Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New England History and Hubris

Patriots fans should be prepared for an upset of major proportions on Sunday. Unfortunately most fans in "Patriot Nation" can not fathom the vaunted Patriots offense being shut down or the timely Patriots defense showing up too late. My head tells me the Pats will roll to a fourth Super Bowl title in seven years. My heart says "Watch Out!". Winning here in New England has been taken for granted, not by the players. The New England Patriots organization is the best all time in the ability to play one game at a time and not take any opponent too lightly. But the fans of the Patriots have developed a case of hubris not seen ever before this side of the Bronx.

Most Patriots fans are also Red Sox fans, so you would think that after watching a team be one strike from a World Series title (1986) and completely collapse they would think twice about ordering their "Perfect Season 19-0" T-shirts before the final game is over and the Patriots have more points on the board than the Giants. All New Englander's have to do is look at recent and distant local sports history, aside from the Red Sox, to realize that a fourth Super Bowl banner being unfurled at Gillette this September is NOT a fore gone conclusion.

The 2001 NFL season was only six years ago. The Patriots had an unbelievable run from Thanksgiving to the Super Bowl to enter the big game as 17 point underdogs. Similarly to the Giants the had a good mix of players and a great coaching staff who knew how to scheme just enough to win. Not win pretty, but win. We all know how that ended up. We have gotten to where we are now in the ranks of the NFL starting out like the Giants, a moderately talented team who's guts and smarts have put them in a position to change their teams destiny.

A more poignant and historical example of the underdog pulling off the impossible one has to look no further than Brookline, Massachusetts where in 1913 a 20 year old ex caddy named Francis Ouimet shocked the entire sporting world and won the US Open in a playoff over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at "The Country Club". By 1913 Vardon had already won 5 British Opens (known as The Open Championship) and One US Open which made him the most prolific golfer of his time. Ouimet was a 20 year old, with local amateur experience, who was so green that he had a ten year old (Eddie Lowery) caddying for him during the Open. The Brits, Vardon and Ray, were heavily favored to sail back to Briton with the US Open trophy as even seasoned US professionals like Walter Hagen and John Mc Dermott had no chance to beat Vardon. Vardon was the Tiger Woods of the early 20th century. He had endorsements, a line of golf balls (the Vardon Flyer) and more trophy's than anyone else. He even had a golf grip named after him that is used to this day. It took a fluke, local knowledge, naivete and dumb luck for Ouimet to defeat Vardon.

Are the Patriots the best team ever? They are the best I've ever seen in my 42 years.

Will they destroy the Giants? My prediction is Patriots: 41 Giants: 21.

Can the Giants win? Absolutely. Whether it be hunger, a scheme, naivete or dumb luck they have a fighting chance.

You know that hackneyed, but all so true saying "Any given Sunday"...


Kevin Smith said...

In my 37 years I have never seen a team like this.

That said, in my 37 years I have been conditioned to hope for the best, but expect the worst.

Years as a journalist, I do everything I can to remain as objective as possible - knowing that I still have my New England leanings and they do show through.

This is a team that makes adjustments better than any team I have ever seen. They win games in any and every manner they need to.

In spite of all of that, I would not be surprised to see the Giants walk away with the victory for all the reasons you mention. Not because of the 10 game road winning streak, and not because of the Patriots blow the game. But because the Giants play a smart, physical game like the Pats did in 2001 against a team that had the best offense in the league.

Yeah, I think the Patriots will win. But I've seen Boston teams tank at the worst imaginable times...and that has stayed with me.

Dave said...

I think a saving grace here for the Pats are that they have done this so many times they are immune to buying into their own hype. And those close games to end the season probably drove home the point that they are not impossible to beat.

It also helps they faced the Giants only a month ago and almost lost to them. No matter what some fans may thing, the Pats know the Giants have the talent to win the game.

In the end, though, the Pats just have too much talent. Their running game has stepped up and their strongest weapon (receivers) matches against the Giants biggest weakness (secondary).

plez... said...

all i can say is "good luck!" this will be a historical moment in SPORTS HISTORY: either the biggest win or the biggest loss of all time... regardless of the outcome, EVERYONE will know where they were for Super Bowl XLII.

i have a good friend, who is a rookie for the Giants (TE Michael Matthews), so i'm kinda pulling for him, but i would also like to see the Patsies go 19-0... i guess that's why they play the game!

Suldog said...

I'll be posting my own thoughts on this tomorrow (no more teeth stories, thankfully.)

Dirty Red said...

Well, you know where my loyalties lie Sully. If Dallas ain't playing, I could care less who wins. But I have to go with your Pats for this game.
First, I hope Randy Moss finally gets a ring after the phenomal career he has had.
Second, Behind Brett Faurve and Peyton Manning, Brady is the best QB in this generation.
Third, I cannot stand Eli. I have said this before, the only reason he is not walking around the sidelines with a clipboard is because of his last name.

But the Giants could upset the Pats.

But then I could win the mega-ball lottery this weekend too.

David Sullivan said...

Dave and Kevin: I agree wholeheartedly.

Plez: Glad your boy is getting a chance with Shockey down; he and Boss will get some work as soon as Eli realizes he'll have to check down earlier than thought.

Cuz: Look forward to your perspective.

DR: Are you saying with three about to be four rings and the single season touchdown record, etc...that Favre and Manning are BETTER than Brady? Moss is more than deserving after getting such a bad rap for years.