Tom Brady and the 'F--k You' Crew: In Praise of the Patriots

From 'Deflategate' to court dates, New England took on the NFL in 2015 – and nearly won. Super Bowl 50 isn't the same without them

Hate Me Now: The Patriots' Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty

A friend of mine – let's call him Stu – wanted to see the New England Patriots lose in Denver on Sunday. Stu is not a professional sports journalist, you see, so he can root openly and wantonly against any team as he pleases. And in much the same way as he roots against tyrannical regimes, Wall Street wolves, big-game poachers, schoolyard bullies, insidious diseases and the New York Yankees, Stu roots against the Belipricks (his term, not mine).

Matter of fact, he can't recall wanting to see the shit-eating Patriots (um, that's Stu again) win a football game since they were fresh-faced, two-touchdown underdogs against the St. Louis Rams 14 Super Bowls ago.

But there's one thing about the Patriots' 20-18 loss in Denver that's slowly, oddly and unmistakably beginning to piss me off. I mean piss Stu off! And it's the fact that they lost. They're finished. They're vanquished, however temporarily. Super Bowl 50 will go on without them. And as such, it won't be damn near as good as it could've been.

In the NFL, only the Patriots ­­– OK, the Dallas Cowboys a little bit – could pull a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don't, rain-on-my-parade move like this. I mean rain-on-Stu's-parade.

The Super Bowl would have a legitimate villain if the Carolina Panthers were matched up against the Patriots, and villains are always good. Peyton Manning and the Broncos may not be your cup of tea, but they're pathetic excuses for villains. Meanwhile, nobody hates the upstart Panthers save for the stick-up-the-ass few who resent Cam Newton's joyful antics. Man, those people are assholes. At least that's what Stu tells me.

You know what? This has gone on long enough. Fuck Stu. Not only because he doesn't exist, but because his disdain for the Patriots is misguided and stupid. Yeah, they cheat and their fans are the worst and they always win, but that endless winning is probably why we should all respect the hell out of them. It's why I'm feeling a gnawing, nauseating respect for them as I write this.

What the Belipricks did during the 2015 season, and what they've done now for a decade and a half, is incredible.

They've made it to six Super Bowls and won four. They've been to 10 AFC championship games, including the last five. They've won the AFC East 13 times in the last 15 seasons, including seven division titles in a row, tied for the longest streak in NFL history.

They're the Yankees, only much better. They're the Cowboys, only actually good. They're the San Antonio Spurs, only far more villainous. They're Alabama football or an unholy amalgam of Duke and Kentucky basketball, only…well, it's kind of the same.

And let's talk about 2015. Let's talk about Brady being 38, about dealing with "Deflategate" and its aftermath, about taking on Roger Goodell and so many fans like Stu, about Rex Ryan's move to Buffalo and his desire to topple New England once and for all (news flash: The Bills went 0-2 against the Pats this year), about the whole rest of the league gunning for the defending champs. Let's talk about starting 10-0, and a 13th-consecutive season with double-digit Ws. Let's talk about the Pats ending the Kansas City Chiefs' 11-game winning streak in the divisional playoffs, then coming within a two-point conversion of taking the AFC's Number One seed to overtime on their turf.

Or let's not talk about any of it, at least not in detail. Because what would be the point, anyway? It's just a given: The Pats are always dialed up to dominate. Next year, there will be countless reasons why they shouldn't be great again. Brady is old as the hills. There's no 1,000-yard rusher in sight. The wide receivers are little shits. The Broncos, Chiefs and New York Jets all appear to have better defenses. But will any of it matter?

It won't. At least not until it does. When it does happen – when this run of Patriots excellence ends – it'll shock the senses. It'll come, too, with a heavy dose of letdown. Football won't be as fun. The constant tension that dissipates with the death of an all-time Goliath will hurt the game. Don't believe it? You just watch.

Until then, we have Super Bowl 50. Maybe it's Manning's "last rodeo." Perhaps the Panthers win and make it to 18-1. Will it have nearly the impact on history that a victory over the Belipricks would've had? Absolutely not. It'll just kind of…be. Not for Panthers fans (or for Broncos fans if things go the other way), but for the rest of us. Because we know how this thing works.

It's the Pats' world. The rest of us are just living in it. Begrudgingly, but still…