This hatred people outside New England have for the Patriots is easy to understand if folks inside New England can take a moment to consider their own sports abhorrences.

We’re not talking about the hatred Boston fans have for New York teams, and the hatred New York fans have for Boston teams. That’s a ton of shared history by cities close to each other on a map, or as Bill Parcells famously called it, “the border war.”

No, we’re talking about sports hatred that has nothing to do with geography.

Fans have a hatred for certain teams, partly because said team is perceived as arrogant but mainly because said team is consistently among the very best. Sometimes it’s both … such as, say, Duke basketball.

When we think of it in these terms, it’s easy to see why so many people hate the Patriots – pretty-boy quarterback, grumpy coach, Rob Gronkowski being very Rob Gronkowski, five Super Bowl championships, the double-barreled shotgun of Spygate and Deflategate . . . on and on.

Imagine then, the meltdowns taking place around the country early Sunday evening when the Patriots emerged with a stunning 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It wasn’t just that the Patriots won. It was so much more. As in the Steelers seemingly having the game won on Ben Roethlisberger’s TD pass to Jesse James that, “upon further review,” was overturned.

It gets worse – much, much worse – for anyone with a deep hatred of the Patriots. Two plays after the NFL conspired to take away Pittsburgh’s winning touchdown – more about that in a moment – Roethlisberger threw an ill-advised pass that was tipped by Eric Rowe and intercepted by Duron Harmon.

For the sake of discussion, let’s leave Steelers fans out of this. You’re, let’s say, a Tampa Bay Bucs fan, with no deep, stomach-churning reasons to hate the Patriots except that you do hate the Patriots. The game-ending interception served as a reminder of Malcolm Butler’s interception in Super Bowl XLIX that sealed the deal against the Seattle Seahawks, another case in which the “lucky” Patriots emerged victorious because of the incompetence of the opposing team.

Now as for the catch/non-catch by James that really was a non-catch because whether you like it or not the rules say it was a non-catch, there was actual Twitter bombast offering up two schools of thought: 1) the Pats were the beneficiaries of a flawed rule that needs to be stricken away, and b) forces behind the curtain at NFL headquarters conspired to make sure the Pats won this game.

This isn’t the first time the Pats have benefited from the precise phraseology of the NFL rule book. It happened in January 2002 during the AFC divisional playoffs, otherwise known as The Tuck Rule Game, the big difference being that the outrage was limited to the Oakland Raiders and their fans. Around the rest of the league? There was no nationwide hatred back then; the Pats were plucky underdogs with a Cinderella quarterback, and when the plucky underdogs with the Cinderella quarterback went on to win the Super Bowl there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after owner Robert Kraft said, “Today, we’re all Patriots.”

The Pats aren’t plucky underdogs any more. They are the five-time Super Bowl champion Patriots who had a game handed to them because Pittsburgh’s would-be winning touchdown was erased after it was placed under a microscope by the NFL.

Was the NFL following the rule book or following a directive from behind the curtain? What a laugh riot of a debate. This is the league that came down hard on the Pats, but maybe not hard enough, over Spygate. This is the league that came down hard on the Pats, clearly too hard, over Deflategate. And then spent millions in billable hours to make sure Tom Brady’s four-game suspension didn’t get broomed by some judge.

I didn’t see an avalanche of criticism linking Pats hatred with NFL evil-doing, but there was enough. Such as this, from Sal Maiorana, a sportswriter for the Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle: “The Patriots are the most despicable team in sports history. Bar none. Despicable. And the NFL is even worse. The league is a sham.”

When the Patriots win, it genuinely boils people’s blood. As someone who has taken plenty of shots at the Patriots, this is amazing.

And hilarious, too.

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