Sunday, January 21, 2018
Are the Patriots from 2001-present the best team in sports history? Probably not. Definitely not. The Yankees dominated baseball for decades at a time. The Celtics in the 1950s and 60s were essentially unbeatable. Best team ever? No way.
But has there ever been a sports team as captivating as the Patriots? Has any team drawn so much interest or generated such passionate sentiment (good and bad)? Haters and fans alike gravitate to what's happening in Foxborough, Mass., as if there's some sort of natural magnetic force luring their attention.
And the on-field product is excellent, especially compared to the rest of the crap you see around the NFL. Despite being favorites in almost every game, the Pats find ways to play close, exciting football on the big stage. They've been a part of more of the best games you've ever seen than you realize.
They've won 5 Super Bowls, by an average margin of 3.8 points. Only 19 points separate them from 5-time champs to 0-time champs. And if you add the two losses to the Giants, the Pats have only outscored their SB opponents by a total of 12 points. That's an average of being +1.71 ahead per game.
Recently, there's Sunday evening's 4th quarter comeback against Jacksonville. The heavily favored Pats were underdogs with 15 minutes remaining, with no Gronkowski, and a QB with a cut thumb. Instant classic.
This coming off of last year's ridiculous Super Bowl comeback. And then two years earlier there was Malcolm Butler's goal-line INT.
Even when the Pats lose, they give America unforgettable games. David Tyree's catch does not get remembered as vividly by football fans if it had not been against the 18-0 Patriots.
The Pats are a gripping story between games as well. Has a thumb been obsessed over as much as this past week? What about ESPN's story about "trouble in paradise" among the Pats' triumvirate of Brady, Belichick, and Kraft? DeflateGate became a national network news story. So did SpyGate.
The Patriots are must-see-TV on Sunday, and water cooler talk all week.
So Pats fans, enjoy it. These times don't last forever so revel in how fun it is to see an exciting team play exciting games, and win them in exciting fashion.
And Pats haters, enjoy it too. When this is all over you'll find football less entertaining without villains like Brady and Belichick. Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader, Batman without Heath Ledger's Joker, No Country for Old Men without Anton Chigurh. Pats haters are all Captain Ahabs, giving futile chase to White Whales. Little do they know that without a whale to chase, things will get a lot less interesting.
Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper, USA TODAY Sports
Friday, January 05, 2018
ESPN's Seth Wickersham's "Beginning of the end" piece on the Patriots claims there is a power struggle at the highest level of Pats' leadership: among the owner, the GOAT coach, and the GOAT quarterback. True or not, what the report conclusively proves is that the sports world is obsessed with everything the Patriots do.
Many of the pieces to Wickersham's puzzle seem to fit. I can imagine Bill Belichick grumbling about being coerced to trade Jimmy Garoppolo. I can imagine Tom Brady being worried about the security of his position as starter. I can imagine Robert Kraft interfering in an effort to alleviate tensions and to make his star QB happy. So there's a possibility it's all true.
But there's more than a possibility that the Patriots are the center of the sports world. That's an absolute certainty.
Even when they don't play, they're the top story. Just a whisper of dissension in Foxborough, and it's breaking news. The narrative of Garoppolo's success in San Fran is told as a Patriots' story. DeflateGate was national network news, not just sport news, and it endured for months. Compare that to the brief amount of time spent discussing the Seahawks violating concussion protocol (the media spent less time on that than Russell Wilson spent in the medical tent). People are obsessed with everything the Patriots do.
So while other New England fans might fret about tension behind the scenes, while other New England fans start blaming Bill or Tom or Bob for a breakup which hasn't happened yet, I'm just going to enjoy the fact that the sports world orbits around Foxborough, that Gillette Stadium is the center of the football universe. I'll enjoy it, because 20 years ago the Patriots were barely relevant, and 2 years from now the same might be true again.