White Hat Sports Headlines

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'm all Healed Up.

It hit me last night. A wave of good feeling that the Red Sox haven't given me since about April. It was the sight of Tom Brady throwing the football on the field of Lincoln Financial Stadium. He was back in uniform for the first time "The Hit", and suddenly I could move on from Super Bowl 42. I know what you're thinking, this is either just a stale column idea or this guy is really overreacting, but hear me out.

When last season started, it was too soon. I had never invested more in a football season than I did in 2007. I looked forward to each game like it was a tropical vacation and watched each game like it was a playoff game. The '07 Patriots were so much fun to watch, with their "F*ck you touch downs" and offense that rolled over everybody all season. For a 5 week period between the last regular season game against the Giants and the Super Bowl, Football reached it's pinnacle of greatness for me. As big a baseball fan and more specifically a Red Sox fan, the Patriots jumped up to that Red Sox level during that time. And remember, while this was all happening in January of 2008, the Red Sox were only 2 monthes removed from winning a World Series. My buddy Sam summed up the feeling of the Boston sports fan's embarassment of riches by saying "We won a World Series last sunday and next sunday we get another big game to watch". Because really isn't that what it's all about to be a sports fan, don't you just want an important game to watch? That's the thing that would make being a Pittsburgh Pirates or a Kansas City Royals fan so hard, it's just that they don't have many games where everybody is thinking about that one game.

The loss of the perfect season in Super Bowl 42 was tough, really tough. It felt like the entire ride of absolute dominance was all for nothing. The offensive records set by Brady and Moss seemed insignificant, the perfect regular season didn't have the same ring as "Perfect Season". I had spent so much time reading about football and thinking about football during January of '08, that when it ended in a unfulfilling way, I felt stranded. A very small part of me wanted the next season to start right after the Pro Bowl and for the Patriots to go out and prove that the Super Bowl was a fluke and that they really could capture the "Perfect Season". Most of me however, didn't want to hear anything about football at all. I avoided it at the gym, I refused to watch Sports Center except when I was forced to at the restaurant I was producing a radio show in had it on three large plasmas. That night after work, my buddies Twan and Zach with whom I made my Pilgrimage to Foxborough with for the Sunday night game against the Eagles, met up and drowned our sorrows with wings and beer and talked about what exactly had happened the night before and tried to come up with reasons to go on. Some how I felt better, sitting there with wing sauce staining my fingers and beer on my breath, I knew the Patriots would be back the next year.
But was I ready for them? That was the question during the summer that I couldn't answer. In late July when the Fantasy Football magazines hit the shelves I didn't even want to look at them. When training camp started and Sports Center had reports from them I would change the channel. I just wasn't ready for some football. I tried to force myself to jump back into it for the season opener telling myself that a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. (Meaning that if the Patriots were to get back to the Super Bowl, we'd have to take it one week at a time.) When the unthinkable happened, I didn't react like I thought I would to something of that magnitude, first off I went into denial. I just refused to believe that Tom Brady was going to miss the season, it couldn't happen. I followed the season anyway and there were some memorable moments, by this time I was working in Augusta on the State Senate Campaigns and I watched most of the games at our office with the guys. It just wasn't the same vibe though. It was my first year out of college and football in college is an event every week. After a big Saturday night there is nothing better than going to brunch at noon, rushing back to set up your fantasy football team and watching the games all day in gym shorts and sweatshirts. It was very different living outside of that envirnment and thus harder to get into the season. When they had a chance to beat the Colts and didn't, it didn't have the sting that it would have had in the past. The highlight of the season was listening to Randy Moss's last second catch against the Jets to send the Thursday night game into overtime in my truck with my buddy Sam. They would lose that game and that was kind of the theme of the season. There was still the swagger of the Patriots and they could pretty much play with anybody (except Pittsburgh which did hurt) but they just didn't have Brady to get them over the hump. When they missed the playoffs it some how felt appropriate some how. The football gods were saying "You've had a great run, now it's time for the other shoe to drop. Think you're making the playoffs with the back up QB? Not a chance, but we'll make it close."
Then last week it happened. I was at Wal-Mart after being offered a great new job and I saw the rack of 2009 Fantasy Football mags. I started thumbing through them and picked one up and since then I've systematically studied the guide. It seems like so much has happened in the last year and a half since the Super Bowl in the desert. (A quick side note. After my freshmen year of college I worked at an all boys sports summer camp in Winthrop, Maine. One of the kids in my bunk, and one that I got along with pretty well, his father was the architect for the Arizona Cardinals new stadium. Was it destiny that the Patriots would win a Super Bowl there? Of course not, his dad has been a Giants Season ticket holder since about 1960. I knew we were doomed.)
The other day talking to my buddy Zach on the phone we hit a quick pause in the conversation after we had covered the Red Sox and Rick Pitino (we swapped Blue Chips quotes and some how made "Don't trap 4 and 5. Only trap 1, 2 and 3. Don't worry about the big guy, he's not going to handle it", dirty.) We both blurted out "I'm getting excited about football" and with that I knew I was finally ready for some football. But when I saw Tom Brady throw a deep ball to Randy Moss, guarded by former Patriot Asante Samuel, without a word saying "You left us and now you gotta pay". I knew the Patriots were back and so am I.

Sterling Pingree

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