January 03, 2008
Being A Patriots Fan Is Being a Nervous Wreck This Time of Year
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Right now in Santa Clara, a lonely 49ers fan is sitting in his cubicle and saying to himself "Geez, don't I wish I was a Patriots fan. It must be a blast following that team right now. Not a thing to worry about." Well, I'm here to tell this poor soul that is correct but not entirely accurate.
After suffering from a writer's block for the last few days, I finally figured out what I am going to talk to you about. I was in this dilemma because it felt like every angle on the undefeated regular season had been hashed over and I didn't want to waste both your time and mine by piling onto the issue. Kids, this week's topic is the nervous anxiety that I feel aat this time of the year being a Patriots fan. It's almost a relief when they win.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the flush of success that has come the team's way. Far from it. I remember the days when I would shake my fist at the 49ers and long for an 8-8 season. But the funny thing is now the tables are turned. Here in New England, it's a Patriot love-fest. But elsewhere, the Pats are the team you love to root against. "I'm sick of them winning," you would hear in a Ponderosa in Des Moines. Or my all-time favorite courtesy of SpyGate is "So all this time they were cheating and didn't win any of their Super Bowls on the up and up."
It's been a helluva ride through the regular season. We saw things that we didn't think were possible. We saw a defense-first team turn into a Texas Tech-style high-flying offense. The team thwarted the mother of all distractions in Spygate and used it as a motivating factor. There were gutsy wins on the road in Indy, Dallas and New York. And don't forget those blowouts against Buffalo, Miami and Washington. In the 88-year history of the NFL, no team has plowed through a regular season like the 2007 Patriots.
It's cute that there are all kinds of t-shirts and hats with "16-0" for sale right now but what it has done more than anything else is raise the stakes and the nervousness for this season ticket holder. Heading back across the country, a Jaguars season ticket holder in St. Augustine feels like he is playing with house money as his Jags head to Pittsburgh this weekend. They are the proverbial "team no one wants to play." And there is no downside if the Jags get bounced at some point in the AFC playoff bracket. No one will smirk when this guy walks through O'Hare airport in May with a Jags golf shirt on and say to themselves that this guy's team couldn't finish the deal.
A week from Saturday night in a cold and dark Gillette Stadium as the player introductions take place, I'll have my typical conflicting thoughts at the beginning of a Patriots playoff game. Because it is a one-and-done format, it just takes one bad night for a beautiful season of work to go down the tubes. There is no "If we lose tonight, it's okay. We got Beckett going tomorrow night." Just think of the five turnovers in the the AFC Divisional loss to the Broncos two years ago.
On the flip side, while saying that "I live for this" might be a bit extreme, I do feel like this is one of the times of the year that help define my life cycle. I listen to a considerable amount of "Crazy Train" and "For Those About To Rock" in my car. If you look closely, I can be caught in a hunched position every now and then pointing to an invisible middle linebacker and shouting out "Omaha!" My wife says I act really weird in January. Looking back over dozens of Patriots games I have taken in over the yeas, it's the playoff games that come to my mind the quickest. It's memories like the size of the snowflakes in the Raiders game. Or the fact that "Tennessee Titans cold" means the same thing to my brother and I. And boy was the stadium loud in those two wins against the Colts a few years ago. Who could forget when the power went out at Foxboro Stadium agains the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game?
Compounding the dilemma, the bye week also gives everyone plenty of time to overthink the upcoming playoff game. If you are at all like me, you've twisted yourself in a knot convincing yourself simultaneously that the Patriots will either have no problem with any teams or have their hands full if the Titans come to town next week. Turn on the tube and your bound to see someone pointing out a Cowboys touchdown from October and presenting their thesis that this is proof positive that the Patriots are doomed to give up a touchdown everytime a playoff opponent crosses into the red zone. Good grief, Charlie Brown.
Just when is Saturday night, January 12th going to hurry up and get here? It's my second Christmas morning.
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