Thu, 28 January 2016
AFC Championship: This Loss Hurt
Losing the AFC Championship game to Denver was and is a painful experience. The aftershocks will go on for days, weeks, even months. And in special cases, the truly heart-breaking, soul-splitting losses, the pain never goes away. I don't think this one is special . . . time will tell.
Special case or not, dropping that game on Sunday burns badly. It's left me feeling all kinds of bad. First was the shock of the loss. Then, soon after, the confusion, because this wasn't supposed to happen. Watching Peyton Manning celebrate while Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick walk off the field dejected and beaten, didn't make sense in my mind. The reality I was experiencing wasn't what I expected to see and my mind was having trouble making sense of it. How could they have lost?! Did they really just lose that game?! They were supposed to win a fifth Super Bowl this year. Gronk and Edelman were healthy (?) and playing – our offense was awesome. Peyton Manning sucks now. He couldn't beat us when he was good, never mind with a broken wing.
But he did. And the Broncos beat us fair and square. Manning was better than we all thought he would be. Brady wasn't as good as we thought he would be and the offense wasn't awesome. The Patriots lost in the biggest game of the year and now the season is over, no fifth Super Bowl win, no crowning of Brady as the undisputed GOAT, no laughing at Peyton and his forehead.
Once this reality set in, I got that dreaded feeling inside. The one that lingers and makes me not read The Globe sports section or listen to Felger and Mazz et al. Its a crappy feeling, and I suspect there are a lot of fans in Patriot Nation that feel the same way.
When the football season ends so abruptly, so badly, so . . . unexpectedly, it's like an emptiness fills me, I get the 1000-yard stare, I feel the pain in my gut. It's like when a family pet dies. It's akin to getting dumped out of the blue. It's that level of misery. But as with everything, time heals, and I can hope for just a dull melancholy and eventual relief.
Am I just way too invested in this team and losing a grip, or do we Patriot fans all go through something similar? I'm guessing we do. And judging by the commentary that I'm reading and hearing, there are a lot of people in New England pretty pissed off and disappointed. We thought this team could get it done. We connected with this team and invested so much time and effort and emotion in it and we didn't get the return on investment that we expected. We're not happy about that. This team should have been in the Super Bowl and we all know it. They were the best AFC team when healthy and the road to the Lombardi trophy should be going through New England. But it's not, and there is a lot of blame to go around; the blown home-field advantage, the offensive line, the game plan, Brady. Too many mistakes were made in the most important moments of the season and this team didn't fulfill its potential.
I'm placing it in my top five all-time worst Patriot losses. Now, it is early so that may change with time. I know it definitely won't take the number 1 spot. That belongs to the 2007 team that went 18-1. That is one of the special cases, an elite level of loss-related despair. That devastating experience will not be forgotten and the pain still resides in me. As does the 2006 team's loss to Peyton's Colts in the AFC Championship game. We had never loss to Manning in the playoffs and I hadn't a thought in my mind that we could or would. A 20-3 half-time lead just made me comfortable enough so when the walls came crashing down and Reche Caldwell dropped a touchdown and the Colts won, I was crushed. Sunday reminded me of that game. Shocking, unexpected, I wasn't prepared for the reality of a Patriot loss that day either.
All that said, I know we have it good here in New England. The Patriots have dominated the NFL for 15 years and the Brady/Bellichick window should be open for several more years, and the other major sports teams win championships and compete at the highest level of their sport. Its been a wonderful time to be a Boston sports fan.
However, this gives nobody the right to diminish the pain and suffering we endure when our teams lose. We bleed just like everyone else! I'd argue our losing is harder to accept because our expectations are so high.
The Patriots are the best sports team any of us will see our lifetime, and they give us something to be proud of. They are simply the best and have been for a long time now. They've become part of our cultural psyche, part of our self-identification. And when they fail horribly at the most important time, we feel every bit of the pain because whether they win or lose has become whether we win or lose.
Category:Patriots -- posted at: 2:02pm EDT