It’s Open Season on the Pats

When we first spotted former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula’s comments yesterday afternoon that if the Patriots went undefeated the achievement deserved an asterisk, we ripped off a quicky rebuke, highlighting the stupidty of the entire concept of the asterisk, as well as the ’72 Dolphins’ pathetic attempt at relevancy.

And that, we thought, was that. Well, it turns out the story has legs and it revealed two things. First, that an interesting generational split has developed between the people who cover the games and the people who watch them, and second, that the Patriots are the most hated team in sports.

The split goes like this: Baby Boomers who came of age watching the NFL grow up during the 60’s and 70’s are giving Shula’s words more credence than the jaded, cynical generation that came after. Similarly, the Boomers, for the most part, are far more offended by the Patriots actions than the younger crowd.

Take the example of the commenters on Deadspin, who treat Shula as a jealous, tired old has-been, versus say, the Pardon The Interruption gang, who feel that because it’s Shula, his words mean something.

Shula, however, is anything but tired and old. He can stick the knife in as well as anyone. Just ask Jimmy Johnson or anyone who ever fired his inept coaching sons, like say Alabama which just happens to be coached by Bill Belichick’s BFF, Nick Saban, a tidbit that Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel pointed out today.

Does the Deadspin Generation think the Patriots are evil incarnate? No, they may despise them, like any other successful team, but they are more amused by the show, and right now, the Patriots are the best show in sports. While noted Belichick detractors like Gregg Easterbrook and Peter King remain hilariously shocked (at cheating! In the NFL!), as if the Pats will single-handedly destroy American values by winning football games by any means necessary.

What should also be clear by now is that the Patriots franchise is on its own. Any residual goodwill or admiration for their talent was gone the moment Coach Bill decided to run up 50 points on Joe Gibbs, another saintly fossil. Tom Brady said as much the other day. The team is reveling in its outlaw image.

So, the battle lines are drawn. At this point, the Patriots have essentially one option, and one option only. Run the table, win by as many points as they possibly can, take home the Super Bowl and thus extend one (metaphorical) middle finger at the rest of the NFL.