Why is Bill Simmons insane over the Patriots?
On a recent podcast, Bill Simmons lamented that the Patriots let Adam Vinatieri leave the team in 2006, because he exemplified the “Patriot Way,” and they have suffered for a lack of this intangible quality since he left. On a more recent podcast, with Bob Ryan, he lamented that the Patriots were ‘turning over’ 12-win seasons without winning a championship. The Patriots have gone 88-24 in the regular season in the post-Vinatieri stretch and have lost two Super Bowls by one absurdity and one note-perfect symphony of a pass play. Simmons’ nutso Patriots talk carried over to this year’s de facto jettisoning of Wes Welker, for which he called Bill Barnwell to act as a therapist and first responder. Barnwell had already written that Amendola’s statistics on the Rams were far better than Welker’s before he joined the Patriots as a tacit plea for everyone not to lose their shit, and the question isn’t whether Amendola will be better than Welker (he probably won’t be). The Patriots won three Super Bowls without Welker and could win without him next year. They have done just fine without Vinatieri. This is pretty damn good for a decade. Why the hysterical blindness? What makes Patriots fans like Bill Simmons so obviously crazy when it comes to the team, aside from the fact his head is so far down Secretariat’s mouth that all he sees is darkness?
The ‘Patriot Way’ has always been a death machine. Insofar as there’s a ‘Patriot Way’ at all, it is a plastic sign hanging above Bill Belichick’s office reading ‘buy low, sell high,’ which he slaps every day on his way out to the field and then sends some MLB packing. There are a few obvious amendments: Belichick, Tom Brady, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork are irreplaceable, and are paid as such long into their careers. Terrell Suggs said in February that players on all 31 other teams ‘hate’ the Patriots. There’s a ring of truth there, but there’s a fat lie inside of it: Players hate the Patriots right up until they need them. Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Amendola, and Aqib Talib could file testimonials. It is a system of strict player valuation so mind-numbingly uncomplicated and successful that no one is content to just leave it alone.
Adam Vinatieri was so easily replaceable that the Patriots managed to do it that very season with a fourth-round pick who’s been every bit as good as Vinatieri, if not better, and neither has had a Super Bowl-winning kick, so you know, that insane qualification also checks out. The Patriots did not lose because the ‘Patriot Way’ was impure. In Simmons’ case, you win or you die, and your journey becomes loaded with meaningless symbols. The defining quality of being a sports fan is that a foothold in sports is worth the same as a doctorate. You can read talk about them at work or start a blog and it’s all the same. Intoxicants have the notable side effect of making you spout nonsense. The Pats hosted the AFC Championship game two months ago. There’s no evidence that there’s anything to worry about. There is no sorrow in 12-win seasons. There should only be pride, and the decision to shut up. Your gift horse won the Triple Crown.