Why Your Evolutionary Brain Does Not Want the Patriots to Go to The Super Bowl

There is one psychological reason people are fired up about the Patriots: people don’t want to see a cheater get away with cheating.

Every human being is wired for “cheater detection,” a psychological tool our prehistoric ancestors used.

Once believed to be a higher-level thinking skill, scientists have discovered in fact, all humans have built-in cheater detectors.

According to an article in the Economic Times: “Perhaps because we want to believe that sport, at its core, is about the purity of human spirit, of a team of strangers uniting for a glorious common cause, of all that is noble about human enterprise.” 

Our evolutionary brains will not allow us to accept cheaters. If human beings choose unacceptable behavior, we want them to have fitting consequences for their actions.

New England Patriots’ Coach, Bill Belichick, (literally) changed the face of all coaches in college and NFL history. And it’s not just his signature hoodie.

The “Spygate” scandal of 2007, where Belichick was caught videotaping and sending in his staff (posing as media) to spy on other teams during their practices and in locker rooms, did not sit well with people. Especially when it was discovered that these unethical practices had been going on for 7 years.

At the Patriot’s home field, in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the NFL coaching opponents complained that their headsets were scrambled and jammed, severely compromising their ability to make calls in real time.

Since 2007, coaches on the field, now use their clipboards and play sheets to cover their mouth during the game. Bill Belichick created this foundation of distrust in national football.

In 2007, the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodall, a very good friend of Robert Kraft, (the Patriots’ owner) had 40 recordings of seven years’ worth of tapes and evidence immediately destroyed, which further angered fans across the globe.

Spying, lying and cover-ups upset many of us. We don’t want to be fooled and manipulated. And then, not have fairness restored.

Monkeying with the pressure of the football, the New England football team got caught again. In 2015, Deflategate plunged the Patriots and their star quarterback into the news again.  

And in the 2018 Super Bowl with the Eagles and the Patriots, a geo poll showed all but two states in the country wanted someone other than New England to win.

Source: betonline.org

And there’s no question that the Patriot’s are a great team. So what’s the real reason behind people feeling incensed about New England’s repetitive football success?

According to Psychology Today contributor, Hank Davis, Ph.D : “The need to [detect] cheaters and liars was essential to human evolution. It is a primary adaptive feature of social living and its absence puts an individual at risk.”

And it’s not just on the football field, either. Davis continues: “There is not a society on the planet where cheater detection is not a fundamental issue. Cheaters need to be detected and punished. It is central to the integrity of a group or a society. If cheaters are allowed to flourish, the group itself is in peril.” 

So, is the frustration that many have with the Patriots headed to the Super Bowl (again) based in our caveman brain? Is it that we don’t want to see people who’ve hoodwinked the system, (and us) to get away with sh*t?

Perhaps it’s because there are some who want appropriate restitution for the New England coach and his team. Not an insignificant financial fine of $500,000 to a multimillionaire. That’d be like getting a parking ticket for most people.

That’s like when the speeding driver weaves in and out of traffic and dangerously cuts you off on the road, you wish for law enforcement to correct that wrong, because blowing the horn just doesn’t cut it with our cheat detectors. We may think that the driver’s foul was far worse than a horn blow admonishment or finger gesture, and their behavior should be effectively disciplined.

So maybe NFL fans are upset with the repeat 2019 Super Bowl candidates because the punishment did not come close to fitting the crime. Slap on the wrist. Relatively speaking, a small fine. And their quarterback with a guest appearance on Oprah.

If we were to poll people for an appropriate restitution, you might find people who’d say that any team found of wrongdoing should be ineligible to compete for the Super Bowl, or to play football for a year. Or to make certain there is no conflict of interest between two BFF’s: the NFL Commissioner and a head coach.

As relationship counselors, we work with many clients where cheating kills the marriage or relationship. Even virtual cheating, where a social media correspondence is seemingly innocent to one party, is perceived as a deal breaker to the other.

Yet perhaps, unlike the shoved-under-the-rug, “Spygate” and “Deflategate,” we guide people to see one another’s perspective of wrongdoing. And help them to understand and acknowledge why their behavior is unacceptable to their partner. With several strategies, including our proprietary tool, the Emotional Clock®, couples can move forward with openness and honesty, so trust can have an opportunity to be restored.

Even though the Patriot’s are a powerhouse and highly-skilled football team, maybe many NFL fans do not believe that their own trust has been fully restored.

Plain and simple, some people don’t want to see a team that used/uses illegal, unethical or unscrupulous ways to win a competition, and not have a suitable restitution. It goes against the Golden Rule.

For more on how you are wired and how to better communicate with your partner, friend or co-worker, please reach out for your 30-minute free consultation.

Poppy and Geoff Spencer, M.S., CPC, are certified counselors, nationally syndicated writers, relationship and parenting experts, dually certified in Myers Briggs (personality), “Millennial Translators,” national speakers, authors of a #1 Bestseller, One Billion Seconds: There’s Still time to Discover Love, and Podcast hosts. Poppy and Geoff are a highly-credentialed husband and wife team, interviewed on such outlets as: NBC, ABC, CBS, Bustle, Your Tango, and Popsugar.


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