I’ll be honest. I wasn’t entirely surprised when the Mother of All Battles didn’t materialize at Gillette Stadium this weekend. Sure, I was hoping for the Patriots to mercilessly slaughter the Jets, followed by Coach Bill Belichick walking up to Coach Eric Mangini and delivering a crisp, powdered slap across the face. But I hope for a lot of things that don’t happen, and this was no different. There was dominance, though the scoreboard . From the first series of the game, when Jets QB Kellen Clemens was forced into throwing an interception and his ribs were forced out of their natural resting place, it was all Patriots all the time. The grisly weather easily stole four touchdowns from New England, and likely at least one more field goal from New York. So even though it was a 20-10 game, it was still something of a laugher. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
Last week, I said that the Patriots were like a power levelled band of heroes from a role-playing game; ahead of the curve in every respect, flashing weapons and armor not available to their opponents. I want to expand that metaphor a bit. If the Pats are our RPG party, then I suppose that makes us a pack of enthused gamers that is somehow disappointed that the sheer power of our team didn’t break the game.
We’ve all been there. And by we, I mean geeks that played video games instead of going out and learning how to hit a baseball. We’ve spent the better part of a weekend walking back and forth in a desert Vanish/X-Zone’ing mofo’s to prepare for the final battle. We’ve gone to the ends of the world seeking out the finest magical equipment. We’ve made sure that all of the side quests were finished, regardless of how stupid they were. And we walked into that last battle against Kefka/Sin/Lavos expecting everyone on the team to get a free chop and finish the man bad guy off nice and quick…
And then one of two things happens. You either drop some big-time combo and end the game in one punch (and wind up disappointed in the epic battle not being as challenging as you’d have hoped) or slog through a much closer battle than you thought (and wind up being disappointed in yourself for not getting powerful enough). When you win every game, like determined gamers or the 2007 New England Patriots do, you dwell on stuff like that. We shouldn’t, but we do. We find things to complain about. Coverage of the Pats this season revolved more around them blowing out opponents, abandoning the running game and playing a pack of aging linebackers than the fact that they went to 14-0 and only a couple of those games were even close. I think years of action movies and shoot-em-up/slay-the-ogre/swing-across-the-chasm video games made our American audience want conflicting things – dominance, yet still competition; a flawless hero, yet one that has imperfections; humility, yet unapologetic confidence. And a compelling story (of, say, redemption or destiny or revenge or love) on top of all of that.
When all is said and done, the Patriots are likely going to be the best football team we’ll ever see in our lives. They’re Level 99. They’re as good as it gets. Whether you’re a fan of them or not, just watch them and take a moment to realize they’re forging history easier than the Baltimore Ravens forge touchdown drives. And they’re doing it with all the pressure of history and public scrutiny on top of them. They’ve given us dominance and competition, flawlessness and imperfection, humility and confidence. And they’re some redemption, destiny and revenge built in too (not sure about love yet). They’re doing the impossible. Hit the save button right now, sports fans, and take in this moment.