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Sure, the Patriots are super, but enough is enough

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Football

Still, tens of millions of those eyeballs will be rolling at the Patriots, who are making a record 10th Super Bowl appearance, and dour coach Bill Belichick, who is participating in a record 11th Super Bowl. For Belichick, two of those came as a Giants assistant coach. New England quarterback Tom Brady is tied with Hall of Fame linebacker Charles Haley for the most Super Bowl rings by an individual player, with five.

A year ago, Public Policy Polling released the results of a survey showing the Patriots were the most disliked team in the NFL, with 21 percent of respondents saying New England was their most hated team, and 42 percent declaring negativity about the franchise. Brady was both the most beloved and most hated player in the league.

Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who won a Super Bowl with New England last year, said disappointed friends would ask him, "Now I have to root for the Patriots?" when he signed with the team.

"It's no secret there's people all over the country who want to see them fail," Long said.

The Eagles, who are 41/2- point underdogs, seem to be embracing that challenge.

"There's that Philadelphia-Boston rivalry to begin with," said former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who was born in Bridgeport, Conn., Patriots country, but now lives in Philadelphia. "But now the Eagles fans are relishing, 'OK, we're going to be the underdog that knocks off the giant.' There are people in the city that that's who they are, that's in their DNA."

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Inflaming passions even more, the Patriots have a reputation for bending the rules to gain an advantage -- whether it's covertly taping the secret hand signals of opponents or improperly deflating footballs to make them easier to throw and catch -- allegations they staunchly deny and write off to envy.

"They've had this inordinate, unseen level of success," Orlovsky said. "Outside of that little circle of New England, they're easy to hate. I don't feel that way, and I have friends who are die-hard Patriots fans, but it's understandable."

The Patriots turn a deaf ear to critics. They make no apologies for their success.

"It's a little like the Yankees were," Patriots owner Robert Kraft told The Times last summer. "Once a team starts winning, it doesn't endear them to fans of other teams."

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