Patriots/Colts Post I
This would be one of the “other stuff” posts mentioned above, but it’s hard to escape the Patriots/Colts game, even for someone who doesn’t have cable television. For what it’s worth, Gregg Easterbrook semi-retracted his Good Vs. Evil analogy from last week, but I’m as convinced by it as he is convinced by the Patriots’ contention that they are done taping their opponents. He tries to explain his column away as satire, but the best satire works because it exposes greater truths, and his failure to do that convincingly is more than his “failure as a writer” to get his ideas across. It’s his failure as a thinker. To wit, he tries to flip the situation on its head, boasting that no one called him to task when he called Belichick “perhaps the best coach ever,” thus attempting to show… well, that his audience is a bunch of Patriots fans, I guess. And again, he underestimates his audience’s intelligence. Even the most anti-Patriots fans out there — and we’ll get to them in a second — would likely agree that Bill Belichick is a great football coach. Hell, Easterbrook even thinks so. The section starts, “No one draws up a better game plan than Belichick.” So he is essentially goading his wide-ranging audience for not taking him to task for what is, at this point, an axiomatic statement – that Belichick may be the best coach ever – but FOR taking him to task for what he admits was his “failing as a writer.” He’s calling out his audience for being discerning in their criticism. To be a failure as a writer is one thing, but to attempt to explain it away, and fail, is a failure as a thinker.
That said, the Patriots were cast once again into the role of villain this week, after their shellacking of the Washington Redskins, with a large number of media members taking the Patriots to task for “running up the score.” And here’s where it gets tough for me to defend the Patriots, because I’m a Patriots fan, and it’s tough to take me seriously. But I think the facts are firmly on my side. The only people to vocally complain about the score are two Washington Redskins linebackers and a host of media personalities. Both Washington coach Joe Gibbs and Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said nothing ill of it, with Dungy saying something to the effect of, “You never know what a team is working on.” Which gets to another point: should we be angrier at the Patriots for “disrespecting the game” by playing it well, or at the Redskins for playing it so poorly, giving up a 4th-and-20 to a backup quarterback? Or, as I read elsewhere, “Why should the Patriots give up just because the Redskins did?” And for all you Easterbrooks out there who claim that Peyton Manning was removed way before Tom Brady was in last week’s game, if you refer to that little thing with the numbers in the corner of the screen — it’s called the clock — you’ll see that they were pulled at the same point in the game, halfway through the fourth quarter. To ask that infamous prehistoric question: Next time, why don’t you do a little research?
Which brings us, belatedly, to the precipice of Sunday’s game. I was reading an Indianapolis Colts blog this morning, 18to88.blogspot.com, and I was impressed with the output of material, and unsurprised by its vehement anti-Patriots tone. The author reiterates all the “The Colts are classy, and the Patriots are not” maxims as they relate to the game. But here’s my bigger question: what would happen if the roles were reversed? Sports fans (this one included), especially football fans, view their franchise identities’ as deterministic when things are going well, and use their success to hammer other methods of doing things. Colts fans believe the Colts are great not just because of their record, but because of the way they operate. But do they really care? I doubt it. If you swapped the franchises tomorrow, Colts fans would tell Patriots to focus on the game results, and Patriots fans would call the Colts classless. That’s why I don’t put much stock in what anyone says about the Patriots, and vice versa. The game’s the thing, and all the rest is just noise. It’s also why I believe that I’m right to defend the Patriots here, regardless of my rooting interests. As much as I dislike the Yankees for fun, I’ve never complained about their profligate spending, not because my team spends a lot of money but because any team that’s not spending money is choosing not to spend it. The rules are the rules. The Patriots’ are supposedly breaking the “unwritten rules” of football by using the Redskins as a tune-up for the Colts; I would argue that the Redskins are disrespecting the game by playing it so poorly more than the Patriots are disrespecting it by playing it well. Similarly, if the Yankees were beating up on the Royals in a meaningless August game, would I complain if Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, and the ghost of A-Rod stayed in the game, pounding hit after hit? Absolutely not, especially if they had a series with the Red Sox on deck. This analogy doesn’t quite work, but it’s close enough, especially if you imagine the Royals series as a playoff series. Why the playoffs? Because the Patriots/Colts game is a playoff game. If they meet again, the winner of this one will almost certainly have home field advantage, and in this case that advantage is huge. For all the bluster about the Pats’ lack of sportsmanship last week, all anyone will be talking about Monday is the game, and that’s all anyone really should be talking about.