Teams with controversial brands. Not many are as reviled as the two playing in the 2015 Super Bowl.

January 29, 2015

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Pete “The Cheat” Carroll

Bill Belichick

Bill “The Hoodie” Belichick

One could make a case that outside of the Pacific Northwest and New England, the Super Bowl hasn’t a team for the rest of us to cheer for. Just two very successful and unlikable villains. And the winner of the game will likely become even more so. It’s an awesome match-up on paper: the best offense in the league (Patriots) against the league’s best defense (Sea Hawks). Not only that, but the Sea Hawks are defending champions and New England is always in serious contention for the title, having already played in six Super Bowls in this young century.

Like I said, the missive about neither team being particularly “likable” outside of their respective markets has nothing to do with their credentials. With the possible exception of Green Bay, no team deserves to be in the big game more than these two.

Yet, both teams have reputations (much of it self-made) for being arrogant, evasive and just plain douchey. Couple that with a profound propensity for winning and you’ve got a formula for mass hatred. (The New York Yankees are culpable in much the same way.) I don’t even need to explain my position. The team’s marquee players speak for themselves. Their names alone: Bill Belichik. Pete Carroll. Marshawn Lynch. Richard Sherman. Aaron Hernandez.

Not many teams in professional sports elicit such negative opinions from fandom as these two. Ironic that they are both playing each other in the Super Bowl. Ideally, the heel requires a hero for a rival. A Joker for the Batman. Professional wrestling and to a large degree boxing basically exist because of such rivalries. But these two brands are more like super-villains. Two bad guys.

Given the attention paid to advertising during the Super Bowl talking about team “branding” seems especially relevant. I was trying to think of other pro teams (in any league) with similar reputations and could only come up with a few. The first and most obvious would be the Oakland Raiders. From their outlandish former owner (Al Davis) to their gang-banger silver and black threads, no other team embraced their villainy quite like the Raiders.

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Evil by design

With the possible exception of the “Detroit Bad Boys” aka the Detroit Pistons. Dennis Rodman. Bill Laimbeer. John Salley. Isiah Thomas. Good players with bad-ass reputations. The Detroit Bad Boys were legendary.

Rounding out the big three sports, The New York Yankees easily hold the title of the most-reviled franchise in baseball. Players like Alex Rodriguez are about as slimy as they come, and Steinbrenner is infamous. But it is primarily because of their mega-deep pockets and Big Apple cockiness that make the Yankees so fun to hate.

One thing all these teams have in common is winning. It is much harder for outsiders to hate a loser. (Just look at the Chicago Cubs, called “lovable losers”) Indeed, once the Raiders and Pistons stopped winning games their bad boy reputations faded like an old tattoo.

Runners-up for reviled franchise: “America’s Team,” The Dallas Cowboys. Across the pond, we have Manchester United. Loved by its fans. Hated by everyone else. Surely there are others?

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