Friday, December 28, 2007

Open your eyes or else you may miss it

Happy Friday to everyone!

I hope that your Holiday season was a great one and safe as well.

Usually this space is reserved for our Land O’ Links, but I feel a certain calling for today’s entry.

At the beginning of the 2007 NFL season, many people felt that the New England Patriots would be a very good team. They had been quite successful defensively but their offense had been average at best. Then in one off-season, they go from Troy Brown and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth…and Jabar Gaffney. Tom Brady had already won 3 SuperBowls with a mediocre supporting cast and the question had formulated into “What could he do with a superior supporting cast?”

Well, as long as you haven’t been under the proverbial rock for the past 4 months, then you would know that the answer to that question is simple. 15-0, points scored record, passing touchdowns record and a chance at NFL immortality. Unfortunately, there are two things that are keeping most of America from being excited about the Patriots becoming only the second team in NFL history to go undefeated (the first to be 16-0). That would be the “spygate” incident against the Jets earlier this year and America’s infatuation with hating dynasties.

Many people feel that if the Patriots do defeat the Giants on Saturday that their record deserves an asterisk next to it. I am not sure if everyone has gotten caught up in the asterisk-ness of Barry Bonds but this is ludicrous. Am I the only one that is quite confident that without that video camera, the Patriots still would have destroyed the Jets? I mean, this team is currently 15-0 and the Jets are well…the Jets. Video camera or not, the Patriots would have won that game. It is a little harder to tell that had Barry Bonds not used steroids (come on, let’s just be real with it) what his eventual home run total would have been. I find it much easier to understand that the Patriots would have steamrolled the Jets still. So let’s move on from this point. If you are struggling with “spygate” still, I believe that it is time to seek professional help or just suck it up.

Along with this, we in America are incredibly obsessed with the idea of the underdog as well as hating dynasties. People hate the Yankees for their ability to buy good talent and win and who hasn’t despised the Duke BlueDevils at one point or another? The true American story is one of a self-made man and neither theYankees or Duke represent these values to people. Both have been very talented the past couple of years, but people just don’t like them outside of their regional areas.

The New England Patriots have fallen into this category.

Accusations of running up the score, videotaping games and a coach that makes Cruella DeVille look like Mother Theresa have all contributed to these feelings of animosity towards New England. During October, January and May-June, we thrive on the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Cavaliers of the sports world. They are the feel good stories that keep our attention throughout their sport’s respective playoffs. I enjoy those stories just as much as the next person, but you cannot overlook a great team when it shows up.

Unfortunately, I feel that a large portion of America is missing out on one of the greatest teams to ever grace a field, court or rink. I’ve been lucky enough to catch a few of their games and there is no such thing as running up the score when the other team just cannot stop them. Granted keeping Brady and other starters in the game is not always the best idea, but even the worst team in the NFL still contains some of the best players in the world. So the entire “running up the score” problem bothers me. These guys are professionals and if they cannot stop their opponent from scoring at will then maybe they should not be on the field.

In the last few years I have seen a change in my sports team preferences. I think a large part of it is that as a sports fan, I have grown up. I can sit back and put aside my rival differences and appreciate the escape and entertainment that sports provides us every day. I’ve begun to enjoy watching the Yankees play because they play good baseball. Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters in MLB history and Mariano Rivera has been one of the best pitchers in history. You can complain about George/Hank Steinbrenner all that you want, but year in and year out they put a good team on the field. One cannot overlook the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry but outside of New York and Boston, why should it affect people’s lives? There are obviously situations that do allow for this rivalry to be outside of Boston/New York but if you are sitting in Washington state and hate the Yankees because they win every year, it may be time for you to grow up in the sport sense.

Now, I wrote an article earlier on how rivalries make sports go ‘round and I completely agree with it. We need to find a difference between rivalries and general hatred. As a Minnesotan, I was bred to hate the Packers and Bears as well as the Hawkeyes and Badgers. I have grown to the point of still disliking 3 of those 4 teams but not letting it affect my daily functions. Our general infatuations with rivalries and the underdog story are clouding what the Patriots are on the brink of doing. Hate them or love them, they are a good football team. Their coach is a cactus but he knows what he is doing. The Pats do not get caught up in all of the media surrounding them because their coach does not allow it. Their players refrain from getting in trouble (with the exception of Rodney Harrison) and play games almost flawless.

I can hear you now, “wow, so now that you’ve jumped on the bandwagon…” Just because I enjoy what the team is doing and can see that they are talented does not mean that I am jumping on the bandwagon. It just means that as a fan of sports, I can sit back and enjoy what this team is doing.

As a sports fan, I have finally grown up. And it seems that it happened just in time. Try and put aside your prejudices and open yourself up to enjoying a true feat in sports.

Have a great weekend and check back on Monday for our Weekend Run-Down.

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