Monday, February 04, 2008

A Pats Fan's Lament

It was supposed to be a coronation- a celebration of the first ever 19-0 team, a celebration of a team that defined a decade. It was supposed to be the crown jewel in the careers of Brady and Belichick, thoroughly cementing their place among the all-time greats. I remember watching the hated 49ers beats the Broncos in similar Super Bowl circumstances when I was 9. The score to that game was 27-3 at the half. One thing is certain. These Giants weren't the Broncos or Bills of yesteryear, over-matched and unable to compete. The Giants played with a ferocious tenacity, never backing off, never giving up, and, ultimately, they gave the 18-0 Patriots what might go down as the greatest game in Super Bowl history.

And that all just really, really sucks. I didn't watch any of the post-game festivities, but after I got home I did see a brief clip of a post-end to perfect season Bill Belichick interview. All I could think of was the evil Scooby Doo villans- "And we would have gotten away with the perfect season too, if it wasn't for Eli Manning and those meddling kids." And not just because of Bill Belichick's dour demeanor, but because of the feeling that the Giants had literally undressed the Patriots in front of what may end up being the largest television audience ever. I know- I know- We Pats fans are spoiled. And yeah, we are. Last night's loss was only the 27th of the Brady-Belichick era, but having suffered through the other 26 I can say for certain that this one stings the most.

Two years ago, the Patriots playoff perfection ended in what amounted to a perfect storm in Denver. It had all the trappings of a big loss- The Brady interception in the end zone, the missed Vinatieri field goal, the Troy Brown fumble. It was shocking, yet had the feeling of inevitability. Last year, the Patriots season ended in Indy, when the defense couldn't stop the Colts second half rampage and Tom Brady came up just short. That one hurt because you just knew the Patriots would have walked all over the Bears for their fourth Super Bowl. But the Colts were a much better team last year and Peyton had to get it done at some point. We focussed so much on Brady's lack of offensive weaponry, despite the fact that the Patriots put up 34 points in that championship game. Fast forward to this year, when Brady got the weapons he needed. And fast forward to this year when those weapons didn't matter- the difference was the defense giving up two fourth quarter touchdown drives to Eli Manning.

This loss stings more than any other because everything that went into the Patriots previously perfect season is all for naught. These Patriots now hold the dubious distinction of being the best team to ever lose a Super Bowl. Tom Brady's Super Bowl record will forever be marred with this loss- He could win two more and people will still say that Montana or Bradshaw was better. That's just the way these things work. I posted the top quarterback playoff records last week and Brady's 14-3 mark is still technically better than just about anyone else on the list. But it just doesn't matter because that Super Bowl loss means so much more. When it comes down to it, it just plain sucks to fall short of history and it sucks to have this stain on what should be known as the Patriots dynasty.

I hold no grudges against the Giants or their fans. They played one hell of a game. All of my writing, all of my bluster in this blog was not about being an arrogant prick- It was about chronicling what the Patriots same oh-so-close to doing and defending their accomplishments against those who really didn't want it to happen. And I guess that's bugged me all along, the lack of support in some quarters for the Patriots pursuit of history. I'm probably not the first to say it, but Mercury Morris and some of those other '72 Dolphins are pricks. The whole champagne thing has always been cute, but you're supposed to root for records to be broken, not selfishly root in defense of your own historical status.

For some reason, Brett Favre came to mind this morning, with all the records hes going to have when he finishes his career. And all I can think is how humble and gracious he'll be when his records get broken- how he'll be a real sportsman. And if these Patriots had done it- I just don't see them as old men rooting against the next team to make it's undefeated run.

Well, I hope the '72 Dolphins are happy. Mercury Morris can relax and Don Shula doesn't have to worry about making any more comments about "tainted championships." For myself, it's time to re-institute my ban on sports radio, think ahead to the upcoming baseball season, and try and forget about this season. I'd like to say "put this season in context," but how could you ever put this season in any context that's not a disappointment? To be that good, to work that hard, and to come just a play or two away from perfection ... I don't know. I have a feeling they could never lose another a game and it wouldn't take the sting out of this loss for Brady, Belichick, and company.

Updated 2/4/08 @ 10:55 AM : I should be clear on what my laments mean- Because of this loss it will be difficult for me to call Tom Brady the greatest quarterback in NFL history. In my mind, Joe Montana has always been the greatest to ever play the position, but Brady always seemed like he was on his way to surpassing him. And the Super Bowl loss just puts a snag in Brady's position. Of course I still think he's a great quarterback- he's still certainly top 5 or top 10 ever, but without that mystique, that perfection, he just can't top Joe Cool. Give me credit here, because I am consistent.


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