Undrafted – The Network

It’s a Love – Hate Relationship

Everyone has those players, or teams, that for what ever reason they just can’t stand. It’s a Love-Hate Relationship which adds an extra dimension to sports the world over. You know the ones, whether formed via rivalry or via a dynasty that you think is never going to end.

The Dynasty

Jordan and the Bulls had it, Ferguson and his United team had it and Brady and the Patriots had it. Success breeds jealousy and from that envy you form, over time, bad feelings towards those who achieve it. Along with this I think there is also a malaise which forms, “of course they’ll win it, they always do!” often is the attitude of the pretenders to any throne.

Image Credit – NFL.com

We are at a point with the NFL which we won’t see too often. The end of a dynasty alongside the formation of another one. Anyone who follows the sport knows that we will be seeing Mahomes and his Chiefs in multiple Superbowls. Whilst we all marvel at the skill Mahomes shows I would bet my life that there will be the same level of ‘hate’ thrown his way as Brady has endured.

Brady has been a constant, I would assume, for most of us throughout our NFL experience to date. The old guard will remember a time before Brady, but for most of us the Patriots have been that team. The team who, more often than not, can be relied on to make the Championship game.

Over time, despite watching his unrivalled greatness, people have become hardened to Brady. His skill has taken a backseat whilst the envy has grown, people take him for granted. Periodically reasons would jump up that would only fuel the fires against him and the team, ‘Deflategate’ and ‘Spygate’ spring to mind. People also love an underdog and for the last 20 years that has been anybody who plays the Patriots.

Image Credit – Chiefs Wire/USA Today

I am confident that the majority of the displeasure towards Brady is born of envy. There is not a fan out there who can tell me they wouldn’t love to be fans of a Dynasty. Chiefs fans have waited long enough for their time in the sun and that is what we are entering into. Another team is going to have to drastically level up, and maintain that level, for the Chiefs not to be regular Superbowl attendees.

Everyone loves to see the team who should always win mess it up somehow. There will be plenty of you who remember the Dolphins snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with the lateral move a couple of seasons back. A play that will forever remind us why Rob Gronkowski was never going to be a safety!

This hate that develops added another layer to a Sunday for many people. Whilst following their own team they could also root for those against Brady. Time will however paint him in a different light. As he rides off into the sunset, weighed down by the multiple rings on his fingers, people will take stock of what they watched and just how rare that is.

Appreciate Greatness Whilst It’s Here!

It was another point discussed on the podcast this week. We have been fans through a period where we regularly got to watch Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers amongst others whilst also getting to see the new breed come through. There is no guarantee we see so many great Quarterbacks plying their trade at any one time again. I should say however at this point that the AFC next year will be disgustingly full of young fantastic QB’s.

What I have noted this season however is that this feeling can also soften. It won’t be that way for everyone but I know that Brady and his Bucs are a team I would have no problem with winning the Superbowl this year. I said on the podcast recently that the final four were all teams I liked. The Bills soured it with the last 10 minutes of their game but I can forgive end of season frustrations. These exist when you get so close only for a magician and his assistants to whip it away from you.

I urge all of you readers, if a neutral, to just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the Superbowl. This could be the last time that we see Brady in the big game, although I wouldn’t bet on it. This season, Covid aside, has been one to savour. We will not see this level of quality from the old guard for much longer as there aren’t many of them left. The next group are your Matthew Staffords and there are few that age who are setting the league aflame.

Image Credit – Game Changer Sports Network

After this is the new crowd. We may have them to enjoy for years to come but it will be 5-10 years before they hit the full heights of their abilities. Being a Ravens fan and a true Lamar Jackson truther I have no problem with admitting that Mahomes is my favourite non-Ravens player. He wasn’t meant to be this good. Nobody predicted how good the number 12 pick in the 2017 draft would become.

The Division Rivalry

Of course the flip side to the Dynasty is the division rivalry. As much as it pains me to say it, the Steelers have been a good franchise over the last decade and a half. That doesn’t mean I wont also allude to just how much of a pretender they were this year. A soft schedule set them up for a huge fall from grace and they graciously obliged, it was beautiful to watch.

Alex and Tom are both Dolphins fans and they feel the Brady hate even more but I think if you asked them this year their feelings may have softened, only as Brady is out of Division. Your Division rivals are different, you hate them because you play them so often. Narratives develop and run for many years, players genuinely develop ill will towards those they see more regularly, especially when they spend the better part of the season dancing on logos for some dumbass Chinese app.

Bengals defensive back Vonn Bell forces a fumble on a first-quarter catch by Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.  THE ENQUIRER/KAREEM ELGAZZAR

The Players You Love to Hate

At the start of his career Juju was a humble guy, he was personable and charitable. He has however taken on the mantle of prize bellend in Pittsburgh, ably aided by his whiny little mate Chase. They both have talent and I am sure are nice guys I just wish someone would tell them to wind their necks in a bit. This is the other kind of dislike in the league, those players who deserve it. Another AFC North player is the best example of this, show me anybody who actually likes Vontaze Burfict! The guy was an asshole who intentionally attempted to hurt people, I cant imagine even his mother is much of a fan. That he has faded to nothing is one of the most satisfying non-storys of the last two years.

Anyway, before I crack into every player who I can’t stand I will stop myself. This article is to encourage people to enjoy greatness when they see it, especially the amount that we have enjoyed through our NFL lives. There is no guarantee that we will see this much again. The other kind of bad feeling I have mentioned, that’s fine, go at it! It is what allows us to enjoy our successes and our rivals failures and at the crux of it that is what sport is all about.

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