Saturday, January 28, 2012
I grew up rooting for the underdog. At least I wanted to. Is it my fault that all along the way, the teams I felt bad for ended up growing into champions? What do you do when your lovable loser transforms into the hated favorite?
You enjoy every second of it, that's what. Success is incredibly difficult to find in professional sports. It is nearly impossible to string together a dynasty. Winning breeds jealousy. When the Patriots won their first Super Bowl against the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in February, 2002 they were America's sweetheart. Patriotism after the 9/11 attacks in the form of the little football team that could. Everywhere we went (except for St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Oakland) we got smiles and pats on the back at the glimpse of the Patriot logo we sported.
When they won their second Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers in 2004, they were favored but still a team that most of the country admired and applauded. They weren't just lucky or a fluke, they were a force to be respected.
When they won their third Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005, they were favored again and this time they started to become annoying. The haters came out around every turn. The Patriots were cheaters. Their pretty boy Quarterback, Tom Brady, had gone from a sweet innocent kid to someone who dumped his knocked up girlfriend in favor of a Super Model. Their coach, Bill Belichick, had no personality. They were big meanies, that's what they were. And their fans were spoiled rotten.
It isn't my fault that the Jets stink. Or the Dolphins. Or the Bills. Maybe if they didn't, the Patriots wouldn't win the division and go to the playoffs most every year. I started rooting for the Patriots when they stunk. Bad. Their ownership was a rotating joke. So were their coaches. And worst of all, so was their stadium. We sat on metal benches. Just like a high school team. To watch them lose. All the time.
So I know that some day in the future the Patriots will stink again. Tom Brady will grow old. Bill Belichick will lose his mojo. The sparkly modern comfy stadium their championships ushered in will be half full for a team that loses more than they win. And I will be miserable again.
So yes. I revel in every victory while they happen. I know how lucky I am to have a team I love be the best in the league with consistency. And I find it maddening when they don't win the Super Bowl every year. That's the level of expectation that such success builds. The bigger you are, the harder you fall. So if the Patriots don't win the Super Bowl against the New York Giants this year, I will be wicked pissed.
I grew up a Giants fan. I still root for them when they aren't playing the Patriots. Many folks do in New England. When the Patriots were terrible, their games weren't televised. The region watched Giants games instead. In the 2008 Super Bowl, the Patriots and Giants duked it out. The Patriots were just one drive away from winning it all and going undefeated for the entire season. That's never been done before. But the Giants, the underdogs, pulled victory away from the Patriots and shocked the world - much like those original Patriots did to the Rams back in 2002. It broke my heart.
I'm a Patriots fan. I want my team to get revenge from four years ago. And I don't care if the rest of the world is rooting against me, thinks I'm spoiled and lucky. But just be careful what you wish for. If the Cinderella Giants win again, they are poised to become the league's next great team. And not long after that, the sporting world will become annoyed with those guys next.