By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by
November 20, 2007

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

My wife was good enough to take the kids to church by herself last Sunday and leave me a few hours to rake the leaves in our front yard before they became spot-welded to the lawn for the winter. Like a sentence at Thomaston, raking leaves gives you plenty of time to think.

And usually I find that when I'm raking leaves, all the things that annoy or aggravate me bubble up to the surface. There's that jerk on my high school soccer team who made my junior year a living hell. My clicking shoulder is another topic. The inability to find good onion rings when I go out to dinner. Co-workers who leave the pantry area looking like downtown Fallujah and on and on it goes.

After processing all of these worldly topics, I finally settled in on the New England Patriots and their current state of approval/disapproval among the masses. I had plenty of time to try and put into some type of historical context the run that the Patriots are on. I twisted that one around like the rake that I busted while doing my duty and couldn't find a comparison to match. I smiled at the thought that in the nuclear winter of the early 1990s, nobody cared whether this team played here, or in St. Louis, or in Kalamazoo. And then I got around to Spygate and this whole "running up the score" thing.

Like Clark Griswold getting the Jelly-of-the-Month Club from his company, spygate is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year round. The "we don't get any respect card" had reached it's expiration date after five years this past August and it was difficult to figure out a way that the Patriots would stay motivated throughout this entire season. And then a little snafu in the Meadowlands took place in September and—Voila!—an instant rallying point.

As upset as I was that the team had engaged in this activity, I surmised that such tactics probably had little or no effect on the Patriots' overall success in the past five years. But apparently others around the League were dumb enough to pile on and take a few shots at the Pats while they were down in early September.

Most amazingly, those that were on the 2007 schedule were some of the most vocal critics. Let's start off with L.T. shooting his mouth off the week before his game with the Patriots. Throw in the Boy Scouts troop in Indianapolis talking about a "black eye." Come on down, Philadelphia Eagles. You're next up this week with comments about wanting a Super Bowl ring back from a few years ago. Then we got Hines Ward and the Pittsburgh Steelers (Dec. 16th @ 4pm) wanting to replay a few AFC Championship Games for good measure. How's that going to work out for the NFL's two Pennsylvania representatives in the following few weeks? Think the Patriots are going to have any problem laying a 50-spot on each of them with an upturned nose nostril? Didn't think so.

And that brings us to the Jets and Dolphins games in December. The all-time NFL mark for most points in a game (72 by Washington vs. NY Giants, Nov. 27, 1966) will be in serious jeopardy on both Sundays barring the Armageddon Scenario of an injury to #12. And a big thank you goes out to Don Shula for opening his mouth and talking about the famous "*" a few weeks ago. Appreciate the motivation for that one, sir.

The Patriots aren't interested in beating up the rest of the League. Rather, it's about humiliating a vox populi that questions the franchise's ability to win on the straight-and-narrow. Peyton Manning's 49 touchdown record of a few years ago will be gone shortly. So too will be the 1998 Vikings record of 556 points in a season. Jerry Rice's 22 touchdown receptions in 1997? All of them are on the endangered species list.

Up until a few weeks ago, I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about the Patriots' perception around the League. I hung my hat to a large extent on a Dolphins fan coming up to me and saying "You know, I really respect the way they are prepared and play as a team." Then Spygate happened and I was left standing in the woods at night by myself on that one. And then a funny thing started to happen.

I didn't care anymore what they think of us.

I drank the Kool-Aid and discovered that it's a blast to be a follower of a hated team like the Raiders. It's a rush to walk through a funnel of screaming Dallas fans on the way into Texas Stadium and get yelled at while knowing full well how quiet the walk back to the car out of the stadium will be. It's a hoot saying to my Raider-loving father-in-law "Come on, join the dark side and start rooting for the Pats." On Bill Simmons' unintended humor scale, it's a 9.0 to watch Bills fans put down their "Beli-cheat" signs in the fourth quarter and start berating the Pats for running up the score against a professional team that is paid to hit and inflict pain and punishment on the other team. I mean this isn't the Hockomock League, people.

Like dating a woman in college who is way, way out of your league and knowing full well that it won't last, Pats fans are living for today and enjoying…well, being relevant. We've come a long way from Dick MacPherson tackling Hugh Millen after an overtime win in 1991.

It could end bitterly with a loss, a devastating injury or who knows what. But when you live in a world where you get the news like today's that a dear friend has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and you can't imagine a world without her, you start to think "You know, maybe I should just enjoy and appreciate the here-and-now as much as I can."

Even if it's raking leaves to make the lawn look "nice and shiney" as my three year-old said as he got back from church.

Idle Zinger thoughts while looking for a Ouija board to try and shake the Satanic hold that Dora the Explorer has over my daughter:

"With the third pick in the 2008 NFL draft, the New England Patriots select…"

This clip of Andrea Kraemer looking like a school girl hoping Tom Brady carries her books to geometry class was sent from my buddy Rich in Virginia. Enjoy.

I met Rich during tailgate down in Dallas. He is a member of Murphy's Patriots—a group of fans who watch games out of Alexandria, Virginia.