call them the “most hate-able” team the NFL has seen in a long time. Hmmm, so when a team is dominant, and doesn’t care whose feelings they hurt in the process of dominating, in a sport that demands dominance, we are supposed to hate them for perfecting the craft? This sounds oh so familiar, and I can only think Ayn Rand is saying, “See, I told you so!” How sad is it that in America, a country that once championed “rugged individualism” (cliché as it may be, I absolutely believe it’s true), we want to pile on the hate to a team that is superior? All of this while corporate America trips over itself to be seen as the most “green,” and “socially responsible.” Whatever happened to the idea that production itself was the socially responsible thing to do?
The NFL is popular now for a reason. Sports work because at a deeper level, they do, in fact, mirror life. Teams represent cities, they represent cultures, they represent ideas, like it or not. Don’t think so? Consider the Saints, the Eagles, the 76ers, the Lakers, the Knicks, the Cowboys: they are often built in a way that is reflective of their city. And we like to debate sports because it’s the way we politely debate politics. Can’t talk about religion and politics? Talk about sports instead, but you’ll find the same debates, just couched behind GMs, players, coaches, and strategies. And in a politically correct world, a world that seeks to rid of greatness so we can achieve “equality,” a world that is often ashamed of success as a sign of greed and sanctimony, you will find that the more the Patriots win, and the less they care about the well-being of their opponent, the more they will be hated.
And that is a shame. If they were in the compassion business, they would be abject failures. If they were in the charity business, they should have their tax-exempt status revoked. If they were in the social work business, or worked for a government bureaucracy, perhaps they should lose funding or be voted out. But they’re not. They’re in the excellence business. They are in the fight for their life, the modern-day Roman Coliseum, gladiators who seek to destroy whatever is in their path. They don’t play dirty, they do it all by the rules (well, this year anyway), and for that they should be applauded. I’m not saying we should lift them up each player as a moral role model for our children – I’m so disappointed in Tom Brady’s fathering habits – but for being the best at what they do, we should be rooting for them.
Did they cheat? Yes, and that may very well tarnish their past. But seeing as they were caught in the first game of the year, and we can be pretty sure they’re no longer videotaping the opposing teams defensive signals, it’s time to move on. They’re proving their greatness on the field, and they are aptly named. Without trying to sound hokey, they are patriots. They are what America is about: the freedom to achieve greatness on your own terms in the confines of the rule of law, without regard for others so long as you do no harm to them. If America turns on the Patriots because they’re great, they should be ashamed. Screw political correctness; after the Saints, I’m rooting for the Patriots, and any other team that never apologizes for excellence.