Archive for February 16th, 2008

To Praise the Patriots, Not to Bury Them

2

The pain is receding, the wound is scabbing over, and soon even the temptation to pick at the scab will fade into the warm mist of seasons past and fondly remembered. Yes, fondly, for the Dowbrigade firmly believes that one day we will all be able to look back on the 2007 New England Patriots with the kind of wistful melancholy usually reserved for unrequited love or short, idyllic affairs that ended far too soon.

What just a week ago loomed as a nightmarish wreck in the rear view mirror of our fandom, fated to foul the waters of the betting pools of our sporting life for years to come, has begun to metamorphose into a heartfelt historical anecdote to be trotted out and hashed over in future February bar arguments and pre-Superbowl pontification by nameless network talking heads.

After all, we tell ourselves, we got four full months of bragging rights and feeling good about football out of the deal, at the cost of one horrible, soul-shredding night and two weeks of serious sports convalescence. And not just feeling good – riding a rocket of amped up energy into previously unexplored regions of the sports stratosphere. Don’t forget how fantastic it felt, back in September, October, November and December. Not a bad bargain, on the whole.

Following sports with a more than academic interest is a Faustian pact. With the turning of the calendar pages the inner panorama of the sports fan is a revolving door of intense emotions: hope springs eternal, only to be repeatedly dashed on the hard rocks of reality, adversity begets anxiety and doubt, redemption arrives on strong arms and transcendent effort, triumph and gloating accompany the run up to victory, only to be snatched from our salivating maws by one cruel twist of fate, followed by disaster, mourning, and desolate emotional landscapes.

And then, somehow, hesitant buds of hope start to spring once more from the fertile soil lying under the slashed and burned fields of last season’s disasters. How else to explain to spring in our step last Saturday when the equipment van left Fenway Park for its annual migration to Ft. Meyers? How else to explain the strong stalks of Celtic Pride that have sprouted in our inner garden after nigh on 20 years of lying fallow in pathetic ineptitude and impotence? Last year the Celtics were the laughingstock of the league, losing an ignominious 19 games in a row. Today they stand atop the world of professional basketball, despite losing their four tallest players to injury. Who even suspected?

These things are truly miracles, the kind of everyday, supernatural, paranormal miracles that keep us plugging through the snowstorms, family crises, bad days at work, nagging physical ailments, political inanities and general ambiental hopelessness that permeate our daily lives. These minor miracles are the reasons that sports form such an essential lifeline to another level of reality for so many Americans. For all the problems that afflict our sports, and they are too numerous and serious to deal with in this column, we shudder to imagine how America would get along without them.

So we come to praise the Patriots, not to bury them. Remember them fondly, fellow fans, for you won’t see their match for a long time to come. You will see something else, however, equally miraculous, or even more tragic. Guaranteed.