December 06, 2004
Act Like A Champ, Will You?
BY: Kevin Rousseau
What’s left to say?
How can I write something about this team - and more specifically, the 42-15 rout of the Browns - that will add to your understanding and enjoyment of this event?
The answer is that I can’t.
I won’t bore you with recycled paragraphs about Corey Dillon, the impressive receiving corps, or the depth in the defensive secondary. You know anything and everything that there is to know about this team. You watch the same games that I do.
So, I suppose there is only one question to ask you as we head into the last four games of the regular season and the playoffs.
Do you know just how fortunate you are to be a Patriots (and Red Sox) fan during this time and place in your life?
Well. Do you?
If you are new to Patriots Nation, welcome. We’re glad to have you on board. You’re in for a fun ride over the next two months.
But if you have had the fortune and misfortune of being a Patriots fan for more than say ten years, then you know the hopelessness and indifference that Browns fans are feeling right now. Perhaps you remember playing the 49ers in the 1980s and just hoping that the Patriots would keep it close and respectable, never mind even dreaming of a win. It’s not a stretch to say that success for some Patriots teams from years past would have been an 8-8 record.
Over the last ten years, you have been fortunate enough to be around one of the most successful programs in all of professional sports. Three Super Bowl visits and numerous playoff visits are only half the story. Even the bad years during this run were not so bad by comparison to other teams. Remember how we called for - and got - Pete Carroll’s head after an 8-8 season in 1999? Or how we were mortified when the Pats only went 9-7 in 2002 defending their first Super Bowl crown?
I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon around these parts. Kids around New England are now growing up with a sense of sports entitlement. What would a twelve year old think if the Patriots (or Red Sox for that matter) tailspinned into the basement of their division? This would be their equivalent of the family dog talking to them. They wouldn’t know how to react. When I was their age (I can’t believe I just said that), I was tickled pink with the occasional win over Don Shula.
The point is this: Enjoy every single moment of this run. Enjoy every win and every terrific athletic accomplishment. Remember the friends and family that you watch these games with. As I have said before in this space, this is what you will remember most about this special time.
I just had one of these moments just last week. My wife and I brought our newborn son, Jacob, to visit my grandfather in the nursing home. My grandfather, who hasn’t been doing so hot lately, was naturally buoyed when he met his new great-grandchild. But the moment that will stand out for me was when we took a picture of Jacob, myself, and my grandfather. After later pulling the picture up on the computer, I saw that I was wearing a Red Sox World Series champs hat while my grandfather was wearing a Sox champs shirt that Jacob had just given him.
Talk about layered meaning.
Years from now, when I look at the picture on the mantle it will bring back happy memories of family connections, faith rewarded (in both fertility and baseball), and the appeal of sport to all generations of our society. The hat and shirt will prove to be good bookmarks of a special time in our lives.
Let’s face it: we make a lot more out of sports than we really should (present company included). People aren’t going to be permanently injured or killed over this stuff, unless they go to a Pistons game. It’s not anywhere near the plight of AIDS orphans in Africa or the fight for justice and freedom that we see take many forms around the world.
When you boil it down, following sports - in this case the Patriots and Red Sox - is nothing more than a distraction for a few hours and a way to spend time with people that you care about.
Patriots/Red Sox Nation has been given a gift. May I suggest that you use it wisely?
Act like you’ve been here before.
There is no need to rub it into the face of opposing fans who attend games at Gillette Stadium. Show the rest of the country that we are a step above the class of fans down I-95 in New York and Philadelphia.
Rise above it and act like championship fans.
The example I’ll leave you with is a true story. At Super Bowl XXXVI, we sat next to some nice Rams season ticket holders. As the clock struck zero, the guy sitting next to me turns to me and says “Congratulations. I’m happy for you.” I’m sure winning a Super Bowl two years before took some of the sting off but it was still a classy move by a complete stranger during his moment of heartbreak.
So in the coming weeks, take a page out of this Rams fan’s book and rise above it.
Win or lose, act like a champion.
Act like you’ve been there before.
Because you have.
Idle Zinger thoughts while digging out the “Christmas Vacation” DVD for the annual Rousseau household viewing:
The current league-wide plague of orange alternate jerseys aside, the Carolina Panthers would be wise (and fashion conscious) to go with their blue alternate jerseys as their main jersey next year.
I read somewhere that the reason the NFL cares so much about fantasy football is that the average fantasy player spends an extra two to three hours a week researching games and players.
I’m half convinced that your local high school team could have a shot to make the playoffs in the NFC this year.
Retiring jerseys can be a sticky situation. Many players (in all sports for that matter) fall into a vast middle ground of franchise contribution. Willie McGinest, Troy Brown, and Ted Johnson come to mind. How about the idea of a five-year moratorium on the issuance of their number after the end of their career?
Speaking of which, why hasn’t Johnny Pesky’s number been retired by the Red Sox?
Dates are filling up fast, but it’s not too late to book me for your office Christmas party. For a nominal fee and all the scallops-wrapped-in-bacon that I can eat, I would be happy to give you my take on the Pats and tell you my office Zingers. Isn’t this a nicer - and frankly safer - alternative to last year’s entertainment of a drunken Bob from Accounts Receivable embarrassingly hitting on Jenny from Marketing under the mistletoe.
Have you seen Sean Salisbury and John Clayton go tete-a-tete on ESPN? It’s basically a play off the “jock vs. geek” theme? Given my past history, I usually side with Clayton.
Your life will never be the same (for the good, mind you) after you make that leap and get Sirius satellite radio. Even the lovely and talented Mrs. Rousseau has gone from her usual “What do we need this thing for?” mode to a vocal advocate to friends, Romans and countrymen alike. That should tell you something right there. On Sunday, I checked in on the Jets, Dolphins, Bengals during the second half of the Patriots blowout.
It’s never too early to start manipulating family Christmas plans in order to maximize football viewing. In a rarity, Green Bay plays at Minnesota on Christmas Eve at 3 p.m. And on Christmas Day, there are some real ratings-grabbers going on when Oakland goes to Kansas City at 5 p.m. and then Denver travels to Tennessee for a night game.
The league honchos wisely figure that most of us will be sick of Aunt Mabel by 5 p.m. on Christmas Day and will be yearning for anything even remotely resembling sports programming at that hour.
And even if you think that there is nothing wrong with putting cooking spray on the bottom of your snow saucer or getting the Jelly-Of-The-Month Club as a gift from your boss for Christmas, I would still like to hear from you.
I can be reached at email@example.com.
Don’t forget to check me out at 8:20 on Friday mornings on Bangor, Maine’s sports radio leader, WZON 620 “The Zone.” You can listen over the internet at www.zoneradio.com This column also appears in the Waterboro (ME) Reporter, the Twin City Times (Lewiston/Auburn, ME), the American Journal (Westbrook, ME), the Current (Scarborough/Cape Elizabeth/South Portland, ME), and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham, ME).
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