And there's no stronger, more intense -- and more irrational -- hater in all of sports than the Patriots hater. It's next-level stuff.
Hosting radio and television shows, I hear all the hate. LeBron hate. Duke hate. Yankees hate. But there's nothing quite as deep and rich as Patriots hate. It's toxic. It's over-the-top. And you know what it is fueled by? That would be insane jealously.
I'm here to help you, Patriots hater. You love sports, right? In fact, you're obsessed. But a certain football team makes your blood boil. This column can be your elixir. Take a deep breath and take these words to heart.
Stop. No, really. Just stop. I don't want to hear about "Spygate" or "Deflategate" taking away from the Patriots' genius. Save those hater tears for someone else. Calm your nerves and remember why you love sports in the first place. The beauty of being a sports fan is seeing something special and dominant that's unprecedented. That's what this is. And lest we forget, the roots of this dynasty weren't exactly gold-plated.
Bill Belichick was once fired by the Cleveland Browns. When he resigned as the "H.C. of the NYJ" after one day on the job to go to the Patriots, the move was widely criticized. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft -- No. 199 overall, to be exact. Now Belichick is the best coach in NFL history. I'd argue he's the best coach in the history of sports. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, the GREATEST NFL PLAYER EVER (sorry, Jerry Rice and Jim Brown).
Brady and Belichick are going to their eighth Super Bowl together. That's insane. Brady took over the starting job in 2001, after Mo Lewis delivered a crushing blow to Drew Bledsoe. Since then, the Pats have participated in Super Bowl Sunday 47 percent of the time. FYI: Four NFL franchises have never been to a single Super Bowl. Brady and Belichick each own the most Lombardi Trophies (five) in NFL history for a quarterback and head coach, respectively. If -- sorry, when -- they beat the Philadelphia Eagles two Sundays from now, Brady and Belichick will tie Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson with six titles as a player-coach combo. The Pats will also be going back-to-back, which will make them the first NFL franchise to accomplish such a feat since ... New England in 2003 and '04.
I could hit you with a bunch more measurements of Patriots greatness: the seven straight Championship Sunday appearances, the 15 division titles since 2001, the 15 consecutive seasons of double-digit wins, and on and on and on. They're all hallmarks of pure genius and grandeur. It's the kind of prosperity that would define any era. But the fact that it's happening in this era is what makes it so absurdly special. Accomplishing this type of consistent dominance in the salary cap era is beyond extraordinary -- it's nonsensical.
Today's NFL is built for parity; it's designed to spawn Horatio Alger tales of rags to riches. This season's playoff field included a whopping eight teams that didn't take part in last season's tournament -- shoot, three of them finished the 2016 campaign as divisional cellar-dwellers. This is an era of NFL football where worst-to-first rises aren't just common, but somewhat expected. Every franchise rides a roller-coaster of highs and lows. Well, every franchise but one. New England just keeps on trucking in exceedingly enviable fashion. No hiccups, no random seasons where the Pats fall off.
This degree of sustained excellence -- in a league constructed to counter it -- is more impressive than any other dynasty you want to throw at me. Celtics, Bulls or Spurs? Naw, try again. Yankees? UCLA basketball? Just not the same. Factor in the era, the competition and the madness that typically accompanies a single-elimination format (like the NFL playoffs), and the Patriots' reign is uncanny.
I can't let this moment pass without marveling at New England's latest accomplishment. The Patriots' top receiver, Julian Edelman, was lost before the season began. The defense looked like an absolute sieve for the first month of the season. Yet Belichick, Brady and Co. still made their way to the AFC title game. Then on Sunday, New England loses Rob Gronkowski -- arguably the best tight end in NFL history -- in the second quarter. The Patriots proceed to go down by double digits in the fourth quarter. But of course, Mr. Brady engineers a comeback win by torching a ferocious Jaguars defense for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the final period -- with a freshly stitched-up throwing hand, to boot.
And here's why you should really appreciate the forthcoming triumph: The Patriots' core won't ever be the same again. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is all set to coach the Colts, while defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's in line to take over the Lions. (Both are great hires.) Brady, while still playing at an MVP level, is 40 years old. I'm not sure when the drop-off will come -- many a talking head have ended up looking stupid trying to play that game -- but it is indeed coming. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was a work of fiction, after all.
It's natural for many of you to root against this kind of annual superiority. But admit to yourself that the venom is rooted in pure jealously. And after you do that, take the time to respect -- and soak in -- the greatness we're all witnessing here. You're actually going to miss this whenever it ends. So embrace it. Appreciate it.
And prove Taylor Swift wrong.