DISCLAIMER: Three years ago, the New England Patriots still hadn't won their fourth Super Bowl title. This made me mad.
Twelve days ago, the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots to win their second Super Bowl title in four years, twice against these same Patriots. New England is the team I cheer for, and if I didn’t know any better I would probably still be depressed from the loss.
Because believe it or not, I’m fine with it–and probably have been for about a week. It took me long enough, but I think I’m cured now. Sports is just sports.
(If the reader happens to be a Patriots fan, he or she will likely love this post. But if not, his or her best bet is likely to stop reading. Right now. Because this will sound a lot like ‘First World Problems.’ Call it my therapy.)
It’s just a game. It took me a while to understand it, but sports are nothing but a game.
That said, I like winners in sports–I’m like everybody else. The premise of being a sports fan is that it is a shortcut to a boost of self-esteem; the point is to bask in the glory that comes with ‘your’ team’s performances and thus, it is best to support a winning team. (Which makes it all the more difficult to understand fans of the Maple Leafs.) That’s probably why I chose to support the Patriots in the first place.
In fact, one of the first Super Bowls I remember watching was SB XXXI between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers–which the Patriots lost 35-21. But that doesn’t explain everything. Another reason why I become a New England fan is that I played the NFL Blitz arcade game a little too much during the 1990s. I was only 12, 13, and 14 years old, and my knowledge of football was limited. But I loved arcades, and NFL Blitz was the game I played most. And when I did play the game, I would always select the New England Patriots because I remembered the Super Bowl loss–Drew Bledsoe, Ben Coates, Terry Glenn. What more could I ask for?
(One thing that hasn’t changed is that I still run NFL Blitz. Until proven otherwise, I will always be convinced that I can, and will, defeat anybody.)
I’m spoiled, I know. My Patriots haven’t finished lower than tied for the AFC East lead since Tom Brady became the quarterback in 2001. No NFL team has won more games in the last decade than the Patriots, including three Super Bowl titles and the tuck rule game. There have been two other losses in the ultimate game in the past four years and while the previous three titles don’t ease the pain of those two that slipped away, it has taught me to take the good with the bad. The Patriots have made it to every other Super Bowl of the past 11, and that should be fine by me.
But four years ago, it wasn’t fine by me. Four years ago, I had witnessed, in New York, the first of 18 Patriots win and the first of 23 touchdown passes to Randy Moss–I was sitting on row 7, and he was running right to me!–and I thought that life couldn’t get better. But four years ago, Asante Samuel dropped a game-and-19-0-season-sealing interception, David Tyree made the catch, my heart sunk, I decided to throw my Madden 2008 videogame (the one with Vince Young on the cover) in the garbage and couldn’t think about football for about eight months. Four years ago, I watched Super Bowl XLII with about 25 New York Giants “fans” and wanted to kill every last one of them–because never had people rooted so hard for a team they cared so little for. I was telling myself that I was different than them, that I had supported my team forever and not only for the past three hours. But I was wrong to think all of that.
Because four years ago, I wasn’t different–like them, I was looking to fill a void by cheering for professional athletes who didn’t know me and likely never would. It just so happened that four years ago after the game, it didn’t matter whether I had supported my team for two hours or 20 years–four years ago after the giant upset, the Giants fans felt like they were on top of the world and I only felt like shit. In sports, misery doesn’t love company. (Or maybe that’s still just my post-Super Bowl XLVI depressed self talking.)
Whether my team wins or loses, either way the following morning I’m going to work or school–I finally am at peace with that in 2012. The thinking goes that without sports, men wouldn’t have much to talk about and that this explains why sports are so increasingly important in our society. But perhaps it’s the other way around–rather, perhaps men don’t have much to talk about because of sports.
Maybe I’m not truly cured though. The week before Super Bowl XLVI, I watched Novak Djokovic defeat Rafael Nadal in an epic, 5-hour-58-minute Australian Open final. Maybe that’s why the Patriots Super Bowl defeat didn’t hurt so much this year–because I know that I’ll always have Novak Djokovic to fall back on.