The 2009 Patriots have struggled to consistently be what they’ve been over the last decade: the most dominant team in the NFL. They’ve shown flashes of greatness over the course of the year, drubbing the Titans in that home-cooked snow shower and blasting the Buccaneers "on the road" overseas. But they’ve also had demoralizing losses to the Broncos, Colts and Dolphins. In losses to the Jets (Week 2) and the Saints (Week 13), the Patriots simply didn’t execute enough to have a shot at victory.
Overall, the Patriots are 7-5, not nearly what we’ve come to expect from this team.
Truth is, we’ve come to expect a great deal from all of our teams in the past decade. The success they’ve achieved has made us crave even more, like a drug we’re hooked on. It’s never enough. Wins deliver highs and losses deliver depression. That doesn’t make this city different from any other city with extremely passionate sports fans.
What sets us apart is the success: six world championships in eight years and countless playoff appearances. We measure success on a much higher scale than we used to — and unquestionably higher than most regions.
Imagine being on the other end of the spectrum, in places like Seattle (Mariners, Seahawks and, oops, no more Sonics) and Kansas City (Royals and Chiefs). You think those towns don’t want to win? Well, maybe not quite as much as we do.
Let’s get real, here. Imagine being a loyal fan from Cleveland. I can tell you they want to win. The Indians have had some success and have been a competitive team in recent years, but think about the misery of watching CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee square off against each other in the World Series, only two years after Cleveland was one win away from a trip to its own World Series.
By the way, thanks for V-Mart.
Then there are the Cavaliers. They’ve got arguably the best basketball player on the planet right now. The team has certainly been successful by most standards since the arrival of LeBron James, and it has added one of the greatest centers of all time to the roster this season. But does anyone really think LeBron will re-sign in Cleveland when his contract runs out? The man is from Ohio but reps New York. Publicly. Even in games (his favors Big Apple Zoom sneakers and New York Yankee Nike shoes). Must be painful.
And then there are the Browns. Once a great franchise, they had their team stolen and moved to Baltimore. The Browns were reactivated in 1999, but the Baltimore Ravens (the old Browns) won the Super Bowl in 2000. Ouch. And now the Browns are quite simply the worst team in the NFL. Yes, worse than the Detroit Lions.
My point in all of this is to bring just a little perspective to our recent “struggles.” I started this by stating New England fans have much to be happy about. I’m not talking about the past and what our teams have already accomplished. Today, all three of our active teams — the Bruins, Celtics and yes, Patriots — are leading their respective divisions.
If the NFL playoffs started today, New England would host a game. No, the Patriots are not yet the team we’ve been accustomed to seeing, and yes, there is room for improvement on all sides of the ball. But with four weeks remaining in the regular season, there is time for that.
Regardless of how they got there, the Patriots are in first place in the AFC East. As head coach Bill Belichick said on Monday, “It’s a four-week season.”
Call me crazy, but going into a four-week season with a one-game lead is a pretty good place to be.
To paraphrase a recent chart-topper, “Let’s be thankful for what we do have, not what we don’t.” We’ve had plenty good to celebrate over the last several years. Right now, we’re sitting pretty for even more excitement.
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