Tuesday, December 4, 2007
America Should Embrace the Pats
Last night's Pats-Ravens instant classic was only the second craziest Monday Night game of the season, behind Week Five's 'Boys-Bills contest, but it was crazy nonetheless, one of the goofiest endings to a football game you'll ever see. The stuffed Brady sneak that was nullified by an ill-advised Baltimore timeout, the false start by Russ Hochstein that negated a minus-one run by Heath Evans - both on fourth-and-1 - and the tipped Brady pass that hung in the air for what seemed like forever, only to hit the ground before any Raven could get to it. Then, just when everyone thought it was over, Kyle Boller throws a hail mary that's caught at the two-yard line by Mark Clayton before he gets brought down. A fitting end to an insanely exciting game.
An an incredibly lucky win for the Patriots, who should have lost that game on a number of different occasions. Of course, that's not a knock; as we all know, all great teams are lucky. And this is a great team. Battle-tested, been-there-done-that, and you have to cut off their heads to kill them. Quite the admirable football team. And that's why I have no problem telling people that I don't live in Boston but love the Patriots. I know, I know, I'm a frontrunner, I'm a bandwagoner, blah blah blah. I've heard it all before. Trust me. It's just that the Pats are the NFL's villains, and I look rooting for the villain. Many people do. Marlo, Chris, and Snoop are too trifling to cheer on, but I absolutley wanted Avon, Stringer, and Wee-Bey to escape McNulty's wrath. And like every other American, I loved Tony, Chrissy, Paulie, and Sil. They were bad guys too, remember? But they were such likable and charismatic characters, nobody cared and many people forgot.
This Patriots team resonates the same way for me. Belichick has personality without having personality. His smug arrogance and drollish tone at press conferences is kind of cool to me, for some reason. He has such a disdain for all things media-related that it's almost comical. He definitely stands out, much like Phil Jackson and Bobby Knight, two other jerks that I'm rather fond of. More importantly, Belichick is one of the greatest football minds of all-time. Talk all you want about SpyGate, but I wouldn't give a damn if he was James Bond; it wouldn't change the fact that the man is a genius at his craft. I respect that. Then you have Brady, who everybody actually likes; he's the ultimate team player and he's probably the best quarterback to ever play the game, if you really think about it. No other quarterback with multiple rings has ever played at as high a level as Brady has played this year. After 12 games this season, Brady has already thrown 10 more touchdowns than Joe Montana ever threw. And Moss is just the most gifted receiver in the history of the game, comparable to Jerry Rice in production when he's appropriately motivated. For 10 games this season, Moss played his position better than it's ever been played before. The defensive backs were like props. This team has five surefire Hall-of-Famers on it (Belichick, Brady, Moss, and Seau) and Richard Seymour will likely end up in Canton some day, too. They have the best slot receiver in football, innocent little Wes Welker. They have Willie McGinest 2.0, Adelius Thomas. The heart of the defense is the veteran champion linebackers, Vrabel and Bruschi, who continue to getting in combined year number twenty-three. Throw in the unheralded offensive line and underrated defensive stars Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel, and this is one of the most talented teams ever. Their loftiness is palpable, and none of them ooze it more than Belichick, but he's sort of earned it. Besides, it's not like the guy has ever been accused of beating his wife or anything like that. There are far worse men in sports than Bill Belichick. Give the guy a break.
Listen, this Patriots team is a dynasty, and they have a real shot at making history, although it won't be easy. Pittsburgh has the scheme and personnel to pull off the upset, and very well might. But I wouldn't bet on it, and no matter how much you want it to happen, neither will any of you. Whether it's last year's playoff slugfest with the Chargers or their survival's the past two weeks against Philly and Bodymore, Belichick's Patriots have proven time and time again that they are a resilient champion that thrives in pressure situations. For years, they've taken their opponent's best punch and come right back with some haymakers of their own, and at the end of the night, they usually have their arms raised in triumph.
People love that plot so much Sylvester Stallone's still making movies about it. This country loves Rocky. When will it learn to love these Pats the same?