It’s cheating Brady against wide-eyed Matty.
It’s an owner who stalks against one who dances.
It’s a coach wearing a hoodie against one who dresses in Navy SEAL mottos.
The Super Bowl pitting the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons features competing auras as clear as the rumple in Bill Belichick’s sweatshirt or the curl of Tom Brady’s upper lip.
According to Public Policy Polling, the Patriots are the most disliked team in pro football for a second consecutive season. By comparison, the relatively blah Falcons are beloved.
Even with this week’s revelations about the Falcons’ past concerns over their players’ use of pain medication, this truly feels like a Super Bowl of not just David vs. Goliath, but that old favorite, Good vs. Evil, and here are 20 reasons why:
1. The Patriots are convicted scoundrels, from Spygate to Deflategate, the most untrustworthy sports franchise in America since the 1919 Black Sox. Remember, Brady was suspended for the first four games this season for his alleged involvement in the deflation of footballs.
The Falcons are too trusting. They panicked during Monday’s media night when offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan briefly lost a backpack that contained the team’s game plan. Seriously, who still carries their game plan in a backpack?
2. The Patriots are led by the Trump Trinity: owner Bob Kraft, Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Brady are all confirmed devotees of President Trump.
The Falcons use an official hashtag of #RiseUp, which coincidentally was also the hashtag for the worldwide protests to Trump’s recent controversial executive order on immigration. This is why thousands of tweets filled with scathing Trump criticisms contained a Falcons logo.
3. Upon arriving at the glitzy media night, Brady said, “For us, now, it’s just trying to ignore all this.”
Upon his arrival at the same event, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said, “To get here and see this deal tonight, it’s pretty cool.”
What’s going on in the world? I haven’t paid much attention.
4. Asked about Trump’s immigration edict, Brady said, “What’s going on in the world? I haven’t paid much attention.”
Asked a similar question, the Falcons’ Mohamed Sanu said, “I hope we can pray as a country for the world to be united.”
5. Asked to sign a soccer ball, Belichick refused “because it’s not a football.”
Asked to speak into a giant turkey leg, Falcons center Alex Mack agreed but only if he could later have a bite.
6. During a joint interview with the teams’ owners, the Patriots’ Kraft was asked to name the most famous person in his cellphone.
The Falcons’ Arthur Blank interrupted and said, “Trump.”
7. The Patriots’ success began with “The Tuck Rule.”
The Falcons’ success began with “The Dirty Bird.”
8. Brady announced that his 9-year-old son Jack has a certain cool NFL running back on his fantasy team.
That running back is the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman.
9. Off the field, the Patriots often wear ski caps with fuzzy balls on top that make them look like 12-year-olds.
The Falcons wear dark caps with “The Hood” imprinted in red, which is short for the “Brotherhood” theme preached by Coach Dan Quinn.
10. LeGarrette Blount, New England’s star running back, has quit his way to the Super Bowl. When he was unhappy in Pittsburgh in 2014, he walked off the field before the end of a game and was kicked off the team, only to be signed by the Patriots three days later.
The Falcons’ two running backs, Freeman and Tevin Coleman, selflessly share carries and catches and even touchdown celebrations, with Quinn using video of one of their end-zone hugs for inspiration.
11. Asked if he knew any Lady Gaga songs, Belichick responded “Next.”
Asked the same question, Freeman said excitedly, “Lady Gaga? Of course, that’s Lady Gaga!”
12. Less than 24 hours before kickoff in the 2012 Super Bowl against the New York Giants, the Patriots infamously cut Tiquan Underwood, a wide receiver so devoted he had the team logo cut into his hair.
The Falcons aren’t cutting people, they’re adding them, with owner Blank flying about 150 employees to the Super Bowl game with rooms and tickets at a cost of more than $1 million.
13. The Patriots’ most famous cheerleaders are the dudes who dress up in Revolutionary War attire and shoot muskets in the end zones. They once fired off a round during a kickoff that so startled the opposing team that a complaint was filed to the league office and the guns were silenced except for after scores. The offended team was the Falcons.
The Falcons’ most famous cheerleader is Samuel L. Jackson, who performs in a pregame “Rise Up” video in which he sounds like he just discovered snakes on a plane.
14. The Patriots are known for the giant touchdown spike of Rob Gronkowski, who will miss this Super Bowl because of a back injury.
The Falcons generally allow their offensive linemen to deliver the touchdown spikes in honor of their shared effort. The linemen actually brag about who can bounce the ball highest. Ryan Schraeder, a tackle, even posted photos of one of his spikes on the walls of the team practice facility.
15. The Patriots brag about following “The Patriot Way.”
The Falcons brag that their 74-year-old owner boogies with the team after games, with Blank admitting, “I love to dance, I look like a chicken.”
16. One of Brady’s nicknames, “Tom Terrific,” was lifted from former New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver.
Ryan’s nickname, “Matty Ice,” is the completely original idea of some of his high school buddies from Penn Charter School in Philadelphia.
17. Two of the last big postseason defeats suffered by Brady came at the arms of quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning.
Ryan said this week that two of his closest mentors, through texting and phone calls, are Peyton and Eli Manning.
18. The Patriots’ locker room is a stark, somber testament to one of their mantras, “Do Your Job.”
When the Falcons redesigned their locker room last summer, they brought in a ping-pong table. It became so popular, there are now three.
19. The Patriots defeated the Rams by 16 points.
The Falcons defeated the Rams by 28 points and, if this seems like a completely irrelevant comparison, it’s been 22 years since I could make fun of our football team in a Super Bowl story, so bear with me.
20. If the Patriots win Sunday, they made it clear they will not be comfortable accepting the Lombardi Trophy from Commissioner Roger Goodell, whom they blame for the Deflategate debacle. Tom Brady Sr., the quarterback’s father, recently reflected this sentiment when he called Goodell a liar and said, “Somebody that has Roger Goodell’s ethics doesn’t belong on any stage that Tom Brady is on.”
The Falcons will gladly accept the trophy from anybody. It would, after all, be their first.