...For the love of one's team is a terrible thing...And it makes us all part of the Patriots' game.
Sports are a mystery. What makes a fan a fan, and why do we set our hearts upon the score of a game? Why does the sound of 18-1 make the blood drain from my face? Why does every hit Brady takes make me flinch as though I'd been punched in the gut? It's very, very strange. If you try to look from the outside in, it makes no sense. It's just a game, a national pastime, if you will. The fates of millions are not determined by who wins or loses. The losers will continue to make boatloads of money. I don't think anyone in New England is in danger of losing his job.
I don't know that I am disappointed. Disappointed is when there's not enough milk to have a bowl of frosted mini wheats for breakfast. I can't think of any term of crushed hopes that quite fits the situation. I am simultaneously sad, angry, bitter, numb, and a thousand other things. It's the mystery of sports. They will do that to you. When I say I love the New England Patriots, I mean I actually love those players. Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Kevin Faulk, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, and all of them. Their hopes and agonies are mine while the clock is ticking. Our hearts all pound through our chests when we are uncertain of the outcome, and we are all raised to the skies when victory is in their hands.
No, it's not a matter of life or death. It's not as important as your faith, family, or friends. That goes without saying. But when there were 2 seconds left and I knew we had lost and it physically hurt, I almost wondered...is it worth the dedication, when losing hurts this badly? I knew the answer was immediately yes, it is worth it, for all the times they pulled out the impossible and left me in a haze of euphoria for an entire week. And even if they had never won a single game, I know I would still be devoted.
I guess what hurt the most was that they, my boys, lost. I know I didn't deserve the win, I've only been a fan for four years. But they worked so hard. I was so angry at all the comments about rooting for the underdog, Eli Manning pulled a winning season out of a losing one and wouldn't it be great if he won a Super Bowl, the Patriots already won all those games and three Super Bowls, etc. Who cares? The Patriots worked harder than you can imagine to win every single game in the season, against rising pressure and critical comments and even derision. And yes, I sat through every game chewing my lip and praying feverishly, but in the end my heart breaks for all of them. It doesn't matter how many hours you put on the field and in the gym, how many passes you catch or throw, how many games you put away. None of it counts in the history books unless you hoist that Vince Lombardi trophy. And they had a shot at history like no one had ever seen in almost forty years.
It's over now, but this team will always mean so much to me. Every one of those players did the best the could in those moments, as they always have, and no fan could ever forget that. I could never be angry at any of them and would hug every one of them if I could. On the other hand, I do reserve the right to be ferociously angry at New York. I made the mistake of genially rooting for them in the past...no more. That's another great mystery about sports: you can make die hard enemies for very little reason, but they will be bitter rivalries that last a lifetime. So that's the end of it until September. No title to polish through all those months.
It's going to be a long Lent.