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"...