18-1: Reflecting On An Epic Fall From Grace

Mike Nanna

The Patriots were America’s team. They won three championships from 2001 to 2005 and have been the pride of New England since the new millennium. This season they dominated the opposition for 18 games like no other previous squad had ever done. Most would not doubt that the records set by the 2007 Patriots were as lofty as any ever seen on the gridiron.However, since our revolutionary forefathers defeated the Red Coats, America has always preferred the underdog.The Patriots had evolved in to football’s Evil Empire, the Angelina to the rest of the league’s Jennifer, the NFL’s version of the pre-2001 Yankees.They cheated despite having the best players, they ran up the score against their opponents and, if that wasn’t enough, Coach Bill Belichick’s unsavory demeanor continued to be as frosty as Hilary Clinton’s attitude toward her husband. Since America inevitably turns against the prohibitive so-called “favorite” and because the Patriots were doing everything they could to annoy the Gods of karma, Super Bowl XLII promised to deliver an interesting and unexpected result. That’s why I asserted with the utmost certainty throughout the last two weeks that the Giants would pull off the upset.This wasn’t based on my expert analysis of the teams match-ups. It was based on the Patriot’s stunning evolution into the “Bad Guys” and a little bit of fate.

Now that the Giants have made history, it will be interesting to observe how history views the runners-up.A more likable team might have been more easily forgiven but the Patriots are very easy to hate. When Belichick left his team to fend for itself with one second left on the clock, he proved his critics right.This team wasn’t and these players weren’t the Patriots of old.Whether by the pressure of the streak or Gisele Bundchen’s ever distracting physique, the fun had been sucked out of this team.Neither their heads nor their hearts were in the game and they got beat by a team that simply wanted to win more.Out of all the sins a team can commit in the NFL, this is probably the gravest.Fans can forgive deficiencies in just about every other aspect of the game but never a lack of heart.That’s why this Patriots team will feel the heat of criticism for years to come and that is why they probably deserve to.They didn’t just let their fan base down. They let down history.

When sports analysts and commentators look back on the 2007 Patriots, reactions will likely be mixed. A sense of disappointment will inevitably accompany any recount since the Patriots blew a chance at attaining the impossible. With that said, some will be harsher than others in their treatment. Some may consider the Patriots with “kiddy” gloves just because of the pure magnitude of what they were attempting to accomplish and the stifling pressure that goes along with that. Some will look at the lack of sportsmanship displayed by their coach (i.e., Spygate.), the dirty players (Rodney Harrison) and the occasional insufferable Mass-hole with a contempt usually reserved for arenas outside that of sports. Most will remember how the “Good Guys” beat up the “Bad Guys”, how David prevailed over Goliath and how the American Dream was played out in a sporting event yet again. The bottom line is that the Patriots managed to complicate things royally for sports fans and writers alike. There will never be a way to succinctly summarize what the 2007 Patriots were but one can be certain of what they were not: Champions.