How does a team that America loves become a team it hates? It wins.
We’re supposed to believe that it’s because the team is filled with “Bad Guys” and “Dirty Play”, but the backlash actually starts when people get sick of someone else’s success.
There are no longer “Household Name” jerks or “Public Offenders” in Oakland, New England or Dallas, but they are loathed for periods of enduring success in combination with prior miscreants.
By contrast, we love it when the “nice guy” or “Little Engine” gets it done, it becomes the “feel good story of the year”… Indianapolis or New Orleans anyone? Wouldn’t it be great if Aaron Rodgers could help Green Bay get over their terrible breakup with Brett Favre?
This is why you can feel the backlash already building against America’s most consistently good team, The Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s not that they don’t have it coming, they are a team that has made their name by masterfully playing the borderland between “fair yet cheap” and “craftily illegal.” When you add to it a roster peppered with brand name lotharios (even their mascot has been arrested) you have the perfect recipe for the knee jerk envy that inevitably smashes the houses where losing came to visit.
It won’t be terrible if it does happen though, to thrive the NFL needs great teams to play the role of villain. Imagine how terrible Batman would be if he fought Egghead or Bookworm every week. The Steelers can become Heath Ledger’s Joker, high on Head & Shoulders fumes. They would be “made to order” replacements for the Patriots. They’ll come to your town, beat you by 3 or 30 and you’ll root against them every week… AND you’ll keep watching because the alternative could be worse:
You could keep hating hapless Cowboys, witless Raiders, and inflated Patriot teams whose wins mean little and whose losses even less.
In the end, it doesn’t matter who you’re rooting for, A Packer win will feel good immediately and the Steelers stay face cards in the NFL deck. But a Steeler win inflames a nation’s “righteous indignation” against the “entitled bully” and they become heels of comically mythic proportion.
If the Packers win they win and so do the Steelers. If the Steelers win they lose… and then we all win.