As much as I wanted to keep my Obama post up today, my fingers are still wandering over the keys after the Super Bowl, and I figure it’s better to try go ahead and get it over with.
This isn’t one of those losses that hit me all at once. It’s one that will stick with me for years, because it’s been easier to repress any feelings of anger since about halfway through the game, when I figured the Patriots were going to lose. The mind plays funny tricks on people, and some day soon I’ll be torturing myself about specific plays, and how if any one of them had gone the Pats’ way, they would have won.
The problem is, I know that’s unfair. We got the breaks for years, and it was destined to come back on us, sharply. And, unlike any other NFC team, I am legitimately happy for my Giants fan friends because there are so many of them, and they have, for the most part, steered clear of me. I texted a few after the game offering congratulations, and one sent me an email yesterday asking me about the game, and I had to respond with platitudes, because my heart wasn’t in it. Will Leitch put it best in his NYT blog post:
It was sports at its absolute best: Random, unimaginable, insane. Not even a Patriots fan could deny it, though, just for the record, I’d wait a week or so to press them on the issue.
I don’t even know if a week will suffice. Everything I know about the game, intellectually, breaks my freaking heart, because my team lost the Super Bowl. And this is what people forget about Patriots fans: they’re the exact same as everyone else. I started reading the Indianapolis Colts blot 18to88.blogspot.com this year because I was interested in hearing opposing voices to the Pats media machine. They were thrilled after the Super Bowl, because the Patrots lost, and more because Brady became de-mystified. They have long argued that to judge Peyton Manning based on the results of the games was not his fault, because there were often external factors that affected the performance. But in their latest post, they write about how Brady looked bad and he had a “mixture of frustration and confusion” on his face that will be their lasting memory of the game, gleefully. These are the EXACT same complaints that have been leveled against Manning in the past, which they have steadfastly refuted. I started reading thinking I would learn what the Patriots-infatuated media wasn’t telling me; what I learned, instead, is that the other fans are no different than Pats fans.
Everyone else can keep telling themselves that they are, but they’re not. I’ve tried to be a gracious fan in victory, but many have not, just like some Giants fans who were more concerned with “18-1” than they were with their own victories, and Giants fan who egged me in December after I did exactly nothing. Though most all Giants fans who are friends of mine have given me ample space here, like normal human beings. The point is you can’t pigeonhole a whole group of fans. I know my fair share of ignorant, say, Steelers fans, too, but I don’t classify them as a bad group: I would argue that they have the best fan base in the NFL. I like hating them, but I go to great pains to be consistent with my football analysis. It’s that consistency that has me constantly remembering the 2001 Pats Super Bowl after Sunday, and how I felt, and how the Giants feel now, and how that’s good for the game.
It’s also why I get upset at people like the unfathomable Gregg Easterbrook, who writes columns that basically tell every Patriots fan their team is f*cking dirt. Easterbrook’s no different than anyone else, and you can tell by the tenor of his column: if it was his favorite team, the Redskins or whomever, he’d be arguing on their side. Just wait 10 years, when another team starts to dominate for stretches like the Patriots, and see who defends them. It will be a select few who are consistent on the issue, but it will mostly be the fans of that team. It’s like clockwork. These things repeat themselves, but everyone lives in the present and forgets.
When the Super Bowl ended, the first thing I felt was not sadness. It was relief. This season was finally over. I was called an asshole 20x over for simply owning a Patriots jersey and wearing it to watch my incredibly good team. I didn’t care if the Patriots went undefeated; I just wanted them to win the last game. But they didn’t. When I saw Bill Belichick giving the postgame speech, he was wearing a Patriots polo, and I realized that maybe some of the fans who have colored the bad impressions of the Pats over the past few years will fall off the bandwagon because that little Patriots logo stood for “winning” to them. For me, it was the logo I failed to draw many times after it was introduced when I was in seventh grade, and indicative of the team I still love without qualifications. Some of the people there, I don’t care for, but as a franchise there isn’t one I love more.
That’s why this one will never go away, the same way the 1986 Red Sox debacle didn’t go away until 2004. I’ll be standing in line at a deli, waiting to buy a Gatorade, and it’ll hit me… faaaaaaaaahk. I’ll be reading a history book, and… faaaaaaaahk. I’ll be on a date, and I’ll think, “Faaaaaahk… but this is better.” It just sucks, at times of its own choosing. I have a friend who is a big Cleveland Indians fan, and when I asked him how often he thinks about Jose Mesa, the guy who blew the 1997 World Series, he answered “Every day.” This was five years ago, so he might not think about it that often any more, and the Patriots’ recent run of success will temper it for me. But if you see me a week from now, a month from now, even a year from now, and I’m suddenly quiet… looking off in the distance… and then shaking my head, silently, you know exactly what I’m thinking about. Just give me a second, and we’ll move on.