By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Tom Brady didn't need to be there.
He didn't need to show up to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50, a game in which he had hoped to play in, for the pre-game ceremony honoring every Super Bowl MVP in history. He didn't need to play by the NFL's rules. But he did, because he realized that the ceremony was bigger than himself, because he has earned his place among the best players in the history of the Super Bowl. He deserved to be there for the honor.
What he did not deserve was the massive wave of boos that the fans in attendance showed upon the three-time Super Bowl MVP and arguably the greatest player in the history of the league, certainly in the history of the Super Bowl. In fact, not a single one of the players honored in the ceremony deserved to be booed.
No, Ray Lewis did not deserve to be booed. Despite whatever feelings you may harbor about him as a person, and regardless of whatever you think he did off the field, Lewis was one of the game's all-time best linebackers and the engine that drove arguably the most dominant defense in history.
Former Super Bowl MVPs Deion Branch and Malcolm Smith didn't deserve to be booed, either. Branch heard some boo birds because he played for the Patriots in his Super Bowl MVP performance while Smith played a significant role in the Seahawks' dismantling of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. This was a huge honor for each of those guys and easily one of the biggest highlights of their careers, and that is the respect you showed them?
Sunday's Super Bowl MVP ceremony was not about rivalries. It was not about love and hate. It was not about personal feelings. It was about honoring the game of football itself, the rich history of the Super Bowl, and the litany of great players who have helped make it the biggest, most watched event in sports. To boo any of the players receiving the honor that they earned on their own merits because you don't like them or their team is just a petty, selfish, and yes, classless move, that ultimately booed the game itself.
I don't mean to make it sound like the boos signaled the apocalypse. They didn't ruin the game by booing a ceremony that transcended their personal feelings. Ultimately, Patriots fans can take solace in the fact that this will only drive Brady more and the hatred is born of Brady's massive success. "No, it's because he's a CHEATER!!!" Stop lying to yourself.
Surely, Brady didn't lose a wink of sleep over the boos, nor did I. It was just disappointing that, for just a few minutes, they could not remove team colors from players and pay their respects to all of the players that made the Super Bowl great. Yes, even Ray Lewis. And definitely yes for Brady.
To extinguish the popular "I have the right to boo!" argument, yes, the fans had the right to cheer or boo whoever they wanted. And I have the right to call you classless and selfish for doing so.
As much as it pains me to have to agree with Mike Felger, he nailed it on Comcast Sportsnet after the game: "Whoever was [booing], you suck. You're a bad fan. You're a crappy fan. If you're going to boo a guy in that moment ... that wasn't about Patriots v. Broncos. That wasn't about that stuff."
Boo Brady all you want when the Patriots are actually playing. Boo the Ravens and Seahawks in actual football games if that's your prerogative. But Sunday's ceremony was time to pay respects to the biggest game of the year in the biggest sport in America and the dozens of performances that keep football fans coming back every season. The fans who eschewed polite applause (which is what I would have done for every single player), or even total silence with their backs turned, in favor of straight-up booing, showed their selfishness and lack of class.
If you're reading this and you happened to be one of the boo birds in Santa Clara Sunday night, I hope you feel good about yourself. You didn't boo Brady or Branch or Smith or Lewis, you booed football. And it's hard to believe your fandom is entirely deserved.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.
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