The New England Patriots, portrayed as the Super Bowl villains by the national media as a result of Deflate-gate, traded their black hat to the Seattle Seahawks at some point during Sunday night’s Super Bowl.
The good guys won, or, if you’re from Baltimore, New York, or any of the 28 other NFL cities and can’t quite admit that, just concede that the bad guys lost.
The Seahawks, or at least their most flamboyant players, have demonstrated a lack of class in victory. Richard Sherman chasing down Tom Brady to ask, “You mad, bro?” several seasons ago and gratuitously digging at Michael Crabtree after the 49ers defeat in last season’s NFC Championship Game, come to mind. So, too, does the crotch-grabbing exclamation points Marshawn Lynch affixes to his touchdown runs. At the Super Bowl, the lack of class previously shown in victory by the Seahawks reared its head in defeat.
Sore loserdom represents the flipside of taunting.
This displayed itself in its most ugly fashion in the few seconds of the game in which everybody knew the outcome. Seattle came in full-force in response to New England’s victory formation in the Super Bowl’s waning seconds. Bruce Irvin came in swinging. He landed a punch on Rob Gronkowski. Where should have been extended hands, the linebacker extended his fists. A melee ensued that threatened to mar what had played as perhaps the greatest Super Bowl in history. The referees ejected Irvin, who, once his understandable frustrations dissipated, humbly apologized.
Earlier in the second half, after Doug Baldwin caught a Russell Wilson touchdown pass, the Seahawks receiver mimed a vulgar act on the sports world’s largest stage. Instead of handing the ball to the referee or maybe issuing a celebratory spike, Baldwin pulled down imaginary trousers and squatted over the brown object beneath his legs. Further advertising his bad manners, he subsequently feigned neither wiping nor washing his hands.
Moments after Baldwin’s immaturity overshadowed the most important play of his career, Richard Sherman clowned for NBC’s cameras. He mocked Darrelle Revis, a shutdown cornerback Sherman often finds himself compared to, for muffing the coverage on the previous play. Sherman finger-flashed Revis’s number “24” as he mouthed the words and then made the touchdown hand signal.
One can envision Bill Belichick’s charges surreptitiously letting the air out of footballs or even murdering people on their off days. One can’t imagine any of them pulling a stunt like Baldwin’s or completely losing composure after a heartbreaking loss.
This, in a nutshell, stands as the reason New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft fired Pete Carroll and hired Bill Belichick 15 years ago. The former coach allows his team to blare rap music during practice and proudly celebrates the individuality of his players. The latter, who blares crowd noise during practice but little else, comes from the no-I-in-team school. Just ask Terry Glenn. Or Wes Welker. Or dozens of other guys. It’s the unlikable, no-nonsense hooded authoritarian who produces likeable players and the laid-back likeable, do-your-own-thing dude who unleashes hoodlums onto the gridiron.
Sure, Russell Wilson and Russell Okung appear about as classy as any in the NFL. But they came to the Seahawks that way. The power of Bill Belichick lies in taking troubled cases (Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, LeGarrette Blount, etc.) and transforming them into choir boys, at least on the field.
When NFL Network interviewers pressed one such choir boy, albeit of a cutthroat variety, on his place in the annals of NFL quarterbacks, the four-time Super Bowl-winner responded, “I’m a lucky guy. I’ve played on some great teams.” When Deion Sanders praised the classic game as a Tom Brady moment, the quarterback refused to take the ego bait. “There are a lot of guys who had moments tonight,” he noted. “It took every single guy.”
It wasn’t about “me, me, me.” With the New England Patriots, it never is.