The Super Bowl is on Sunday and, unlike the majority of my fellow Americans, I will be rooting for the New England Patriots. As a native Bostonian, the Patriots are in my blood, although I fully admit that if I weren’t from New England I would probably hate them as much as the rest of the country does.

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It didn’t used to be this way. Back when they won their first Super Bowl back in 2002 against the heavily favored Rams, the Patriots were a tough group of former castoff players led by an upstart young quarterback who showed amazing poise and promise despite falling all the way to the 6th round in the NFL draft.

By 2007, however, the Patriots had become America’s Public Enemy No. 1 after they were caught illegally videotaping opponents’ defensive signals on the sidelines and after they proceeded to kick the crap out of every other team on the way to a perfect 18-0 record before inexplicably losing in the Super Bowl.

The team that was once a group of lovable underdogs had morphed into football’s answer to the New York Yankees and has been despised by America ever since. This hatred has only grown since the NFL started investigating the Patriots for allegedly illegally deflating footballs two weeks ago, although so far no concrete evidence has emerged to prove the Patriots’ guilt.

Having everyone in the country hate the team you love can be a bit jarring at first — after all, it’s sports fans’ natural reaction to think of their teams as “the good guys” and not the other way around. However, over the years I’ve built a pretty thick skin when it comes to Patriots hate and I’ve done it largely by embracing their evil reputation.

So for anyone else whose team ever becomes as hated as the Patriots are — and I think the 1980s Detroit Pistons, the 1990s Dallas Cowboys and the 20th century New York Yankees were all up to that level — here are some tips for how to still root for them even if the rest of the country wants to see their heads mounted on pikes.

  • First, do not attempt to defend your team’s character when arguing with other fans. It’s a huge waste of time. Once a team has a reputation for being evil, people will believe almost any allegation leveled against them. Does Tom Brady maintain his youthful good looks by drinking Tim Tebow’s virgin blood every full moon? Probably not but people will 100% believe it if it’s ever alleged.
  • Second, revel in nearly every “evil” action the team takes. There are limits to this, of course — you won’t see me cheering for the Patriots to re-sign Aaron Hernandez if he ever gets out of jail, for instance.But much like the bad-boy Oakland Raiders of the ’70s and ’80s, it can be fun to root for a team that runs up the score, that shamelessly whines to the refs when things don’t go their way and that gets busted bending and breaking the rules. Think of it like rooting for the heel in wrestling — the Patriots, I think, are the closest thing to Ric Flair the NFL has ever had.
  • Third, remember that it’s only football. Let’s be honest: Football is not a sport that is filled with people of pristine integrity who always obey the rules. We’re talking about a league where guys who weigh 270 pounds run 40-yard dashes in 4.5 seconds. That’s not something that happens on a mass scale without a little help from performance-enhancing friends.
  • Finally, just remember how happy your team makes people when they lose. Although America may hate the Patriots, the team will bring the country a lot of joy this Sunday if they happen to lose. GIFs and memes of a pouting Tom Brady will have completely flooded the Internet by Monday morning and sports forums across the land will erupt in rapture with posts that say things like “LMAOOOOO Patiots* CHOKE against because there NOT alowed to CHEAT!!1!” If your team can’t make you happy, you can at least be proud that everyone else around you is overcome with delicious schadenfreude when they blow it.
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