The New England Patriots are the team everyone outside of Boston loves to hate. Tom Brady and Co. have long since morphed from spunky overachievers from the early 2000s into the NFL's version of a professional wrestling heel.
The sports world recently celebrated Ric Flair's legendary career when ESPN premiered its 30 for 30 production "The Nature Boy."
Flair is arguably the greatest performer in wrestling history because he could outtalk and outperform everyone else. He backed up every wild claim he made, too.
The Patriots do the same thing, and their prolonged success leads to resentment. Although, consistent winning is only part of the equation.
New England's recent actions during a 23-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field made the reigning Super Bowl champions into an even more villainous foil. Brady and Rob Gronkowski aren't baby faces trying to get over with a crowd. Brady unleashed his fury (again) on the sidelines, while Gronkowski slammed Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White, causing a head injury, per Buffalo Bills PR.
Their goal is to win, no matter what it takes. And they win a lot.
After a slow start, the Patriots are now 10-2 and claim the top playoff spot among AFC squads. With Sunday's victory, Bill Belichick's squad hasn't lost in Buffalo since 2011. The Patriots are well on their way to winning their ninth straight division title, too.
Some still question how New England continues to be so successful, though, which accounts for much of the animosity found around the rest of the country.
Multiple scandals have dogged the franchise during Belichick's tenure, with Spygate and Deflategate being obvious examples of the team's willingness to push boundaries. Many fans still argue New England is favored by league officials, despite the penalties the team received in each of these instances.
A reputation of being cheaters follows the Patriots, even if they're the most prepared team on the field each week.
All of these things come to a head anytime New England can be shown in a negative light. This week, the conversation won't involve yet another impressive victory or the Patriots' improved defense. Instead, two incidents will dominate headlines.
First, Brady is the man every other quarterback wants to be. He may not ride limousines and wear feathered robes on his way to games, but he does play the highest profile position in sports. He's a multi-millionaire and spokesman for numerous national brands. His wife is globally recognized as an international superstar as well.
Jealousy could be a driving force behind the hostility toward Brady. The quarterback is also highly competitive and hot-tempered. But his actions on the sidelines aren't always becoming of an individual many consider the greatest to ever play the game.
Six years ago, Brady famously got in a sideline screaming match with former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. The veteran signal-caller has been seen throughout the years yelling at teammates and other coaches in frustration. Another major hissy fit occurred Sunday between Brady and current coordinator Josh McDaniels, with video courtesy of Patriots Wire's Henry McKenna:
The team's success hides the fact Brady can be too demanding of those around him. Since they've been so good, his actions are construed as an elite competitive edge.
Players with lesser resumes don't receive the same treatment. It's a blatant double-standard. A quarterback can act like a jerk and be out of line while retaining a competitive edge. These things are not mutually exclusive.
Of course, Brady flashed his perfect grin and didn't provide an actual answer when asked about the clash, per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss:
Brady's favorite target is the epitome of a brash and talented individual who loves to be in the limelight. Gronkowski already showed he has a future in wrestling with his appearance at April's Wrestlemania 33.
Sunday's bodyslam of the rookie White after the defensive back made an outstanding effort to intercept Brady was completely uncalled for and unnecessary.
If Brady is Flair, Gronk is The Enforcer Arn Anderson after he delivered a devastating spine buster. CBS Sports' Pete Blackburn provided video of the vicious hit:
Gronkowski lost his cool and acted in an inappropriate manner. His actions should result in an eventual league fine and possible suspension. He exacerbated the problem after the game by antagonizing the Bills crowd, per the Buffalo News' James P. McCoy:
James P McCoy @jmccoyphoto
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) antagonized the fans by waving his arms and sticking his tongue out as he walked into the tunnel at the end of the game at New Era Field in Orchard Park,N.Y. on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News) https://t.co/bcrvgsQMDw
Total heel move.
"I don't think there's any place in the game for that," Bills head coach Sean McDermott said, per the team's official site. "It's unfortunate and I know he's a better player than that."
The All-Pro tight end did apologize after the contest.
"I definitely want to apologize to No. 27," Gronkowski said, per Reiss. "I'm not in the business of that. It was a lot of frustration. I was just really frustrated and at that moment, it just happened naturally through emotions and frustration. I just want to apologize to Tre'Davious White. I don't really believe in the type of shots like that."
Flair prided himself in being the dirtiest player in the game. The actions of these two Patriots Sunday encapsulate the wrestler's entire schtick.
Brady can provide a red-faced, vein-popping outburst while Gronkowski takes a cheap shot, and none of it matters because these issues aren't affecting the Patriots in the win column. The duo actually connected nine times for 147 yards during the contest.
To paraphrase the 16-time world heavyweight champion: If you don't like it, learn to love it, because the Patriots are the best thing going today.