Seattle Seahawks: NFL’s most hated team?

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It’s been said that success breeds contempt, and nowhere is that more evident these days than right here in the Pacific Northwest.  In just a few short years, the Seattle Seahawks have gone from “the next big thing” to possibly the NFL’s most hated team.

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How did this happen?  And why?  A trained psychologist could probably write a thesis on the subject, and it would sound really technical with lots of big words and stuff.  I have a minor in psychology, but I’ve majored in sports fandom, fanology, fan……ism? Whatever the case, let’s try to figure this out.

The way I see it there are a number of basic categories of where NFL teams fall in the eyes of the fan.  I’m not talking about the hometown fan, most of them will love and support their team no matter how dark the days get.  At issue here is how teams are viewed by the out-of-town fan, the national perspective.

THE PATHETIC LOSER:  These are the teams that are so bad they’re either irrelevant or a laughingstock.  The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders are the most recent examples.  No one pays much attention to them unless they’re making a joke, or Kevin Costner is making a movie about them.

THE LOVABLE UNDERDOG:  These are the teams that are usually not in contention, but have some appealing qualities.  America loves a good underdog and people like to latch on to under-the-radar teams that MIGHT be good someday.  Teams that may currently fall into this category are the Rams or the Buccaneers. They have interesting personalities, some exciting young players, and likable head coaches. And they could be good if everything falls into place.

THE NEXT BIG THING:  These are the teams that haven’t won any recent championships, but either have some exciting new stars, a particularly outstanding unit on one side of the ball, or a great young QB.  These teams are usually picked by preseason publications as potential Super Bowl contenders.  All of the “experts” scramble to try and pick a potential champion that no one else is supporting.  Teams that might currently fit this mold are the Cardinals, Chiefs, Texans, or take-your-pick-of-any-of-the-3-AFC East-teams-not-named-New England.

THE QUIET CONTENDERS: These are the teams that have a chance to win year in and year out, but don’t seem to elicit as much vitriol.  Examples are the Packers, Broncos, Colts. Most likely this is due to simple likability.  None of these teams have the kind of brash, outspoken players or coaches that get opposing fans fired up. Moreover, they’ve all suffered close-but-no-cigar near misses recently, and that tends to attract sympathy.

THE HUNTED AND HATED FAVORITES: These teams are on top in the NFL, the favorites, with championships in their past and the potential for one just about every year.  They’re the ones that get all the attention, and most of them have polarizing personalities.  The Seahawks and Patriots are obviously in this category today, as are the Cowboys.

These are the teams that are most polarizing.  Sure there’s love, but there’s just as much hate, and that hatred is more intense than it is for other opponents. For everyone in Nebraska who buys a Seahawks jersey because they love the way they play, someone else is reveling in the fact that Kam Chancellor is holding out.  When Dez Bryant’s catch-no-catch was reversed in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs, allowing the Packers to advance past Dallas, Cowboy haters rejoiced.  And we all know the laughingstock the Pats have become this off season over Deflategate, when they should instead be celebrating their 4th Super Bowl win.

But why?  When did this change?  Back in the 70’s and 80’s dynasties ruled the day.  The Cowboys, Steelers and 49ers all enjoyed long runs of championship success and in the process BUILT A LARGE NATIONAL FANBASE. What’s different now? Why is winning consistently and in dominant fashion such a bad thing?

Next: Why do fans love to hate?