Super Bowl XLIX will feature two teams that are hard for any outside fan base to cheer for. Some say Broncos fans don’t particularly want to watch this Super Bowl because we are salty about our losses to these teams during the regular season, but it goes much deeper than that. After all, Broncos fans would have gladly cheered for the Colts after they knocked us out of the playoffs in a somewhat embarrassing fashion (horse bros for life). Heck, we were even rooting for the Ravens after they shattered our hearts in 2012. Sure, we're upset we lost to the two Super Bowl bound teams, but that's not where our deep disdain comes from.
It's not about jealousy. It's about having to choose between a team known for bending the rules to the point of breaking them for the past decade, and a team whose players have consistently disrespected other teams’ players and fans for the past two years. The attitudes of the two teams represented in the Super Bowl are not aligned with the tradition of football.
Year after year the Patriots have been caught breaking the rules to gain a competitive advantage. Slaps on the wrist with fines and lost draft picks have apparently done nothing to deter them from this behavior, to the point that hearing the Patriots were involved in a "deflategate" scandal didn’t make me flinch. It took me a full day to process exactly what deflated footballs actually mean in terms of competitive advantage when playing in cold, wet, weather against a dome team. It also raises questions about how long this has been happening and how much it has changed close games throughout the years. Cheating and lying about it are a part of the Patriots' culture.
This type of conduct sends the message to fans that cheating is the only way to win this game. It encourages kids to cheat their way to a Candy Land® victory. It encourages them to blame the dog for eating their homework and avoid directly answering questions about where that last cookie went. If you can’t get an A in math by studying, sit behind the smart guy and copy his answers on the test; that’s what Bill Belichik would do!
This type of conduct is so much more than the outcome of a single game. And the continued non-punishment by the NFL and repeated offenses by the Patriots sends the message that this behavior isn’t a big deal. I get that teams think some of these rules are stupid, but that's what the NFLPA is for. Instead of using provided resources, the Patriots have adopted the mantra of "don't like the rules? To hell with them." And don’t even get me started on the "but everyone was doing it" excuse, is that what you tell kids when they say they want to experiment with drugs? "It's okay as long as all your friends are doing it too!" Doubtful.
So cheer for the non-cheaters you say? Well the Seahawks and Pete Carroll aren’t exactly innocent when it comes to breaking the rules and questionable play strategy, but they sour the spirit of the game with their mouths more than anything. Somewhere the culture of respect was lost with the Seahawks.
People think Broncos fans’ distaste for the Seahawks is a result of them
beating crushing us in the Super Bowl last season. Although that was not an easy loss to swallow, it was the actions leading up to, and after the loss that left a bad taste in our mouths.
For example, if the Packers were the team the Broncos played in the Super Bowl last year, I doubt Jarrett Bush would have said Manning throws ducks before the game. I can’t even imagine a Packers fan stating that he hopes our Hall of Fame quarterback gets his neck broken by Clay Matthews. When they beat us 43-8 I don’t think their players would have continued to mock the Broncos months afterwards, I think the Packers would have celebrated their win with dignity and focused on the victory of a successful season. No-name Packers players wouldn’t criticize the Broncos’ lack of preparation or accuse them of "looking scared." That type of criticism should be left to the Broncos’ coaches and fans.
Not so for the Seahawks organization. Seahawks players’ constant need for media attention has turned ESPN into TMZ. It reminds me of celebrity Twitter wars. I just logged in and saw that Jeremy Lane (who knows, I had to look him up too) said that Rob Gronkowski isn’t very good. Richard Sherman has set the norm of trash talk and disrespect towards other NFL players and fans. Newsflash Richard, your fans leave games early too, did you wave goodbye to them?
Once again, this type of attitude sets a bad example. You think it’s bad to cheat to win Candy Land®? Well how about after beating the neighbor kid at a game tell him that he came in unprepared and sucks at counting. And at every birthday party tell all his friends how bad he is at the game to try to embarrass him.
Sure, there are players and personnel in each of these organizations with great moral fibers and off the field service. Unfortunately those people are not in the media spotlight. Russell Wilson's humble attitude doesn't define Seahawks culture; Richard Sherman's egotism does. When people think about the Patriots, Devin McCourty's foundation to fight sickle cell isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Tom Brady and Bill Belichik's "I could care less" attitudes do.
So no, I do not want to watch the Super Bowl this year. I can't bring myself to enjoy the success of either of these teams. I don’t want to encourage people to act like cheating to get ahead is not a big deal. I don’t want to encourage people to disrespect others based on their abilities and preferences. This is about a lot more than being upset that the Broncos aren’t in there playing the game. It’s about the integrity of the game of football, which I have learned to love throughout my life, being spoiled by two bad examples of what the NFL stands for.
The 2014 NFL season started with a scandal and will end with the message that cheating and poor sportsmanship wins championships. If this season didn't cause the NFL to lose a sizable chunk of its fan base, nothing will.