They aren’t who we didn’t think they weren’t
That Super Bowl was an exciting game, with a final two drives by both teams that displayed the sort of classic drama and heroics that get repeated as sports cliches. I wasn’t expecting to be so much on the edge of my seat, but by the end of that game I was high-fiving and cheering like I was a Giants fan (which I’m not).
It must be a tough day to be a New England Patriots fan. A very, very tough day. I can only image the shock and the heartbreak and the slow realization that the team they were certain was destined for perfection is now very far from perfect. They lost exactly one game, and it was the one game they absolutely could not afford to lose.
A season of record-setting wonders — Tom Brady’s 50 touchdown passes, Randy Moss’ 23 touchdown receptions, the 16-0 record, and others — all of it now is basically meaningless, existing in a season reduced to a dream unfulfilled.
Because the true goal — as Bill Belichick has always said, and what has always been obvious to everyone — is to win the Super Bowl. Period. Anything short of that is failure. Especially when you’re the New England Patriots and you’re 18-0 going into that final game.
But I am not a Patriots fan. And I am smiling because the Patriots lost the Super Bowl. The (annoying) 1972 Dolphins can break out the champagne, because their record still stands. And, for that matter, the 1985 Chicago Bears can still smile, because they also went 18-1. And their 18-1 means more, because they won the Super Bowl … against, yes, the New England Patriots. So there. Eat it, Pats.
So, yes, I was rooting for the Giants. I honestly wasn’t expecting the Giants to win because — let’s face it — no one was expecting the Giants to win, except maybe the Giants fans. Besides, we’ve seen the Patriots win game after game after game. Even when it was close, and their backs were against the wall, the Patriots have always managed to find a way to finish on top. The past is your best indicator of the present and future. And the Patriots’ past had shown us that they will find a way to win.
But it’s fun to root for the underdog. Even though I’ve always found Eli Manning to be something of a chump (but perhaps no longer), it’s not hard to like him more than GQ-boy Tom Brady, the guy who knocks up an actress and then leaves her for a supermodel. Nor is it hard to like the fiery Tom Coughlin more than the terse, ever-laconic Belichick.
So, even though I respect the talent and the conviction and the work ethic of the Patriots, I just don’t like them very much. I’m sick of them winning. I’m sick of the hype surrounding them and their supposed invincibility. When you say four Super Bowls in seven years, I say go to hell. It was the same thing with the Cowboys in the 1990s. I hated them too. I was a Bulls fan in the 1990s, but lots of people hated them. Why? For the same reason I hated the Cowboys in the 1990s and hate the Patriots in the 2000s: They win too much and I’ve had enough.
Really, the Patriots shouldn’t have been 16-0 in the regular season, anyway. They should’ve lost to Baltimore in that Monday night game. Their number should’ve been up, but they pulled out a miraculous win, led by the all-too-expected Tom Brady fourth-quarter comeback drive. Too bad they didn’t save that mojo, that luck, that whatever, for the Super Bowl. They could’ve used it. Brady had the final say, and he couldn’t come up with the last-second miracle. The Giants D was too overpowering.
But the other reason I rooted for the Giants (aside from hating the Patriots) was because I was rooting for the prevailing of common sense. Super Bowl XLII, more than anything, is a reminder of one very important fact in sports: Anything can happen. The Patriots knew it. The Giants knew it. Probably everybody, deep down, knew it. But there was also this overriding sense that it could not happen, that the Patriots were destined for history, that they were too good, and that the Giants were pretenders. The NFC wild-card team winning the Super Bowl? Against the Patriots, “one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time”? Please. Stop dreaming.
With sports you always get the hyperbole and the melodrama. The story of the Giants beating the Patriots is that David slew Goliath. The Cinderella story. “One of the greatest upsets in the history of the NFL.” And so it is. But it’s that way only because the people in the sports world first allowed themselves to buy into their own story: That a team in the NFL could actually dare to be a perfect 19-0.
But which was really the dream? That David could slay Goliath or that an NFL team could go 19-0? Well, we found out. The Patriots were human and beatable and always have been. It just took until the Super Bowl to finally prove it. The Giants’ win over the Patriots is a victory of common sense over the false illusion of destiny. And a victory of chaotic destruction over the unlikely hopeful dream.
Yes, I was rooting for chaos to destroy the historic dream. Because I am a prick.
But I’m not the only one.