The Patriots pulled off a wild one last night, beating the Ravens 27-24 to remain undefeated. It was a heck of a football game, and as someone smarter than I wrote, shows that you need as much luck as skill to go undefeated. But think about this: what would be different if the Patriots lost that game?
Answer: not much.
Here’s a little secret: until the I realized the game itself was something special — you know, the type of game you’ll talk about for years — I didn’t particularly care whether the Patriots won or not. I’m sick of the “19-0” stories the same way I was sick of them the first time a particularly overzealous Patriots fan friend started saying the Patriots would go 19-0 this year, and that anything else would be unacceptable. Really? I love the Pats, but it’s good to be battle-tested. That’s why I was so happy with this game, which was a coin flip in the end. I think this was better than a blowout win, but it could have gone either way. Let’s not forget our real goal: we want to win the Super Bowl. That’s all there is to it.
It’s almost as if the Patriots’ constant success over the last 7 years has made people lose sight of what made those teams great. Sure, they won many, many games, but they had one goal, and that was winning the Super Bowl. They didn’t care about whether Tom Brady was better than Peyton Manning, or going undefeated. They just cared about winning the last game.
For the life of me, I will never understand the Peyton Manning thing. It seems to me that this is a vestige of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, where Boston fans are eager to show that their player is better than a Yankees player, but the only reason we did that is we never won. It’s all we had. Why do I care that other people think Peyton Manning is better than Tom Brady? Tom Brady won 3 Super Bowls and is 12-0 this year? What does any of that have to do with Peyton Manning?
The answer is “nothing.” And, just to be fair (human?), I will admit that it’s fun to tweak each player occasionally w/r/t the other. But a good number of Patriots fans carry this chip on their shoulder about Brady, that he has to be better than Manning for… well, for some reason I can’t put my finger on. Isn’t winning enough?
Getting back to the original topic, sure, I will be disappointed if they lose. But not all that disappointed (unless they lose to the Steelers, because I will have to comply with the terms of a rather humiliating bet). The great teams don’t win every game, but they make it close when they’re not playing their best, and give themselves a chance to win. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. Last night it did. All I know is that I want no part of Lady Luck come January.