When I was given this column, I was told that I was free to write about pretty much anything, as long as it fell within the realm of college athletics. Cool, I thought at the time. Not a problem. I can do that.
Well, that was before Sunday.
That was before Jerry Remy’s transformed into Guantanamo Bay, and before I spent four hours getting metaphorically waterboarded by the football equivalent of déjà vu.
That was before I had my still-beating heart ripped from my chest and thrown into the Boston Harbor.
Prior to Sunday, I was still a functioning human being. I was sleeping normally, not drinking too excessively, and only smoking cigarettes when not sober. Oh, and I still had my soul.
Now? I’ve barely slept in the last 48 hours, my liver hurts and I’m coughing like I’ve got the bird flu. There is also a gaping hole in my chest from where my vital organs once resided.
I wish that were the worst of it. Unfortunately for me, the remainder of my time has been spent attempting to erase the near-entirety of my short-term memory.
Annoyingly, this is proving to be quite difficult. From the moment Brady’s desperation heave hit the turf, I have had a perpetual slideshow of dropped passes, inexplicable penalties and miracle catches playing continuously in my head.
It’s as exhausting as it is infuriating. It takes a great deal of effort to resist calling into the Sports Hub just to audibly sigh over the airwaves. Frankly, it’s a miracle I haven’t gouged out my own eyes and/or lobotomized myself.
Why does this matter? Because I’m entirely incapable of writing about college sports. I just can’t do it. I can barely think about anything other than the Super Bowl, let alone write or formulate opinions. So, yeah – Super Bowl column it is.
And by column, I mean rant.
OK then, now that we’ve got that out of the way, where to begin?
Actually, who cares? At this point, I just need to purge these things from my skull.
First things first: if Wes Welker catches that pass in the fourth quarter, the game is over. Patriots win. Was it a perfect pass? No. Has he made that catch hundreds of times in his career? Yes. Welker did not lose the game for the Patriots – but he could have won it. There might a big difference between the two, but the fact of the matter is Wes blew it. He had the opportunity to be the hero. He just couldn’t make the play. And now I’m going to go throw up.
If Rob Gronkowski is healthy, the Patriots win. Almost as much as Brady, Gronk was what made the offense go this year. He had the best season for a tight end in the history of the NFL. Clearly, as he was held in check by the Giants’ mediocre linebackers, he was a shell of himself. The Pats offense was frustratingly vanilla on Sunday; a wounded Gronk was the main reason for this.
The game began with Brady gifting the Giants two points with that boneheaded safety, followed shortly by a 12-men-on-the-field flag that essentially gave New York another touchdown. Both occurrences are rare blunders for a Bill Belichick-coached team. In hindsight, I should have stopped watching in the first quarter. The writing was on the wall early on (head hits keyboard).
OK, now that we’ve established that the Patriots should have won their fourth Super Bowl, there are two underlying factors that make this reality particularly devastating.
First, that was the exact same game as 2007. No difference. Same teams, same uniforms, same dramatically timed kick in the crotch to Patriots Nation. Shakespeare could not have written a more depressing tragedy. It was a flawless execution for the truly sadistic.
Now, let me be clear, the 2007 Super Bowl was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. No exaggeration. For so many reasons, I could not imagine a loss being more devastating to a fan base than that one. All one needs to do is say either “18-1” or “Super Bowl XLII” to a Patriots fan, and you’ll get an idea of how deep this goes. We all turn into a bunch of kidnapping victims facing our kidnappers for the first time at the mere mention of that game. The deep underlying trauma manifests itself physically almost immediately.
Last week, I would have said that I would rather wander around the Juarez ghetto in a DEA jacket than relive Super Bowl XLII. And I would have meant it.
Well, the joke is on me I guess. Not only did I relive the exact same game again, I did so willingly, while ringing up a $200 bar tab. Yay me. Next time, I’m going with the beheading.
Finally, my last point is the one with which I am struggling with most.
What most people don’t understand is that this season was not just about winning a Super Bowl for Patriots fans. And it wasn’t about revenge either.
The New England Patriots as an organization have been stranded in the no-mans land of NFL history for the last seven years. After they won their third title in four years in 2004, they seemed poised to establish themselves as the all time great dynasty. It was almost inevitable.
Brady had not yet even entered his prime. Belichick was the sharpest mind the game had seen since Lombardi. The ownership and management were savvy and in it for the long haul. Basically, the future was so bright it was almost blinding.
Then, things began slipping away. The 2006 AFC Championship game loss to the Colts, Super Bowl XLII, Brady’s season ending injury in 2008. After a number of missed opportunities and heartbreaking losses, we were ready for the win that we had been taught to expect.
A win on Sunday wouldn’t have erased the recent history of heartbreak, but it would have put the destiny of the Patriots back on track. A fourth Super Bowl win pushes them into the most elite categories of dynasties.
Can they still get there? Absolutely.
But reality is the future is far less certain than it was in the early years of the Brady/Belichick marriage.
This is why most of New England has felt like it got hit by a truck for the last few days. The stakes are higher for Patriots fans. With immortality on the line, the death blow is just that much more devastating.
So, yeah. Basically, life sucks right now for Patriots Nation. However, the reality is that we will be back next year. We still have Brady, and we still have Belichick. Eventually, this is the thought that will help me sleep at night.
In the meantime, though, I am just going to continue on my downward spiral.