There’s something special about rooting for a team, isn’t there? Of course, there is joy in seeing your own team win. but there’s an extra tinge of satisfaction when that lot loses. For the past two decades, that evil empire has been the New England Patriots. unprecedented success. unprecedented scandals.
But with the Patriot dynasty on its last gasping breath, the league is in danger of losing its national matchmaker. and it’s those national villains that make the ratings soar. fans want to see their team go through that team. the neutrals want to cheer against them. so who will take the place of new england?
new england patriots
ok, maybe we haven’t seen the last of them. The New England run is drawing to a close, but it’s not over yet. There’s a world where Tom Brady slips this offseason and the Patriots go into rebuilding mode. There’s also a more likely one: The Patriots go back for another season, replenish a threadbare roster and are one of the best teams in the league for another year or two, leading to even more frustration for the neutrals. when will this end?
There is also a third way. The best way for the Patriots to regain that sense of antagonism would be to rebuild and go again without Brady. Patriots with Brady are daunting enough right now, but at the age of 42, it’s clear the end is in sight. if new england left brady behind and added a solid young quarterback like, say, teddy bridgewater, and won another division title and another afc crown, the collective brains of nfl fans from new jersey to the Angels would explode.
kansas city chiefs
No team is better prepared to start a dynastic streak than the Super Bowl champions. they have the best quarterback in the league, a smart front office and a creative coach. the only problem for sports fans: they’re too nice.
There was universal goodwill for head coach andy reid to finally win a super bowl. Patrick Mahomes is widely hailed as more than just a quarterback; He is having a Michael Jordan-like effect on sports, changing the paradigm of what we think is even possible.
The bosses have already survived the scandal without much national disdain. they’ve been happy to add players with shady pasts looking to win. that, if you reside in dallas, would have been a big deal. kc got a pass. perhaps with increased scrutiny, those issues will form a larger part of the national dialogue. but for now, the halo of reid-mahomes has enveloped everything.
A scandal on the field is probably the only thing that could bring the bosses closer to Patriot territory. maybe we’ll find out that mahomes really is an alien. or that his arm is literally bionic.
the self-proclamation that dallas is “team america” has long been pushed back. if the cowboys were good again, like three super bowls in four years, they would ascend to a new stratosphere of resentment.
to generalize: sports fans don’t like arrogance, earned or not. No NFL team, as a whole, has had a bigger collective ego than the Doug Pederson-era Eagles. there’s a real know-it-all vibe to the whole operation. carson goz helps mask some of that, but from accusations that other teams aren’t having enough fun for the infamously corrosive fanbase, to the head coach’s “i’ve figured this football thing out” attitude, there’s a pervasive self-sufficiency in Philadelphia.
The national media, which often helps set the x-against-the-world tone, was thrilled with the eagles’ narrative when they won the super bowl in 2018. nick foles was a big story that overshadowed everything. the tenor will be different if the eagles win big in 2020 or beyond.
a wildcard team. The Bills are among a cast of fanbases right now with a disproportionate belief in their quarterback, Josh Allen. If you’ve spent any time on the NFL Twitter breaks, you’ll know there’s an ongoing feud between the so-called “invoice mob” and football nerds, those who study analysis and break down game movies. the sarcasm that fills the conversation is second to none. each pitch is carefully scrutinized by both sides and assigned a career-defining meaning.
It’s a fantastic theater. As Allen’s career continues to flourish, it will continue to polarize. If his career takes off, there will still be those in analyst chairs who refuse to budge on their pre-draft position. If Buffalo is still great despite Allen (and his trainer is as good as it gets), then analysts will still take a victory lap.
commissioner roger goodell, the league office and league officials could take on this role, as they have for much of the last three seasons: the deflategate scandal, the quality of officiating, the changes of rules, the national anthem controversy, the concussion scandals. how to turn game governors’ incompetence into ratings on game day is a problem, though it did help during referee replacement days. a national audience had to tune in to see if high school officials could actually umpire a professional game. spoiler: they couldn’t.
incompetence at the highest level is good for media partners. Provides likes of ESPN any number of segments, keeps the NFL, its largest source of income, as part of the daily conversation. But unlike the Patriots’ personality, it’s hard for the league to turn that into TV ratings and profits.