Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by psychoPat, Feb 2, 2008.
For those who don't have a WSJ on-line account:
Ode to the Patriots
By RUSSELL ROBERTS
Special to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE
January 31, 2008 12:46 p.m.
The Daily Fix asked readers who are fans of the Patriots and Giants to write an ode to their club, explaining why they root for them and what characteristics their team seems to have year-in and year-out, even as the cast of characters changes. Here's Russell Roberts on the New England Patriots. (Tomorrow: The New York Giants.)
You're rooting for the Patriots to lose.
I don't blame you. If they weren't my team, I'd probably be rooting against them too. I understand your dislike. The boredom of perfection. The unsporting offensive onslaught. The records broken. That cover boy with the dimples at quarterback. Spygate. Really, when you look closely, what's to like?
But I come from a different place. I remember the first Patriots championship appearance. It was January 1964 and I was nine years old. The Pats suffered a 51-10 blowout at the hands of the Chargers. The next championship game was a 46-10 shellacking by the Bears, at the time, a Super Bowl record for the largest margin of defeat. Then in 1997, a loss to the Packers gave the Patriots a perfect record in championship games -- 0-3.
OK, the Pats are no longer the Patsies. They've won three of the last six Super Bowls. But thinking historically, a victory on Sunday will merely push them over .500 for the first time.
But that's my perspective. Yours is different. Even my friends confess they're rooting for the Giants. Some are Dolphin fans hungry for Schadenfreude.
Some just hate the Patriots the way any morally upright, decent human being hates the Yankees. And when you add in the recent success of the Red Sox and the Celtics, it's an embarrassment of riches for Boston sports fans. The Patriots seem perilously close to becoming the Yankees of football.
But not really. First of all, no Yankee fan is ever embarrassed by the riches of those 26 titles. An embarrassment of riches is an oxymoron for a New Yorker.
And there are things to love about the Patriots. Start at the top: The owner's a mensch. Robert Kraft gives a lot of money away, bless him. And his attitude pervades the team: No posturing, no preening, no me-first.
Malcontents become content when they arrive -- or they're banished. In 2001, the Pats were the first Super Bowl team to disdain the introductions of individual players. They came out as a team.
But the real reason to root for the Patriots is the triggerman of the greatest offense in football history, Tom Brady. Maybe his girlfriend is a little more attractive than yours, but put that aside for a moment. Brady is Joe Pendleton in "Heaven Can Wait." If you're unfamiliar with the movie, Joe Pendleton is the quarterback mistakenly taken before his time by an overeager angel. He gets put back in the dumpy body of Mr. Farnsworth, an unathletic businessman. Through an incredible training regimen, passion for the game, and his innate football smarts, Pendleton manages to take his team to the Super Bowl, Farnsworth body and all.
Isn't that Tom Brady all over? He's a sixth-round draft choice who didn't always start in high school or at Michigan. His 2000 combine workout video surfaced this year, and it showed he had a lot of Farnsworth in him -- an unimpressive physique and a sloth-like 40-yard dash. His high-school coach says "I've had better natural athletes than Tom Brady," and you have the feeling he's being kind.
I exaggerate, a little. Brady's arm isn't chopped liver. But he's transformed himself into possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. It's not a bad story.
Tired of hearing about the 50 touchdown passes? Then think on this: Last year, Brady's top receiver was Reche Caldwell. The year before? Deion Branch. The year before that? David Givens. None of those guys are going to the Hall of Fame. Their production dropped -- plummeted, sometimes -- after they left the Patriots.
In 2005, Brady signed a long-term contract for less money than he could have received on the open market, in hopes of helping the Pats sign a better supporting cast. When the team then signed bargain-basement receivers, he didn't complain. While Peyton Manning was throwing to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne last year, Brady was throwing to Caldwell, a 35 year-old Troy Brown, and Doug Gabriel. But Brady kept his mouth shut, did his job and came within four points of going to the Super Bowl.
There are other nice stories on this team. There's Wes Welker, the undrafted wide receiver who has flourished. Tedy Bruschi, the stroke victim who still plays the game he loves with √©lan. Brown, who played defensive back when the team needed him to. (I just have a feeling Troy will contribute somehow, on Sunday.) How can you not like those guys?
As for the humorless guy in the hoodie, I even like him too. (Sorry.) I like his injury reports: Brady's injured shoulder makes him only "probable" week in and week out. I like his sartorial splendor. I like his no-nonsense commitment to excellence. I like that he's been successful even as his assistants come and go.
Is Bill Belichick a cheater? Well, I'd like to know if he's the only coach to tape another team's signals -- or just the only coach to get caught. I'd like to know if it helps a lot or a little to have video, rather than the legal photographs. Either way, he broke the rules. He has paid -- and will pay, via that lost draft pick.
Besides, Belichick majored at Wesleyan in my favorite subject -- economics. And no one understands one of the fundamentals of economics -- the importance of tradeoffs -- better than Belichick and his partner in playing the salary cap, the unsung but essential VP of Player Personnel, Scott Pioli.
Yeah, I know. You've still got to go with the underdog. There's nothing quite so delicious as when Goliath gets knocked off by a team on the rise behind an up-and-coming quarterback. (Patriots fans can relate.) But one last thought: The Patriots aren't Goliath or even the Yankees. They're Brazil.
Between 1958 and 2002, Brazil won five of 13 World Cup championships. Who hates Brazil? Nobody. (Well, maybe Argentina. But you don't hate Brazil, do you?) Brazil wins with style and grace -- the same way the Patriots do. And Gisele Bundchen's Brazilian. So give the Patriots some love -- even if it's just for the elegance of their success.
Russell Roberts is professor of economics at George Mason University and a research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. He blogs at Caf√©Hayek.com and has a weekly podcast, EconTalk. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for posting the entire article. Very nice one!
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