By: Bob George/
January 28, 2004

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HOUSTON -- Okay, the Patriots are seven-point favorites. But still…

It is becoming laughable, to some extent. Warren Sapp has the audacity to try and interview Russ Hochstein at Media Day, playing off his anti-Patriot rant last week. Woody Paige of the Denver Post continues to fail at both television commentator and football expert simultaneously. Cris Collinsworth actually thought that the Patriots would overlook the Panthers.

And now you get William C. Rhoden of the New York Times with this slop: \"I\'m sorry, I just don\'t see it, still don\'t think of them as a good team…(Brady is) a dink and dunk master, that\'s all…even if the Patriots win, MAYBE then I will consider Brady a great quarterback". Whatever your opinion on this take may be, it cannot be ignored that lots of football fans and pundits across the nation likely feel similarly towards the Patriots.

In this Super Bowl, you have the Patriots riding a 14-game win streak and the top seed in the AFC going against the three-seed in Carolina, who is riding the crest of terrific defense and two road playoff wins to the cusp of a championship. To get here, Carolina shut down two impotent offenses and survived a brutal battle with the Rams because Mike Martz decided to play for a tie. The Patriots got here by shutting down two quarterbacks who were co-MVPs.

But some people out there simply aren't sold on the Patriots, even in this tuck rule-less incarnation.

Granted, the matchup is an intriguing one. Both defenses will have a major say in who wins the game. If you're a betting man (or woman), take the under.

But if you're going to pick the Panthers to win, you're going to have to come at Patriot Nation with some substance. Perception can be an awful thing, and it often times transcends reality. The Patriots themselves actually feed off this negative perception, so maybe we should just shut up and let the fools who think the way they do just go on doing so.

But some of us have pride. So, let's investigate why these fools think the way they do.

Of lawsuits, toilets and punches from Matt Millen

To fully appreciate the Patriots, you have to know from where they came. Unfortunately, too many people who remember Billy Sullivan and his gang still think that he is in charge, and that the Patriots are a two-bit, second rate organization who can't get anything right, even prosperity. Many football aficionados may never rid themselves of the memory of the Billy Sullivan Patriots, and feel that the Sullivan Era still defines this franchise.

The Patriots are still a mom and pop organization, like they were from 1960 to 1988. But mom Myra and pop Bob are fast becoming the first couple of the NFL. The chasm between the business acumen of Sullivan and Kraft is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. That extends to Chuck Sullivan, who squandered the family fortune thanks to a disastrous Michael Jackson concert.

Patrick Sullivan is still forever remembered for his outburst after the 1985 AFC Divisional Many football aficionados may never rid themselves of the memory of the Billy Sullivan Patriots,Playoff game at Los Angeles. The right hand he got from Millen perhaps defines his whole life. One has to wonder how many Patriot fans would have liked to have been Millen that day.

Add all this up, and veteran sports reporters simply cannot separate the Sullivan Patriots from the Kraft Patriots. So, when the Patriots come into genuine prosperity, it's so unbelievable to these folks with this mindset that they come off as skeptical, cynical and, of course, totally out of whack. There are some prejudices and predispositions which some people just never get rid of.

It can't possibly be skill, so it's both luck and cheating

Someone show Raider Nation that play from 1976 again involving Ray Hamilton, and tell them to sit down and shut up. Even Ken Stabler says it wasn't roughing the passer.

If you dislike the Patriots, you are certain that Tom Brady fumbled in the Snow Bowl. If you dislike the Patriots, you are certain that Roman Phifer held Marcus Pollard on those two consecutive plays a week ago Sunday. If you dislike the Patriots, you are certain that Kordell Stewart was right when he said that "Sometimes, the best team doesn't win!"

This is classic denial. How can the Patriots possibly be good when all your life you've known them to be Patsies? It would be like the Los Angeles Clippers suddenly taking over as the dominant team in the NBA. The Patriots will always stink because that's how you've always known them.

You mean to tell me that they won the whole thing two years ago? Whoops, that's right, Walt Coleman and his tuck rule job. Tainted title. That Steeler loss doesn't count because they played the wrong team. Same for the Rams. Doesn't count. Should have been the Raiders.

So, what's the excuse in 2003? 14 lucky wins in a row? Now, the complaint du jour is that the Patriots are getting away with officials' non-calls. Eugene Wilson should have been flagged for a blow to the head. No holding calls in the postseason. And that includes the Phifer deal. NFL Head of Officials Mike Pereira defends every call. But still, no one listens or believes in the Patriots.

Denial. Period. Total lack of acceptance. Which is not the Patriots' problem, of course.

The Patriots are like the NBA: Boring

Now here's a real hypothesis for you. People don't like the Patriots because they don't like the way they win.

Remember the good old days of the NBA when Doug Moe offenses ruled the game? 131-125 games were the norm. Not any more. Defense rules in the NBA, and teams now win games by 93-86 scores. Football fans might live in fear that the Patriots will lead the NFL down this path.

First of all, if this be true, comparing the Patriots to the NBA is totally off base. NBA scores are ghastly low not primarily because of better defenses. NBA scores are ghastly low because of too many underclassmen/high school kids coming into the league and instantly becoming dominant players. These are guys who have no discipline or knowledge of the team concept. They generally have no ability to create their own shot. They are not mature enough to play like champions. If 18-year olds can come in and be dominant at the professional level, there is something very wrong with professional basketball in general and the NBA in particular.

What Brady does in each game is manage it properly. Why score 30 points when you need only 17 to win? Why go for those 13 extra points if you run a great risk of turnovers which will turn a sure win into a loss? Show me a 17-14 win and I'll show you a win. All New England has to do is outscore its opponent. On three occasions they could have mustered only one field goal, and it would have been good enough for a win.

It's easy to see why the Patriots are universally disliked, and why some "experts" love to pick against them. It will make a championship that much sweeter if and when it comes down on Sunday.

And all the Patriots have to do is get at least one more point than Carolina. That's it.