The New England Patriots in the National Football League and the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association has spent the past two decades as the golden standards of well run franchises in both professional and collegiate athletics. Combined, the two teams have won ten championships, five for both teams, and have had an assembly line of talent that keeps their rosters both youthful with energy and wise with age. Yet, in the age of social media and highlight reels, the two teams still struggle with disrespect and shots fired from fans and former players alike. The main criticism with the Spurs being that their brand of basketball is boring, while the questions of the Patriots honesty and morality being up for questioning almost every other year. It seems like at a certain point, we as fans no longer like to see good teams stay good.
According to Forbes 2017 list of most valued NBA franchises, the San Antonio Spurs, a team that has won at least 50 games every year for the past 20 years, (except in 1998-99 when the NBA season was limited to fifty games because of a work stoppage, they went 37-13 and won their first title that year) was ranked the 12th most valued team. In front of them were the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers at the top of the list, both teams being the models for mediocrity for the past five seasons, the Miami Heat (10) and Cleveland Cavaliers (11), both on the list only because of the greatest of LeBron James, who twice lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals, and the other two Texas teams who routinely gets hogged tied and branded by the Spurs, the Houston Rockets (8) and the Dallas Mavericks (9).
Now of course the market you play in has a big part in this. San Antonio isn’t New York, LA, or Miami, so monetarily, there will be major differences. But as a fan of great basketball and great players, the team still gets disrespected. A Spurs NBA Finals, without LeBron James, does poorly in ratings. Tim Duncan, the best and most important person of the Spurs franchise since the beginning of this era, was called “the most boring superstar” because of his very fundamental playing style, even though production wise, Duncan was still playing at a All-Star level at the age of 40. And today, Kawhi Leonard, the new face of the Spurs franchise, is jokingly mocked for his un-expressive face and ignore the fact he’s been a MVP candidate for the past two seasons.
With the New England Patriots, the situation they find themselves in is very different. Only behind the Dallas Cowboys, they are second on the most valued NFL franchises according to Forbes. Tom Brady, their Tim Duncan like athlete for the past two decades, is one of the most recognized athletes in the United States. Instead, the issue with the Patriots for football fans are conversations about their honesty and integrity.
Allegations about pregame filming techniques, games where they ran up the score on an already beaten opponent, and most recently, a controversy over underinflated footballs have tarnished what could be the greatest dynasty in pro football history. It’s amazing how since first winning the Super Bowl back in February of 2002 in a historical upset, they’ve gone from Charles Foster Kane at the beginning of “Citizen Kane” to him at the end of the character’s life. A celebrated underdog to a grumpy, disliked old man. But let’s look at the evidence now.
SpyGate found no evidence of illegal taping of the St. Louis Rams practice before their first Super Bowl. DeflateGate was blowup because of the fight between the NFLPA and the Commissioner Office (seriously, the “tampered” ball used for a series in a 45-10 victory). Running up scores, what should the Pats do, knee four times a kick their opponents the ball? Bill Belichick isn’t the most approachable person in the world, but he is hands down the best coaching mind since Bill Walsh in the 1970s and 80s.
Success and consistency should not be undervalued or hated. Celebrate these teams because you almost never see this level of greatness for so long. My entire life, the Patriots and the Spurs have been the top teams in their sports. Aside from a personally fandom for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Mavericks, why should I despise teams that are smart, resourceful, and good at what they do?