Rob Gronkowski, Rodney Harrison Take 38th And 37th Spots

By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The bizarre narrative of lumping Tom Brady in with the likes of Ray Lewis and Greg Hardy among the most hated football players in NFL history continues to unfold. It’s understandable for fans outside of New England to despise the Patriots and Brady, but the hatred is reaching comically surreal levels.

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The Sporting News just released their “40 most hated NFL players of all time,” and it’s mostly a sensible list of “loudmouths, cheaters, and criminals.” But you already know where they’re going with the second part … Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made No. 5 on the list, just after Ray Lewis at 6th and Greg Hardy at 4th.

I know it’s cliche to call players of Lewis’s and Hardy’s ilk “thugs” but Brady is most certainly in the center of a thug sandwich there. Doesn’t sound like the tastiest combo. Lewis is lucky they didn’t exclude him from the list altogether, as they did with Ray Rice, Aaron Hernandez, Rae Carruth, and O.J. Simpson.

This is where hatred for Brady and the Patriots has gotten: Brady possibly having general knowledge of football deflation that probably happened is about on par with Hardy’s abhorrent off-field behavior.

Brady’s loose connections to a couple of minor rule violations – plus getting a good call on a terrible rule – are almost as bad as the dirtiness of Ndamukong Suh (No. 3), the overwhelming aloofness of Terrell Owens (No. 2), or the heinous dog abuse of Michael Vick (No. 1). Child abuser Adrian Peterson (No. 10), hall-of-fame thug Adam “Pacman” Jones (No. 9), alleged sexual predator Ben Roethlisberger (No. 8), and general lunatic Bill Romanowski (No. 7) rounded out the top 10.

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Salty fans might tell me to stop crying, and no I will not. I am crying because I’m laughing at this so hard. Personally, I love that Brady is this hated right now. Obviously, he’s doing something right if his supposed transgressions are considered as bad as the actions of the rest of these guys. I expected him to make the list after the past two years, but planting him in the top-10 should at least garner a smirk and a snicker.

Even Gronk made the list. They literally quoted “Who doesn’t love Gronk?” while simultaneously listing Gronk on a “most hated NFL players” list. If Gronk really is hated around the league and simply “gets away” with it, then maybe I really am living in a bubble in new England. Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison also made the list at his jersey No. 37 for his reputation of being a dirty player.

Ultimately, this is just another hilarious way for national media to pander to fans who (mostly) secretly wish Brady was their quarterback. Clearly, Brady’s almost unprecedented success with the Patriots takes up a significant portion of the actual hatred. “No, it’s because he’s a cheater ahhh!” Keep telling yourself that.

Frankly, if you find Brady’s place on a list like this appropriate, you are what’s wrong with a lot NFL fans right now. Hate Brady as much as you want, but don’t blind yourself to the NFL’s draconian actions. If you celebrated the league’s railroading of Brady in DeflateGate, you cheered Roger Goodell’s unstoppable, absolute power. Your fandom is bad and you should feel bad. And this list is just another example of how absurd this whole thing with the Patriots and the rest of America has gotten.

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Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com and would take several bullets for Tom Brady. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.