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Barber: Unite, America, in rooting against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII

New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski catches a pass during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

PHIL BARBER,

America, it is time to heal. Never has our country been more divided, our citizens angrier or more suspicious of one another. The greatest nation in the world is teetering, and the threat is not from outside — it is from within. We are tearing ourselves apart.

But it is not too late, comrades. We can still come together and join hands as one. All we need is a unifying cause. So please join me today in denouncing the New England Patriots.

We agree on virtually nothing anymore. We argue about the veracity of mainstream media, about guns, about the FBI, about gender pronouns, about whether a hot dog is a sandwich and the dress is blue or gold. But can’t we find harmony on this one issue? Can’t we all root for the Eagles today in Super Bowl LII?

A lot of people are painting this matchup as a symbol of our fractious politics. The “woke” Eagles feature defensive end Chris Long, noted progressive and recent winner of the NFLPA’s Byron “Whizzer” White Award, and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who led the delegation of players that defended pregame protests and demanded social commitment from the NFL. Meanwhile, the three most prominent Patriots — team owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady — are all loosely affiliated with President MAGA.

But this is a false narrative. I’m sure plenty of Patriots are in the resistance, and that some Eagles hate Muslims. This goes beyond politics, and beyond culture. Hating the New England Patriots should be universal.

The Patriots aren’t evil. No, they just win too much. And they’re annoying as hell, and becoming more so annually.

Start with Belichick. He’s the greatest coach in NFL history. He has his team in the Super Bowl for the eighth time in 17 years, with a chance to win his sixth ring. And yet no one has ever been so outwardly miserable. Belichick mumbles and glares his way through every press conference. He conducts himself with the air of a battlefield surgeon who is being delayed for an interview when he could be operating to remove shrapnel. This would be fine if he were, indeed, saving lives off-camera, rather than watching cut-up videotape of an opponent’s kickoff returns.

Belichick is famous for treating his players like disposable razors rather than full-fledged humans. After the Patriots roared back from a 25-point deficit to stun the Falcons and win last year’s Super Bowl, Belichick tried to rile up the crowd at the celebratory Boston parade with a chant of “No days off!” This whip-cracking slogan was an odd choice to yell at thousands of people who were literally taking the day off to hear him on a Tuesday.

And let’s talk about Tom Brady for a moment. Brady should be a likeable guy. He’s a Bay Area native who entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick and made himself into the dominant quarterback of his generation, and maybe all generations. He smiles a lot and has never, as far as I know, done anything terrible.

So why does Brady get so far under my skin? First of all, the guy is just too perfect. The cheekbones and the chin dimple and the supermodel wife and the fourth-quarter passer rating — give us a break, dude.

Brady isn’t down-to-earth perfect, though. His image is minutely and endlessly manicured. He’s like that Facebook friend you have who portrays her life as a perfect stream of homemade red velvet cupcakes, clinking champagne glasses and fun art projects with the kids, when you just know that in real life there are tantrums over strewn Legos.

At some point, Brady ceased being a football player and became a brand.

He and his creepy personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, rarely go 10 minutes without spinning the virtues of TB12, the quarterback’s for-profit training regimen — excuse me, “holistic lifestyle” — based at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center in Foxborough, Massachusetts. On the company website, you can purchase vibrating spheres, cacao goji energy squares and a memory-enhancing BrainHQ computer program so that you, too, might play quarterback in the NFL after turning 40.

Last week, Brady said in an interview that he liked the music of hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar. When a Bleacher Report writer followed up at a Super Bowl presser and asked Brady for his favorite Kendrick track, the quarterback hemmed and hawed through a tangled non-answer. “I’m a fan of music, and, um, he’s pretty great,” Brady said. He couldn’t name a single song.

Whatever. I don’t listen to Toby Keith. But why pretend you’re something you’re not? Because you’re Tom Brady, and if your image were stripped away there’d be nothing left but bones, stock options and whey protein supplements.

There are other annoying Patriots. Like superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has somehow convinced a wide swath of the population that he’s a lowbrow comic genius when really he’s just a functional seventh-grader; and veteran linebacker James Harrison, a late-season acquisition whose regular rants are almost completely incoherent; and that never-ending parade of slot receivers produced at the Small Gritty White Guy Factory in Vermont.

But really, it’s the Patriots fan base that we must contain and reject. Sports fans are like kids — all of them are annoying if they’re not yours. But nothing, and I mean nothing, is more nauseating than Boston sports fans. They’re obnoxious when they take over the Oakland Coliseum for A’s-Red Sox games and when they harangue opposing NBA players at the Boston Garden, and they’ll be obnoxious when they yell for “Taaahhm” at the Super Bowl.

The Patriots have won as many Super Bowls as any franchise outside of Pittsburgh, and yet their fans are permanently aggrieved. They would burn down the NFL offices on Park Avenue if you gave them a lit match, still furious over Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension — never mind that their team overcame that disadvantage to win a championship last season.

Every summer, Deadspin.com lampoons each NFL team in a series called “Why Your Team Sucks.” In addition to the essays, the site gives fans/readers a chance to comment on what’s wrong with their team. After this year’s Patriots edition, someone named Michael wrote: “For me, being a Patriots fan sometimes feels like being a nice German person post WW2. Like, I get why everyone automatically assumes I’m a piece of (bleep). But I’m not, I swear!”

Prove it, Michael. Burn your Gronk jersey, and circulate the video.

I know what you’re thinking. This entire column has been a plea for unity, yet I’m trying to drive a wedge between Pats fans and the rest of America. Well yes, I am. Every cohesive group needs a common enemy. We’ve been drawing too many boundaries, and in weird, unproductive ways. Let’s just make a nice, clean break with Patriotdom. You want to build a wall, Mr. Kraft? Let’s put it somewhere in southern Connecticut, and all along the eastern border of New York.

So, yeah. Go Eagles. Come on, Nick Foles and Alshon Jeffery, you’re America’s new favorite players.

Don’t come at me, Patriots fans. It’s just the way it has to be. This nation is too important, too noble, to forsake. Anyway, if you want revenge, you can write your own op-ed about the Warriors after they win a couple more NBA titles.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.