In a way, it’s really a shame that the Patriots have set the bar so high on a year-to-year basis. Basically, if they don’t win the Super Bowl, the season is a failure, and anything they accomplished along the way is meaningless.
This mindset does not allow for appreciation of wins such as we’ve seen the last three weeks. Rather than looking at each game individually, the mindset instead looks at each game as an indicator of whether the team can be considered a true championship contender or not, and in doing so, focus is placed on the flaws, on the negative aspects of the game (“If they needed a comeback like that to beat the Cleveland Browns, they are in real trouble!”)
It is absolutely true that winning a championship is, of course, the stated goal of each season. In the early part of the last decade, the Patriots made it look easy, winning three Super Bowls in four seasons. Their failure to win one since then has been thrown back at them and their fans with increasing ferocity.
The focus on that big picture takes away the ability to appreciate what we see on a week to week basis. The wins against Denver and Cleveland, and to a lesser extent, Houston, if you just look at them from an entertainment and fan perspective were amazing. How many quarterbacks and teams in the NFL are even capable of pulling out wins like those? Each week as you watch other NFL games, do you see a team mismanaging the clock, or other game management scenarios and know that it likely would be different here? Are you capable of appreciating what you have, rather than howling about the play-calling, or engaging in this constant talk about how the draft has been bungled year after year?
After a win like that, do you say “Wow, I can’t believe they pulled that one out?” Or do you say, “Man, Josh Gordon ran all over them, and they needed a gift pass interference call from the refs to beat a lousy team?” or “I’d liked for them to have pulled off the comeback without a questionable call in their favor.” or “I don’t like winning this way.” I’m not saying doing the latter makes you less of a fan, but it does make me question how much you actually enjoy watching the team play. OK, strike that, if winning like that is not enjoyable to you, then why are you watching at all?
It doesn’t help that we have media members in town who actively troll fans on Twitter during the game, and then attack the fans in columns after the game. I don’t get it. Well, I do. Trolling is now an accepted form of getting attention, even if you look and sound like a complete moron. It’s sports radio, taken to 140 character chunks.
This media trolling takes a few forms: Mocking the expectations. Taking any credit away from the team for the end result. Insulting fans directly, accusing them of being overly sensitive, and then playing the innocent victim when any backlash comes their way.
It’s fair to question when things don’t go well. Being critical is OK when it is called for. But when the franchise has been the most successful in the league for a dozen years now, it’s also OK to sit back and appreciate what happens week-to-week without being angry and thinking only about how they’re probably not going to win the Super Bowl this year.
Speaking of that – when Rob Gronkowski went down on Sunday, I had the same thought many of you probably did – season over. The team’s Super Bowl hopes may have indeed been ended with that play, but if the last three weeks have taught us anything about this team, it is that they will fight to the very end, and will not quit playing even when the odds (and the scoreboard) are stacked against them.
That’s admirable. Try and enjoy what’s left of the season if you can. It may go against your nature, or against the tide of what gets shoved down your throat on the airwaves, print and web, but just sit back and appreciate what you have here.
While it is still here. Because it won’t always be.