State of the Patriots

by Bryan

patpatriottattooI have a renewed interest in the NFL this year. I’m not playing fantasy football, and we’re two years removed from the Patriots/Giants debacle — the debacle not just of the game itself, or the whole season.

That’s right, I’m calling an 18-1 season a debacle. From the moment Spygate hit until Tom Brady’s final heave to Randy Moss hit the turf in Glendale, it was a miserable season. That’s what happens when you lose sight of what sports are supposed to mean. Pats fans were already excited at the prospect of an undefeated season before Spygate hit, and in its aftermath, saw a perfect record as a road to validation. The push was on, and Bill Belichick appeared to take the bait as well. Through the first nine weeks of the year, the Patriots trounced everyone they played, and the talk of an undefeated season was on.

It’s not bad that Patriots fans were excited, but it’s important to remember that winning is just as much a part of the game as losing. The Patriots have had too many great wins to count over the last decade, and in 2007 Pats fans were acting like wins were a birthright, and alienating the entire country in the process. I wanted none of it. I wanted them to win the Super Bowl, but not at the expense of their fans dignity. If the Pats had won the Super Bowl, we would have never — ever — heard the end of it. So when they lost, I wasn’t even devastated; I was just worried I would be implicated in the mourning process. It was, however, just a game.

That’s why last season’s knee injury to Tom Brady was, in some way, a refreshing way to reset expectations. After the white-hot 2007 campaign, where every game was too important, the 2008 season was the opposite: it wasn’t really taken seriously. Wins were great, and losses were okay too. That’s the healthy way to watch sports, and I was happy for it.

The Patriots aren’t the only team that needed a re-adjusting of attitudes; in fact, their conquerors needed one as well. After the Super Bowl win over the Pats, some Giants fans were devastated at last year’s boucning from the playoffs by the Eagles, including this fine fellow:

Giants fan and friend of the blog Big Dood has responded on Shea Hey! with the rare well-reasoned, mature take on sports on the Internet:

To a good many Giants fans, the ending to last season was doubtlessly a bitter disappointment. Fair enough, I suppose, but I’m here to send a wakeup call to everyone who cried themselves to sleep after a one and done ouster at the hands of the Eagles: It’s all disappointment from here on out. This truth should have risen from the ashes as the dust settled in the aftermath of Super Bowl XXZXXZXZSEQR (did I get those Roman Numerals Right?). To quote Christopher Walken’s character in True Romance “that’s as good as it’s gonna get. And won’t ever get that good again.”

By all rights, the New York Giants should never win anything else again. In the interest of balance, they ought to have tumbled into the bowels of the earth and been left to stumble over and upon one another (for at least a few seasons) in abject misery.

Or better yet, they should’ve simply ceased to be, disappearing in streaks of light and vapor behind falling sheets of confetti in the canyon of heroes.

By this standard, the Patriots should have shut down shop a few years ago, but there they are, on my TV every weekend. Two seasons removed from the nightmare, I’m determined not to relive it. Football’s too great for that, and I’ve seen too much great football recently for it to hurt too much. Maybe I’m not a “real fan,” or maybe I never was until now. I love the sport more than ever, and that’s why one loss isn’t going to get me down. It gives me something to do every Sunday for 5 months; the rest is just details. Details that I’ll scream and piss and moan about for those 5 months, but less than I would have before. Nothing is guaranteed, and I’m not going to pretend like it is or that I deserve it.

All that said, GO FREAKING PATS. Jets game is big this weekend.

I’m done.